So many wonderful shows and films are lost to the deep libraries of Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. The Morning Mix team suggests one to watch over the weekend. So grab your sweatpants, order delivery and pick up the remote.
- This week’s movie: “Call Me Lucky”
- Streaming services: Netflix, Amazon (requires rental fee)
- Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
- Featuring: Barry Crimmins, Marc Maron, David Cross, Patton Oswalt
- MPAA rating: NR
- For fans of: “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father,” “Life Itself”
Every day, comedian Barry Crimmins tweets to the pope something akin to this:
To the casual fan who happens to follow Crimmins, it might seem like a sacrilegious running joke, perhaps a anti-humor gag of sorts. It might force a chill down the spine of anyone who knows Crimmins’s life story, though.
That story is painstakingly told in “Call Me Lucky,” a 2015 documentary directed by fellow comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (of “The Police Academy” series) focused mostly on the darker side of Crimmins’s life.
In the vein of Bill Hicks, George Carlin and Marc Maron, Crimmins has always been an angry comedian, his sets fueled by brash yelling, his jokes closer to furious admonishments than actual jokes. It’s a fine line to walk and, like others who employ this style, sometimes Crimmins steps over it.
As David Cross says in the film, “He stopped, I think, worrying about if he was funny or not.”
The documentary mines this rage, almost to a fault, to build narrative tension. Eventually, though (semi-spoiler) we learn of that long before he became a mainstay of the Boston stand-up scene, an extremely young Crimmins was repeatedly raped by a friend of his babysitter. Learning how to deal with the mental injuries left by this assault would last the rest of his life. It would also help him become much more than a stand-up comedian.
“When it would come back to me, I would have a hard time breathing,’’ Crimmins says in the documentary.
In 1994, the Internet was still a burgeoning enterprise, and Crimmins was seeking solace in an AOL chat room for survivors of sexual abuse. There, he learned that child pornography was being trafficked in another chat room. He began posing online as a 12-year-old boy. For months, he gathered these lurid photographs and videos, along with as many names and addresses of those sharing them as he could.
He repeatedly contacted AOL in hopes of shutting down the chat rooms. After not receiving more than pro-forma responses, he called the FBI. When two agents arrived at his house, then in Ohio, he handed over two dozen floppy disks filled with visual evidence of children being abused.
The documentary tells this story through candid interviews with Crimmins, along with actual footage of him testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A month later, with his help, the FBI made more than a dozen arrests.
The work, though, took a toll on him.
“You look into that kid’s eyes, and you can just about see the humanity going out of him,’’ he says.
Today, he remains an advocate for children who have been abused. For proof, check his Twitter account — his own experience, and his years in Boston, have led to a fury in the Catholic Church, which helped cover up an abuse scandal in that city.
The film at times goes overboard with the interview footage of his friends and admirers. That Crimmins was essentially Goldthwait’s mentor becomes abundantly clear when he parades a stream of famous comedians across the screen, all offering lip-service to the comedian’s many virtues.
But that admiration bred a true passion for his subject and, though at times too much, helps to humanize the larger-than-life Crimmins.
I saw the film at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2014. After its screening, Goldthwait spoke to the audience, telling the story of his film’s inception. His close friend, the late Robin Williams, first suggested the idea to him, a choked-up Goldthwait said, tears falling down his cheeks.
It’s endlessly debatable whether a filmmaker’s intention matters when viewing the final product, but anyone who enjoys”Call Me Lucky” would do themselves a service to read about Goldthwait’s intentions when crafting his documentary.
He, like many, consider Crimmins a hero. Not for helping young, struggling comedians reach the stage, but for saving the lives, bodies and minds of innumerable children — and doing himself irreparable mental harm in the process.
Viewing “Call Me Lucky” therefore is, in some ways, a thank you to a man mostly unrecognized today.
During a week when “seven percent of priests in Australia’s Catholic Church were accused of sexually abusing children over the past several decades,” according to the Associated Press, a viewing seems more pressing than ever.
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