Call Me Lucky
While you would think it might naturally happen with the medium, there aren’t a whole lot of documentaries that can really make you think about your life with a fine-tooth comb, looking through it, and wondering whether you have truly lived it to the best of your abilities. Michael Apted’s “Up” series certainly does that, but even in some biographical documentaries, we aren’t really forced to ask such questions of ourselves. That’s part of why it was so remarkable that comedian-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait did just that with his fantastic documentary about the life and comedy of his friend, Barry Crimmins. Given my own increased interest in politics and political humor over the past 15 years, you would think that Crimmins’s name might have crossed my ears at some point, and it very well might have, but I never got nearly the exposure to his brilliant, brutal voice that Goldthwait presents here. His biggest impact as a stand-up comic occurred in the ’80s, when he not only had his way with the presidency of Ronald Reagan on-stage, but helped usher in a generation of comics, especially when it came to the Boston scene. That only tells part of the story, though, and while his peers in the comedy world will point out his influence in that arena, they will also herald the work he’s done as a political activist. This is where Crimmins’s story takes on a truly extraordinary tenor, as we come to understand just how much of his comedy comes not just from his political views, and the corruption he sees within the system, but also in his personal history. Here is someone who endured painful abuse as a child, both within and outside of the Catholic Church, and let it shape him into an uncompromising force for change in society. Not only is he a vocal opponent of his childhood church, but in the ’90s, he took on American Online in Congress when he discovered chatrooms of pedophiles passing around child pornography. In one of the most astounding stretches of film this year, we see the back-and-forth between Crimmins and a legal representative for AOL in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee as Crimmins presents his case that AOL is profiting off of child pornography, and the rep for the company pathetically trying to talk his way out of it. Goldthwait lets it just play out, with some commentary by his interview subjects to put it in perspective, but the sight is one for the time capsule, and really makes you feel inspired by how Crimmins utilizes his public voice for shedding light on a cause that is important to him, and it shines light on a dark corner of society to be stamped out. It makes me think to myself, “What have you done lately?,” while also gives us an entertaining moment of the absurd nature of reality in a way only a comedian can present. Barry Crimmins is something special to this work, and I cannot thank Bobcat Goldthwait enough for bringing him to my attention in what is one of the most substantial moviewatching experiences I’ve had this year.