The Sundance premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary “Call Me Lucky” at the Library Theater this afternoon was bound to be a powerful experience, since the movie chronicles the defiant struggles of outspoken political activist and comedian Barry Crimmins, who was raped during his childhood decades ago. In the movie, Crimmins is seen continuing his furious agenda, which includes a desire to “overthrow the U.S. government” and “close the Catholic church.” It also chronicles his triumphant efforts to trap child molesters using AOL chatrooms in the mid-nineties, a feat that ultimately led to changes in U.S. policy.
But even before the movie started, Goldthwait—another veteran comedian whose career has taken on new dimensions, with his ongoing efforts as an independent filmmaker—had the room in tears. It was the first time he had presented a new movie in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide last year. Williams, who starred in Goldthwait’s 2009 Sundance hit “World’s Greatest Dad,” was a close acquaintance of the comedian-turned-filmmaker for decades. As it turns out, he also played a role in financing Goldthwait’s latest work.
Standing at the front of the room to introduce the movie, Goldthwait thanked the festival and took a deep breath.
“I’m emotional,” he said. “You know, Robin Williams was my best friend and this is the exact same theater where I showed him ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ for the first time. The reason I’m bringing that up is that Robin’s a big part of why we’re here today.”
Goldthwait said that he had initially wanted to tell Crimmins’ story as a narrative feature, but Williams felt otherwise. “Robin was familiar with our friendship and he knew Barry’s story,” Goldthwait said. “He suggested I make it as a documentary. In fact, he gave me the initial money that started this movie in February.”
As he began to tear up, Goldthwait added, “It means a lot to me that you like it. It means more that Barry likes it. But I just did hope I did well by my friend. So thank you.”
With spontaneous applause breaking out during several moments in the movie when Crimmins speaks truth to power, it was clear that Goldthwait could rest easy. As the credits ended, “Call Me Lucky” received two standing ovations — one for Crimmins and another for Goldthwait.
“I had the experience at the beginning of career that people have at the end of their career, when they’re selling out and doing shitty work,” he said. “Sundance gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself. It’s a huge thrill.”