The career of Bobcat Goldthwait has been fascinating. He's a little too hard on his `80s comedy output. It's understandable he didn't want to be typecast, but his comedic persona was nothing to be ashamed of. If you watch his animal voice movies or standup, they still hold up, but he brilliantly reinvented himself as a director making bold, politically incorrect comedies like Sleeping Dogs Lie, World's Greatest Dad and God Bless America.
Call Me Lucky is not his first documentary. Windy City Heat was also in documentary format, but it was all a big prank, so this is Goldthwait's first documentary that's meant to actually be informative. The subject is satirical political comedian Barry Crimmins, with whom I was not familiar before watching the film.
Just seeing clips and soundbites of Crimmins' act, his scathing commentary is still relevant today. How on earth did I not hear about him in the `80s and `90s? Well, there was no Internet in his day, so there was nowhere for him to go viral. A real rebel is so rebellious that he doesn't even get mainstream popularity.
The comic addressed topical issues like the Statue of Liberty repair and Iran Contra, but even though those are past events, Crimmins' sentiment doesn't feel dated. There's always something, and the corruptions we face today feel like history repeating itself. His act isn't just an attack on the establishment. When he discusses meeting victims of wartime atrocities, he is profound. He actually loves people. He just hates the politicians hurting them.
Call Me Lucky is not just a retrospective on Crimmins' greatest hits. His influence in the standup comedy industry was vital. He played a part in raising the pay rate of standups through competitive open mic rates. Individually, he called out any comedian doing material too similar to another comic, fighting plagiarism and pushing talent to discover their own originality.
Everyone has a Crimmins story, about how he helped them and made a difference in their lives, or just about a good time they had together. There is a host of diverse comedians speaking about Crimmins in the film, but when Patton Oswalt, David Cross and Marc Maron look up to him, we listen.
Goldthwait eases the film from one subject to another: politics, religion, activism, caring for friends, alcoholism and even worse traumatic incidents. He sensitively handles the most painful subjects of Crimmins' life. The details of his crusade against pedophiles can be hard to take but it is handled with care, and imagine it was far more intense for Crimmins to lead the charge. Crimmins had to see pictures and interact with online pedophiles.
Call Me Lucky is also a beautiful film aesthetically. Clips from blurry VHS recordings of old standup performances are a hoot, but mixing them with new widescreen footage creates a riveting back and forth between the past and present. The content of Crimmins' words is the driving force of Call Me Lucky, but they're given a presentation of equal impact.