Overview: The life and political activism of standup comic Barry Crimmins as told by himself and some of his closest friends and family members, featuring a personal revelation that will leave viewers reeling. MPI Media Group; 2015; Not Rated; 106 minutes.
Saved by Comedy: Barry Crimmins, as he is presented in the first documentary film from fellow stand-up performer and narrative filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait, is someone whose intensity can be a deterrent to casual comedy fans. The founder of two Boston Comedy Clubs in the 1980s, Stitches and The Ding Ho, Crimmins made a name for himself in Call Me Lucky as a scathing, embittered political satirist with no easy allies. His stand-up material frequently borders on sheer antagonism, with his presumed targets being anyone and anything within his immediate vicinity that bothered him on basic principles. If you are funny, and have a point of view that is your own, and you can back up everything you have to say with clearly distinguished facts and citable data, then Crimmins (as he appears in Goldthwait’s film) is as indispensable an ally as he was in the 1980s Boston comedy scene, his and your lives saved by the coherence and rhetorically stringent expectations of polished and pointedly critical cultural analysis through humor, satire, and farce.
In Defiance of Horror: At about the halfway mark of Call Me Lucky, Goldthwait’s film erupts with an intense revelation regarding the personally held demons and back-story of his constructed comedy idol. After hinting at something much deeper and far darker than a mere distrust and loathing towards and of the Catholic Church and conservative lethargy in general, Crimmins tells his captive audience the torrid history of child abuse he suffered at the hands of a complicit baby sitter and an estranged child molester. In a story that is far too horrible to entirely comprehend in one sitting, the film then turns its sights towards pedophilia, and the toll it threatens to take in rape, violence, and statutory abuse. Crimmins may have been saved, but the toll it took upon him as a human being is all too evident in the testimony he has to offer on the subject on camera, with his eyes nearly glazing over into a darkness too unfathomable to plumb entirely. In conversations with Crimmins and his youngest sister, Goldthwait uncovers Crimmins’ need to address an ill in the early days of child pornography online, with documented testimony featured throughout of a heated legal battle against America Online and other tacitly guilty parties in the distribution of dehumanizing violence against those far too innocent to capably defend or speak for themselves.
A Voice for the Voiceless: Perhaps the greatest take away from Goldthwait’s documentary comes in the vociferous defense mounted by the film’s chosen protagonist and subject. In Call Me Lucky, Crimmins heavy drinking is not the mere crutch of an embittered social and political commentator screaming to be heard outside of the back room of the comedy club and into the halls of public justice, law, and order, but the symptom of social malevolences far too brutal to be ignored. Whether it be in protesting the perceived hypocritical injustices of the first Gulf War, or demanding a grieving mother’s voice be heard amid the PR campaign in support of the second war in the Middle East, Crimmins demands any wrongs be brought into the light, however ugly and painful they may be to bare. As a survivor of rape and child abuse, Crimmins demands to be heard with an urgency not to be denied by anyone, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Moderate, his brand of personal politics more morally just and valid than most. In giving his voice for the voiceless, Crimmins set a precedence for comedy that is imperative that we pay attention to and take heed of in kind.
Overall: Bobcat Goldthwait’s Call Me Lucky is loud in its message, and echoes the hard won, personal truths of its abrasively kind, humanitarian subject and personal friend, Barry Crimmins.