I ask Barry Crimmins, a god among comics, and not just to other comics, has any time during his press tour stop in New York to have any fun.
“Oh, I’ve had plenty of fun,” Crimmins replies with a knowing chuckle.
He’s in town to promote “Call Me Lucky,” a documentary made about his legacy, as well as his history as a victim of child abuse. It was made by Bobcat Goldthwait, to whom Crimmins was once a mentor and is a longtime friend. While here he wants to work on his act at alt-comedy spots, though the famously grouchy comic is annoyed at how amateur some amateur comics can be.
“There are too many acts who don’t know the simple term ‘take the stage,’” Crimmins tells us. “You don’t walk out meandering, asking ‘How you doin’?’ — rhetorical questions to 200 people. The first thing you say should be pithy and funny and germane to a common experience — to show them you’re quick, you’re on top of stuff.”
Crimmins says he’s had a million opening lines over the years. “I used to walk out and say” — he adopts a joyless, depressed tone — “‘Thanks a lot, I’m really psyched.’”
Goldthwait, also here, has had lines too. “I just jettisoned it, but for awhile it was, ‘Yeah, you don’t look the same either,’” he says through a chuckle. In the ’80s Goldthwait got sucked into movies — movies he’s open about deploring, like three “Police Academy”s and the talking horse comedy “Hot to Trot.” “There’s a weirdness when I go on stage for a beat or two. Though when I’m playing clubs in New York and L.A., which I really like, I’m going up for millenials, where I don’t come with the baggage of being an ’80s icon. They’re being exposed to me for the first time, which I really like.”
Halfway through the last decade Goldthwait suddenly transitioned into an acclaimed filmmaker, making dark, low-budget comedies, including “World’s Greatest Dad,” starring his longtime friend, the late Robin Williams, and “God Bless America.”
“Most people don’t know I’m a filmmaker. Most people think I’m dead. When I ego surf on Twitter, most of the things people are commenting on are that some guy from ‘Big Brother’ sounds like my character from the ’80s,” Goldthwait says. “I didn’t start making movies to reinvent myself. I started making movies because I really love making movies. That’s it. They’re not for everyone.”
Goldthwait originally conceived of “Call Me Lucky” as a fiction film, with an actor playing him. Screenplay attempts by both didn’t go so well, and it was Robin Williams who suggested it be a doc. He also put up some of the initial money. Like some of his films, “Call Me Lucky” revolves around a malcontent, albeit a real one, though he’s reluctant to find too many specific connections between Crimmins and his other protagonists.
“I did a Bigfoot movie [‘Willow Creek’], and a movie with Robin Williams. So I like stories about hairy men who live in the woods, apparently,” Goldthwait jokes.
“I only blew the one dog,” Crimmins adds, alluding to “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” Goldthwait’s actually very insightful film about the impossibility of true intimacy that begins with a woman who indeed services her dog.