Barry Crimmins has been many things throughout his life. Stand up comic, club owner, author, political activist, radio correspondent, satirist, and child advocate are some of the many titles on his resume. And now he’s also the subject of a brand new documentary that’s premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. “Call Me Lucky” is the new film directed by Bobcat Goldthwait that looks at both the comedic and political sides of Barry Crimmins’ life. It will be in competition at Sundance next January in the domestic documentary category.
Barry said he first met Bobcat Goldthwait after putting out an ad looking for a new comedy partner back in the late 70s. He said, “In wanders Tom Kenny (now best known as the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) and Bob Goldthwait and they’re like 15 years old. And they’re the funniest little fuckers you’ve ever met in your life. Really sharp and sarcastic. But they’re also worried about prom dates. So it was fucking hilarious. And that’s where it started and now we’re at Sundance. So, it’s amazing.”
Although Barry Crimmins has known Bobcat Goldthwait the comedian forever, he told Ron Bennington what it’s like to work with Bobcat Goldthwait, the director. “He’s not working on just this film, he’s got the next 3 planned. He’s writing too. He’s talking to somebody else about the next project. He’s hustling and working all day long. And I didn’t realize…To me he’s the 15 year old kid who walked into this bar and I’m like ‘Hey, can you fucking call me?’ And it’s like ‘No, he’s really busy.’ He’s a genius, but a lot of the genius had to do with how hard he works. And he is just brilliant. And he’s brilliant at pulling people together. The crew we work with, everything. It’s amazing. It’s like I have a new family.”
Concerned that his life might come off as “more of a perp walk than a documentary”, Barry told Ron Bennington what’s at the heart of film. He said, “the real content is that I’m a child abuse survivor and have learned that the important thing in life is you have to go through things and not around them.”
Barry Crimmins is more than a survivor. He’s led the fight to stop child pornography online. And he’s been awarded for his work for social and political change. Barry has received the Peace Leadership Award from a Boston survivors group, the Artist for Social Change Award for his years of activism and the Courage of Conscience Award from Wellesley College.
“Call Me Lucky” will premiered at the Sundance Film Festival next month. But there’s one person involved with the film who still hasn’t watched it and that’s Barry Crimmins. “I haven’t even seen it yet because Goldthwait wants me to see it in front of the crowd. And I trust him that much. And I’m staying back because I don’t want to be the ‘pain in the ass’ guy who’s looming over their shoulders. So, I just give them what they ask for and then get out of the way. Because I’m literally trusting Bob with my life. So, I won’t see it until it debuts at Sundance on January 27th.”
That trust with Bobcat Goldthwait goes way back with Barry. He was part of the amazing young crop of talented comedians that Barry mentored when he opened his comedy clubs, the Ding Ho and Stitches in Boston and established them in the 80s. Those comics included people like Steven Wright, Paula Poundstone, Kevin Meaney, Jimmy Tingle and more.
Barry talked about his philosophy with starting comedy clubs run for and by comedians. “When I got to Boston, I realized it was like a major league city and there wasn’t anything really happening. There was a little bit happening, but not much. And I went ‘Man, this is easy. Boy Scouts are running this thing. We’re going to take this over.’ And then, the workers seize the means of production. I didn’t tell them at the time that I was applying lefty…you know. But the workers seize the means of production and that means everyone was paid fairly. I think you made more money going out to work on a week night in Boston back in those days than comics make almost anywhere these days. I mean we did great. Everyone was taken care of.”
He attributed the like-mindedness of the performers and his dedication to making his comics the best they could be to the success of his clubs. He said, “And the idea was if you treated people well, if you made them feel like somebody, if they felt like they mattered, when they walked on a stage, they felt like they mattered too. And that makes a big difference. And all I asked of them was to be original. Go out and suck originally. Okay, but get better. Figure out how not to suck so much. It’s on one you. But the thing is because everyone had to be sort of original and someone always had a different angle, we handed ideas to one another. We helped one another. We were in it together. We understood that if somebody else does well, it’s only going to help us. Because in those days, we had to make comedy a factor. People didn’t know what comedy was back at the beginning. They didn’t know, really. They went like, ‘What is that?’ And then they come in and it’s this revelation. And then you hand them Steven Wright, Jack Gallagher and Lenny Clarke, you name it, Mike Donovan. You name it. And then, they walk up there and within a couple of weeks of opening the Ding Ho, the lines are around the corner.”
“Call Me Lucky” directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and featuring Barry Crimmins premieres at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday, January 27th.