Barry Crimmins, subject of the documentary “Call Me Lucky,” is the epitome of a “comic’s comic” — but that’s far from his only identity.
He’s not a household name; his work has never been plastered all over Comedy Central; and you won’t find a catalogue of his hits on Spotify.
But in the comedy world, Crimmins is a prolific figure. A Golden God. And his fearless comedy is just the tip of the iceberg — he’s also a political activist whose work has made a difference and even saved lives.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s “Call Me Lucky” is part loving tribute, part exposé, and altogether an exhilarating film that could only be made by somebody as close to the story as the director.
Crimmins was more than a friend to Goldthwait — he was his mentor. Goldthwait and all the other comedians featured in the film (including Marc Maron, Patton Oswald, Kevin Meany, and Dana Gould) speak so passionately about Crimmins and his impact on comedy, it’s as if they’re eulogizing a loved one.
It’s just that even though Barry is still alive, his legacy extends further than the man himself.
Crimmins was about as outspoken as one can be regarding US government and politics, and sometimes his comedy sets would turn into enraged rants without a hint of funny.
Some would say he considered himself a political activist before a comedian. Crimmins wasn’t afraid to lay into Reagan, or the Bush administration, or whichever entity was infuriating him at the time.
The film takes a dark turn when Crimmins himself delves into his troubled past and reveals the source of his anger at the world, and how this trauma directly influenced his career path.
Perhaps the greatest and most impactful moment of Barry Crimmins’ career is that he singlehandedly took on the fight against child pornography, and won. When Crimmins discovered that pedophiles were using AOL chat rooms to share horrific child porn, he took the fight to AOL, but they didn’t listen.
Crimmins took it upon himself to go undercover, collect mountains of evidence, and take his grievances literally to the Senate floor on July 25, 1995.
The scene in which Crimmins rails off against AOL’s top lawyer in front of a panel of clueless senators is unforgettable entertainment as well as an important cultural moment that helped shift an important conversation into the digital age.
Goldthwait’s first foray into non-fiction is a far cry from the darkly hilarious “World’s Greatest Dad” and even farther from his more recent bigfoot-centered horror flick “Willow Creek,” but it’s easily his most polished and passionate film yet.
It’s certainly a comedy documentary, but it has also a narrative drive full of shocking revelations that make the story that much more compelling and engaging.
The film is truly like a punch to the gut — its reveals are devastating and the details infuriating, but Barry Crimmins is such a loveable figure that he forces you to take it all in with a smile.
“Call Me Lucky” is an excellent documentary, and a brilliant portrait of a man whose name you won’t soon forget.
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