Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Barry Crimmins

I found out recently that Barry Crimmins died, quite prematurely, of cancer. (Actually we're the same age so that's disconcerting.)  Here's the Rolling Stone obit, which is quite cursory.

I knew Barry when he lived in  Cambridge. We were at a few parties together, and went out for drinks after Mobilization for Survival, of which I was a board member, gave him the Peace Leadership Award. (Which is mentioned, BTW, in his Wikipedia article.) The reason for this intersection, obviously, is that he was a progressive activist as well as a comedian and comedy impresario. His comedy was political. He was always outraged but always compassionate.

Then one day I picked up the Boston Phoenix, our alternative news weekly. (Yeah, that used to be a thing.) He had written a lengthy article describing how he was repeatedly raped as a child. He made it sound like a recovered memory and some people wondered if he really had it right, but it turns out it wasn't exactly a recovered memory,  just something he had tried to put out of his mind for most of his life. His sister had caught the guy (a detail that as far as I remember he didn't put in the Phoenix article) so there is corroboration.

He announced that he was giving up comedy to take up the cause of protecting children from pedophiles, and he moved to Ohio, then eventually to upstate New York. I'm not sure why he did that other than just wanting to make a break with his former life. It would have been hard for him to extricate himself from the scene if he remained in the Boston area. Anyway, he personally shamed AOL into shutting down pedophile chat rooms, which for a long time they pretended they didn't know about. He did eventually return to comic performance.

As an impresario, he helped start the careers of several very prominent comedians including Paula Poundstone and Bobcat Goldthwaite, who made a documentary about him. But I don't think he gets enough credit for his own work, I suppose because he truncated his own career. Anyway he did a lot of good in the world.

1 comment:

Justin Cohen said...

He was a mensch! I recall seeing him in Boston at an outdoor venue, perhaps the Common, with you about 30 years ago. Your write-up of his life was right on. He was very funny, really "woke," as they say now (aware), and made a difference--a positive difference. So remarkably in contrast to the negative difference so many people now seem to make in the USA. Thankfully there are great people still out there carrying on the good work. RIP!