WASHINGTON — They say there’s a thin line between laughter and pain. And there may be few people who exemplify that more than Barry Crimmins, one of the most influential comedians you’ve probably never heard of.
“He was a mentor to me, and kind of started the Boston comedy scene,” says Bobcat Goldthwait, who came up in that scene with a manic, screechy-voiced act back in the late 1970s.
Goldthwait is perhaps best known for his role as Zed in the “Police Academy” movies.
These days, though, he’s spending more time behind the camera making independent films. His latest is his first documentary, and it’s about his mentor. It’s called “Call Me Lucky“.
“I think I would have done his story even if he wasn’t a comedian, because it’s such a David and Goliath story,” Goldthwait tells WNEW.
Crimmins helped to foster the careers of such well-known comedians as Paula Poundstone, Steven Wright and Kevin Meaney. But his own comedy had a decidedly left-wing, angry edge that turned off some audiences.
Crimmin stunned one audience in the early 90’s, however, with an on-stage bombshell: that he’d been sexually abused as a child.
Later, when he discovered child pornography being openly exchanged on America Online in its earliest days, he gathered the evidence and brought it before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Here’s this guy who’s this radical lefty being invited basically by some very conservative senators,” Goldthwait says. “It’s a weird mixture of people all getting together.”
But Crimmins’s efforts helped lead AOL to crack down on child porn in its chat rooms.
Goldthwait admits it’s a heavy subject for his first documentary, but he also hopes audiences will find it affirming. Even if it’s coming from Zed.
“I’m sure people are waiting for a movie from Screech about the polar caps melting,” Goldthwait says.
Goldthwait’s real movie, “Call Me Lucky,” premieres Friday at Angelika Pop-Up in D.C.’s Union Market, and expands to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn Sept. 2nd.