Call Me Lucky Review
I have only recently been bitten by the stand-up bug. I like laughing more than anything in the world, and I like a great comedy to watch, whether its a movie or a TV show or a what-have-you. But stand-up isn't something I obsessed over. Not because I found it tedium or because I found it boring. It was just something that I never gravitated towards until recently, and even now, I don't bend over backwards for it. Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I went to our very first stand-up comedy presentation, and we both loved the experience dearly. It was a wonderful experience and I have been itching to go back to that place in my near future. There is something atmospheric about stand-up comedy that you can't find in a movie or a TV show. There is a no-holds-barred quality to stand-up, there is a dangerous feeling that nothing is off limits. That's exciting and reckless and shameless all rolled into one. So before I sat down to watch "Call Me Lucky," I had no idea who Barry Crimmins was, and now on the other side of the documentary, I hope one day everybody learns who Barry Crimmins is.
When I began watching this documentary on Barry Crimmins, I thought I would just be watching a documentary of a stand-up comedian. Maybe it would be about how he rose to stardom in that particular field. Maybe it would be comment on the world of stand-up as a whole. There was certainly a little bit of each of those, and both were supremely fascinating. But it wasn't the whole movie. I thought, okay, this guy is still alive and what I thought was the focus of the movie wasn't the true focus. What could this movie possibly be about? I noticed that Crimmins was a boisterous and bombastic comedian. He had incredibly outspoken views on the Catholic Church and the politics of America. He went all around the talk to people and denounce the country he hailed from. He clearly smoked and drank too much, but that was part of what made him so funny, what made him so memorable. He would rant and rant and rant about whatever would get brought up at his gigs and still be able to fire off a joke during the act. While I was amazed by my experience of learning about Crimmins, I thought to myself, he isn't the first person to ever have strong anti-politics and anti-religion views. He isn't the first person to ever have wild acts at his stand-up. What made Crimmins so special as a person?
Then the movie drops a bomb. If you know your stand-up and you know Crimmins' background, then you know full well what I am about to discuss. Its the entire explanation of why Crimmins acts the way he does. There is a reason why Crimmins is so cynical. There is a reason why his stand-up is so blisteringly angry. When Barry Crimmins was a boy, he was raped by a friend of his babysitter who would come over sometimes. We never really find out how many times this happened, but it was indeed more than once. He never really talked about it to anyone, until one comedic act where he hit a wall and bore his heart about his pain. Soon after telling that story, Crimmins became an advocate for spreading child pornography and child molestation awareness after he saw how dangerous the internet could be for those crimes in the late 1990's. I was shocked, and if you don't know Crimmins' life, the film sets it up as surprise. We see this in movies all the time, the big twist in the movie. But ever since "The Impostor" in 2012 have I ever been so blindsided by the direction of a documentary.
What is it about sad people that draws them to comedy? If you look at the lives of Mark Twain or Mike Myers or Macauley Caulkin...each of them had very sorrowful upbringings. Yet, they possessed the power to keep the rest of us laughing? How does that work? What is it about the horrors and trauma of growing up that leads some of us to let loose and get goofy? I find myself amazed by Crimmins for that very reason. He was a comedian and a powerful rights activist that gave AOL a run for its money in the 1990's. What happened to Crimmins was monstrous and it makes you think about what drives these people to comedy.
There is a quote near the end of the movie which went along the lines of "the most anti-religious people are the ones that act the most religious." and its that quote that really hit me dead center. Crimmins' views on religion aren't misguided. As there was a priest in his hometown that came onto him at a young age and also was known to rape other boys. Instead of just doing comedy, Crimmins chose to spread awareness of these appalling crimes. He was a pioneer of making people take a closer look at the internet before letting their kids hop on it for the first time. Now I know, the internet is still a somewhat ugly place, but it could have possibly been way worse. What started out as a study of a crazy comedic ended up being so much more than I could have thought and that alone makes me want everybody to check this out as soon as possible.
FINAL GRADE: A