Film Script: Barry Crimmins

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Comedian Barry Crimmins made a name for himself with his piercing political satire. His provocative act often took on social issues in a raw and candid way. Years ago during one of his performances an angry audience member yelled out, “If you don’t love America why don’t you get out?” Crimmins then responded from stage—“Because I don’t want to be a victim of its foreign policy!” That comedic retort from Crimmins tells you everything you need to know about the style of one of the more respected stand-ups ever.

Much of the reverence Crimmins has earned from his peers is due to the fact that he helped to jump-start a lot of comic’s careers. The legendary stand-up founded his own club in Boston called Ding Ho. The comedy club and Crimmins helped to introduce the world to names like Steven Wright, Denis Leary and Bobcat Goldthwait.

Goldthwait recently wrote and directed a documentary about Crimmins titled, Call Me Lucky. The critically heralded film looks at the life of Barry Crimmins and examines the dark things he had to go through. Crimmins was consistently sexually abused as a young child and the trauma that came from that has haunted him and it helped to form much of his personality. Crimmins was aggressive on stage and much of his distrust towards authority was shaped due to his past. His act focused on protecting the little guy and going after those he viewed as bullies.

I spoke to Barry Crimmins about his personal fight against the sexual exploitation of children, his life in comedy and his documentary, Call Me Lucky.

How did the idea of a documentary chronicling your life first present itself to you?

It started as an idea to do a narrative film on dealing with my work concerning child pornography trafficking on America Online. Immediately I wasn’t interested because I had spent a year in chat rooms with these creeps and I just needed a break. Bobcat [Goldthwait] and I eventually took a few swipes at a script and it just wasn’t working. Finally, years later, Robin Williams told Bobcat he should do a documentary on me.

Were you hesitant at all about being a part of a documentary that focuses on your life?

Robin and Bobcat heard an interview I did with Marc Maron on his podcast [WTF With Marc Maron]. I think they both understood from listening to that interview that…how I feel about discussing being a child abuse survivor is quite simple…there is this terrible thing people say, “it’s really brave you admitted you are a child abuse survivor.” I always say I never admitted anything, guilty people admit things, I disclosed things. I don’t run from that stuff in any way. With the documentary everything could be in my words. It’s not anything that needs to be condensed—like in a narrative film. I think what’s good about the film is it helps people to learn how to talk about these things.

Did the experience of making Call Me Lucky change you in any way? Do you view your life differently after going through that process?

It made me feel more fortunate. I saw all the great friends I have and all the people in my life that would step up for me. I have this overview that wouldn’t have been available before. I have a grander sense about where I come from. It’s a nice shot in the arm and it was nice to see how many people love me. It was amazing to see Bobcat focus his skills on my life. I trusted him with my life and I made a good bet. I am a little bit more solid because of it. It’s still weird to do something like this—you get a little sick of talking about yourself.

You and Bobcat have a special relationship. Would you have felt comfortable taking on a project like this if someone you knew so well wasn’t involved?

I would have had a lot more questions. I would have had to have looked at their work and find out what they were about. I knew Bob was up to speed on me and what I have faced in my life. It was very easy for me to say yes to Bob.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30: Political satirist Barry Crimmins (L) and director Bobcat Goldthwait attend the AOL Build Presents: "Call Me Lucky" at AOL Studios In New York on July 30, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 30: Political satirist Barry Crimmins (L) and director Bobcat Goldthwait attend the AOL Build Presents: “Call Me Lucky” at AOL Studios In New York on July 30, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)

Can you talk a little bit about your friendship with Bobcat—the genesis of it?

The subtitle of this film should be, ‘thank god I was nice to that kid when he walked through the door.’ It was 1978 or 1979 and I was doing a weekly show in my hometown. I had to take out an ad to find more people to do the show with me. Bobcat and his friend Tom Kenny [actor and comedian—voice of SpongeBob SquarePants] responded. They were very sharp and funny. But, they were so young and cute. They would do biting commentary on pop culture but off stage they were asking me advice about how to get a prom date. Consider my good fortune—having Bobcat Goldthwait and Tom Kenny walk through the door when I put up a free ad. Bob says I was the first adult that didn’t treat him like a kid. They went on to do much greater things and it was all due to their tremendous talent.

Comedy has obviously given you a lot and you have been very successful within that world. What does comedy mean to you at this point in your life? How do you view the comedy world and your craft today?

I went into comedy so I could turn several years of being a fuck up into research. I sort of got backed into a corner and I said, ‘hand me that microphone and let me see if I could get myself out of this.’ I became a comedian as soon as I knew I was eligible to be one. As a kid I thought you had to be an urban or ethnic person from New York to do comedy—I thought it was their domain. I just didn’t think I was eligible to do it. Once it dawned on me I could do it, I just went after it. At first I was figuring out what I had to say. When I figured out I had a lot of things to say—I was glad I had stand-up to deliver those things.

Call Me Lucky is available now.

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