“Call Me Lucky”: A Stand-Up Comedian For the Vulnerable

Suffering is hard, but trying to be a good person when you know what the world is capable of doing to the weakest within it is one of the few things that might be harder, especially when you were one of those people at one time. This is a pretty universal truth, and it’s one to which comedian Barry Crimmins can provide real, hard-lived testimony. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer, Consequence of Sound, about Call Me Lucky

Stand-up comedian Barry Crimmins was mentor to many others back in the day, including Bobcat Goldthwait in the 1980’s. Like Crimmins, Goldthwait has since turned away from the kind of comedy he once performed and toward roles that feel truer to himself. He’s now, in fact, made a documentary about Crimmins, Call Me Lucky.

Dennis Harvey, Variety, has called it “a terrifically engaging surprise.” An intro:

‘Call Me Lucky’ immediately establishes its subject as a simultaneously nurturing, courageous, intimidating and angry figure who walked away from a degree of national success more than two decades ago. The reasons for that prove very complex…

Vintage performance clips reveal the man himself to have been hilarious but challenging by contemporary standards: Where sensations of the day like Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay celebrated the frequently misogynist, homophobic rude ’n’ crude, Crimmins’ higher-minded ‘political and social satire’ was fueled by an acute awareness of injustice.

Duane Byrge, Hollywood Reporter: “Crimmins’ comedy was fueled by anger: His two most hated institutions were the U.S. government, particularly the Reagan and Nixon administrations, and the Catholic Church, which he dismissed as being based on ‘fear and real estate’.”

Why the sensitivity to injustice?

Odie Henderson, rogerebert.com: “Goldthwait doesn’t telegraph the terrifying turn ‘Call Me Lucky’ eventually takes. If you are unfamiliar with Crimmins’ activism, as I was, this turn is one hell of a blindside. It’s as unexpected as the actual revelation was to Crimmins’ audience on the night he bared his soul and his secrets in 1992.”

That surprising disclosure during the ’92 monologue: “he’d once been a victim of horrific, ongoing abuse” (Variety).

And the follow-up? Enraged upon learning about internet-related child abuse, he started to channel his activist streak into protecting vulnerable kids.

More from Henderson:

The film’s final moments achieve a sort of grace. Before the last few minutes of Crimmins’ latest stage performance, ‘Call Me Lucky’ revisits the basement where the sexual assaults took place. The way this scene is shot, and Crimmins’ reaction to returning there, are both surprisingly understated and extremely inspiring. Goldthwait focuses on the room, leaving his subject off-screen for his most private moments. ‘I don’t see myself as a victim,’ Crimmins says after the visit. ‘I’m not a victim. Well not anymore. I’m a witness.’

‘It’s not like it killed me,’ he continues. ‘It almost killed me, but I’m still here. So you can call me lucky.’

In an interview with Terry Gross, NPR, Crimmins admits feeling suicidal before coming to terms with his childhood trauma (which he reportedly did with the help of therapy), and he refers to having PTSD.

The trailer below offers additional glimpses into the man:

Drew McWeeny, Hitfix: “…(W)hat struck me most about ‘Call Me Lucky’ is how deeply, powerfully felt it is. It’s the kind of film you can’t just shake off when you walk out of the theater. There are images and ideas here that I won’t forget, and I found myself laughing, crying, and just plain amazed as the story unfolded.”

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