Call Me Lucky: A Documentary About Barry Crimmins

Forget all the superhero movies, the one movie I cannot wait to see this year is Call Me Lucky, a documentary produced by Bobcat Goldthwait about his old friend, and a true comedy legend, Barry Crimmins. Crimmins is not well known outside of the comedy world; I can only hope this documentary changes that. Here’s the trailer:

I love that Marc Maron called him this “great, mythical force” and David Cross said that “he was a guy that you heard about before you actually saw him.” I first heard of him from a cassette tape I bought in the late 80s called Strange Bedfellows, featuring four political comedians — Jimmy Tingle, Randy Credico, Will Durst and Crimmins, who was far and away the best of the four. I was an instant fan. It was only later, when I began doing comedy myself, that I heard the stories.

He is revered among stand up comics for many reasons: the role he played in creating the infamous Boston comedy scene of the late 70s and early 80s, the searing intelligence and brutal honesty of his comedy and his total fearlessness on stage. That Boston scene, started in the back of a Chinese restaurant called the Ding Ho, helped launch, among others, Goldthwait, Paula Poundstone, Steven Wright, Dennis Leary, Lenny Clarke, and Kevin Meaney. There’s a great documentary about that scene called When Stand Up Stood Out, which is also a must-see film.

When Bill Hicks died, Jim Lahr lauded him for having done “the only kind of comedy that matters,” comedy that was outspoken and aimed at ignorance and injustice. Crimmins was in that league as well. I was very lucky about 5 or 6 years ago to get to interview Crimmins on my radio show, an opportunity that came about because he saw something I’d written about him and emailed me to express his appreciation. My co-host, Jeremy Beahan, said it was one of the very few interviews he ever heard me do in which I fanboyed over a guest. I couldn’t help myself. I don’t have many heroes, but he’s one of them.

I’m very glad to see someone telling his story, and even more glad that it’s Goldthwait, for whom Crimmins has long been a mentor and a friend. And it was Robin Williams who gave Goldthwait the money to make the movie, which makes it even more poignant.

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  • cervantes

    I knew Barry when he lived in Cambridge, Mass. Saw him at parties and at Boston Mobilization (“Mobe”) where he did a benefit performance and came to a couple of meetings. I don’t know if he ultimately went back to comedy, but he gave it up for a while at least after he had a recovered memory of being sexually abused as a child and devoted himself to crusading against child abuse. I don’t know how real the memory was — I’m sure he wouldn’t like to hear that. But regardless, it tapped into some deep emotional place that he had to deal with.

    Jimmy Tingle became his successor as the local leftie comedy guy.

  • Dr X

    Never heard of him before, but now I’m looking forward to seeing this.

  • Al Dente

    I remember Crimmins for his fights against child pornography on the internet. A 1995 article about Crimmins has this:

    I ask Crimmins about AOL’s role in cracking down on the child pornography chat rooms. “They’ve actually managed to spin what happened” to garner favorable publicity, he says. “As if compliance with federal subpoenas is some kind of altruistic act.”

    Crimmins disclaims any vindication in the recent FBI raids “The silence is broken,” he says, “and that makes me glad. Fewer kids will be abused. Some kids that would’ve gotten abused won’t be. They’re gonna have regular lives.”

  • barrycrimmins

    “Cervantes” — Back then there was a campaign, aimed at my lefty allies by some front organization called something like the Boston Coalition For Free Thought. They eviscerated me in a mass mailing only a few people told me about. One who did was Howard Zinn, who also let them know what he thought of their character assassination. Some research on my part discovered that the two guys behind this smear campaign were also members of NAMBLA. My story has and had been corroborated but the smear worked well enough to live to this day in the doubt you cast upon me. Such is life. If you ever see the film and what my sister has to say about witnessing one of my rapes, I wonder if that will be enough to get you to offer me the apology I deserve. I hope so but I do defend your right to hold whatever opinion you believe.

    I retired from the road briefly about 8 years ago but after my beloved dog passed away, sitting here without him became a bit much so I began touring again. After we complete the promotion for the theatrical release of the film, I’ll be back out touring again.

    I love Jimmy Tingle, but he’s a somewhat liberal Democrat and I am an unapologetic radical. I’m glad that I follow Ed and saw this, even though, you were right about one thing– I despised seeing this nonsense rehashed. In any case, no hard feelings. I hope you see the film. Signed, Barry Crimmins

  • Ed Brayton

    Barry, thanks for the comment. I hope you’ll make it to Michigan when get back out on the road, I will certainly make it out to see you. And I’m really looking forward to seeing the film.