Call Me Lucky is not an easy movie. Bobcat Goldthwait doesn’t make easy movies. His first documentary is about Barry Crimmins, an influential Boston comedian that had a hand in shaping modern stand up. It’s also about Crimmins’ crusade against child sexual predators and his own sexual assault. It’s not an easy story.
While Call Me Lucky isn’t an easy viewing, it’s Goldthwait’s most watchable film. It doesn’t feature polarizing subjects like bestiality (Sleeping Dogs Lie), autoerotique asphyxiation (World’s Greatest Dad) or shooting sprees (God Bless America), but an incredibly common and incredibly quiet subject, child sexual abuse and assault. Crimmins isn’t a victim, he’s a survivor and crusader with an anger and humor unparallelled, giving Goldthwait an anti-hero difficult to ignore.
Goldthwait, like his subject, is also an anti-hero difficult to ignore. Once known for an affected voice, ‘odd’ stage persona and mainstream, low-brow comedy blockbusters, he’s grown into a well loved alt comic and cult director.
Brightest Young Things: It’s not an easy sell to convince people to see this movie.
Bobcat Goldthwait: Yeah, it’s not an easy sell to get people to see it, not an easy sell to get them to give me the money to make it, it’s like, “well it’s about a comedian, he’s a left wing comedian who you’ve probably never heard about and then we discussed his childhood rape a lot in the movie.” Yeah, it’s not going to take down Ant-Man.
BYT: A lot of people that see Ant-Man will probably really dig this movie if they just knew that Patton Oswalt and David Cross like this Barry Crimmins.
BG: Yeah, yeah, Barry has a lot of fans and mentored and influenced a lot of comedians who are contemporary favorites like Marc Maron and Margaret Cho and all these folks so you know it impacts their comedy which is pretty substantial.
But it’s funny, that’s not what really made me want to make the movie, I just thought his story was such a good David and Goliath story when he took on AOL.
BYT: Yeah and then I mean you tease from like the first two scenes that you also want to take down the Catholic Church and that isn’t revealed until 80 minutes into the movie so there’s also that Goliath as well.
BG: I kind of wanted to set the tone so it doesn’t take such a drastic turn where you’re going “whoa, where did this movie go?” so I think it fits the movie you know like 48 Hours, we would have started with “Raped at 4” and that’s not the kind of story telling I was interested in.
BYT: It really is kind of weird to say it’s a good movie, because a good documentary is about two things, you need to be a convincing story-teller, which you already are, and a you need to have a really good subject and sadly this is a good subject.
BG: Well thanks but you know I think it is a good subject too because it’s a guy who came through the other side and then the byproduct is that he helps all these other people and there was a change of Barry. He went from being angry all the time and all this pain to a guy who is still angry but you know I’ve seen the pain subside and he’s just using the anger to help other people.
As his friend I wanted to make the movie but there’s a little part of me that’s selfish as a story teller where I was like, “This would make a tremendous picture!”
BYT: How long did you try to make it a narrative? I know that there was a draft and it was like 300 plus pages.
BG: I tried to do it after he went to that Senate Judiciary Hearing, that was in the mid 90s, and I thought well this is a Frank Capra story, this little guy taking on a giant company so it was all those years trying to make it a narrative.
I’ve told this story but Robin Williams was my good pal and he was a good fan of Barry’s and he knew the story and knew my passion for making this movie and he suggested I make it a documentary and he actually gave me the initial money that started the movie rolling, he didn’t finance this movie but he gave me some bread to start it.
BYT: So this could have been your Shakes (Shakes The Clown is Goldthwait’s directorial debut from 1991) directorial follow-up.
BG: The Shakes follow-up?
BYT: This would have predated Windy City Heat, definitely Chappelle’s Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live…
BG: Oh yeah, that is true. It’s just…I wonder what would have happened. Maybe it would have put me on a different path.
BYT: I think it would have.
BG: I would have been a serious auteur all this time instead of a guy who makes these really weird, dark comedies.
BYT: Here’s the thing I find really interesting about this film. Barry obviously influenced you, you’re in the movie, you’re making a movie about the man, but you did the exact opposite of Barry on stage. You put on a persona almost from day one, the Fresh Air interview you just did and they play that old clip of you, it was really fascinating that you were heavily influenced by this guy yet were doing the 180 of it.
BG: I was influenced because there were some real obvious ways I was in this persona that was pretty extreme and then I’d do Iran Contra material. It would be like Pee Wee Herman commenting on Cosby, it just was a weird combo. So there was content in that act even though people weren’t aware of it and then the other thing was Barry’s whole thing is to be original and not derivative that was his whole thing. He stressed and that’s why he was an influence.
Other folks he helped, like Steven Wright, Barry’s comedy couldn’t be further, but Barry just encouraged funny people to be funny.
BYT: Do you think you could have made this film earlier? It seems like a natural progression, especially directing Maron, not saying Maron and what WTF is is like this, but just in terms of we’re dealing with reality, we’re not even dealing with an act anymore.
BG: Right, I agree, I think this movie, it took all the other skills that I’ve learned over the years to make it.
In regards to Maron and WTF, I was always concerned about Barry’s well-being in regard to making this movie and when I was listening to Barry on WTF and when I was listening to Barry on Dana Gould’s podcast it was like, “OK, he’s talking about these things” because early on when he was talking about these things he would also go into shock and have a really hard time with it so I felt like I could pull the trigger on this movie and hopefully not jeopardize my friend’s well-being.
BYT: Do you feel like you’ve found your tribe like your group of followers who just genuinely love what you do?
BG: No because they get mad. Someone who likes World’s Greatest Dad watches my found footage Big Foot movie and they’re mad at me and vice-versa. All the movies I make seem to be for different people. This sounds really pretentious but I’m not really interested in making movies for everyone but I am interested in making a few people’s favorite movies. That’s not very lucrative but it makes me very happy.
BYT: Do you think Barry is going to find his tribe? Right after the initial Catholic Church rant in the movie he’s also ranting against Atheism. I feel like now he’s going to find a bunch of people that feel that way and he’ll probably push back against them.
BG: It will be interesting to see how he deals with it. Here’s this guy who has been an outsider his whole life and to find people now who say you know, we really love what you do, we would like to hear more of it. It will be interesting how this plays out. The sequel will be called Call Me Greedy.
BYT: Do you feel lazy compared to your subject?
BG: No, not really, because I’m always working on a lot of different things.
I have the career most people have at the end of their career at the beginning. I’ve been listening to that voice in me that says, “Dude, there’s no reason for you to be in a talking horse movie.” At the end of the day, I had a good experience making that stuff. I wouldn’t be a storyteller now so I think it all panned out in an OK way.