I’ll be honest. There is a lot else I need to be doing right now. I have plenty of work I can be doing for upcoming AVFTI events. Or I could be updating our finances. Probably, above both of those things, I should be getting some sleep. It’s almost midnight, and I have an early rise to be at work by 8am. But this is important. More important, right now, than the bit of work I can put off for one more day or an extra hour of sleep. Not to mention the fact that this is time sensitive information.
Knowing the work that I do, a friend recently sent some information about a new documentary called Call Me Lucky, which was directed by comedian and actor Bobcat Goldthwait. It tells the story of a man named Barry Crimmins. Barry is a stand up comedian and political satirist who performed and operated comedy clubs from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him – I hadn’t either, and I consider myself a definite fan of stand up comics. He is considered more of a comic’s comic. He helped pave the way for such acts as Paula Poundstone, Lenny Clarke, Kevin Meany, Dennis Leary, and is revered by such acts as David Cross, Patton Oswalt, and Steven Wright.
Barry is also a victim of childhood sexual abuse. In the early 90s, Barry began to seek out help through talking to other people affected by childhood abuse in the early AOL chatrooms. For those of you who weren’t around for the start of the internet, AOL chatrooms were all the rage. You could find a room covering any and all topics under the sun; from sports to movies, from current events to support groups. And to the shock and dismay of Mr. Crimmins, child pornography. Barry was aghast to find public, unabashed chat rooms that openly discussed and traded child porn. Somehow worse than that, they actively sought out new victims. Barry reported it to AOL over and over again. He was thanked, but essentially brushed away. At that time, there wasn’t much internet moderation, and it (somehow) wasn’t directly prohibited by AOL. He then turned to various law enforcement agencies and didn’t get much further. Despite being discouraged, he couldn’t give up.
He put himself into those chatrooms day after day, collecting data, information, and compiling all that he could about the users, all the while still reporting this information to AOL and law enforcement agencies without gaining much headway. After 7 grueling months, he finally made a breakthrough and ended up working with the FBI and was able to hand over all the files and information he had collected. His work led to the arrest of over 100 men, and directly contributed to the internet laws that are in place to help make children safer online.
This led to a journey where Barry came and presented his findings to the U.S. Senate, directly against the accounts given by AOL representatives. And, in short, he made them look utterly foolish.
Anyone who uses the internet, which is exactly 100% of the people who are reading this piece, who also cares about the safety of our children owe a debt of gratitude to Barry Crimmins. Maybe we don’t need to send him a check or gift, but perhaps it’s at least worth knowing his name, story, and what he did. He single-handedly took on one of the first internet giants and won. Or better yet, let’s go see Call Me Lucky. It’s being released in various theaters around the country starting last week, and is only going to be showing for a short time. It is also available on iTunes and other digital download sites. I fully intend to drive a couple hours to Columbus, Ohio next week to go see it for myself. And I am certain you can expect a review. Visit callmeluckymovie.com to find the closest theater to you. He’s also very active on Twitter if you’d like to reach out and say thank you. For now, I’ve included the movie trailer below, as well as episode 35 of the podcast Reply All, which recently had Barry on as a guest. Barry is the 2nd guest on the show, and his segment starts at about 12:20. I will admit that there are a few spots in his interview that are hard to hear, but overall, I found him extremely inspiring.