Barry Crimmins in Santa Cruz
The big man will be at the Food Lounge on Saturday April 15th
Tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2922415
A brief bio of Barry Crimmins looks like this: Former Air America Radio writer and correspondent, internationally renowned political satirist and author of the acclaimed Seven Stories Press book Never Shake Hands With A War Criminal helped bring the Boston Comedy scene into the modern age when he founded two of Boston’s most fabled clubs: The Ding Ho and Stitches. Such acts as Steven Wright, Paula Poundstone, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kevin Meaney, Jimmy Tingle and many, many others cut their comedic teeth in the rooms Crimmins started and at shows he produced.
For the first time SUSC didn’t go the usual route and talk about the early years of comedy. You can find all that in the new documentary called Call Me Lucky. This time we just jumped off the cliff…………….
SUSC: Are you doing a tour?
I’m about to shoot a radio show in San Francisco for Audible. Then I’m going to hang around for a few days and do Santa Cruz. Then I go to Austin for Moontower.
Have you been in Santa Cruz before?
I played with Jackson Brown in 1988 at the Civic Center.
Was that was the No Nukes era?
Yeah, and Lives in the Balance from his trips to Central America.
Jackson Brown was one of those rare rock and roll musicians who was also a political activist.
He knows his stuff. He doesn’t just go onstage with a bumper sticker and read it.
Was it typical for comedians to be opening for rock shows in the 1980s?
I don’t know how typical it was, I certainly did a lot of it. You’d have to ask around. I think what you saw a lot of was comics opening for acts as they came through their towns, but I don’t think it was that common that comics would tour with bands. I toured with Jackson, Billy Bragg and toured a lot with Steven Wright.
How long have you been on the road?
Its been three and half years since we started shooting Call Me Lucky. Then we spent a year on the road promoting the film at film festivals. Then I spent a year putting together the new special for Louie. I promoted that for three months and now I’m working on a new piece that ties a lot of things together.
What’s it about?
Its about the political circumstance of the country and how it ties into abuse in general. If there was national poll on self-loathing it would sound like:
“Yes. I do.”
With Trump I can finally say there’s a president who hates himself as much as I do.
Exactly. Shows have been going great. I weave the news stuff into the act. I don’t know how I managed not to get back to Santa Cruz. I love the town and I might have played it one other time with Billy Bragg, but I’m not sure.
Do you find it interesting that America is looking towards comedians to be the voice of reason and give clarity to what’s going on? A lot of comics in their 50s are now the spokespeople.
Yeah, but that goes back a long ways. Twain and Swift. People have always used humor to get to people. When people drop their guards they are open and you can get some information to them. It can be very subversive but I don’t think it’s new. For stand-up comics it took a long time to overcome the stereotype of baggy pants and seltzer bottles. But Carlin, Pryor, The Smothers Brothers made their mark. It’s nothing new. Certainly not new to me, I’ve been doing it for 45 years back when Nixon was president.
Do you find parallels between the Nixon Administration and what’s happening right now?
Sure. Paranoid, war mongering, corrupt, soulless bastards? Yes. I see a parallel. Bigots who got to be president because they appealed to the worst instinct’s in our country? Yeah, I think there’s a parallel there. Nixon also ran against a lousy candidate the first time. Ran against a great candidate the second time who got mixed up in one of the most corrupt elections ever. And McGovern is considered a loser, but he will always be a hero to me. He was like the Bernie of ’72.
You think there will be a John Dean that will sink the Trump ship?
There’s no guessing. But there already are. You can see a lot of inner-fighting and turfiness. When you run an administration on paranoia, there will always be a lot of gamesmanship behind the scenes. So you never who’s going to do it. And they will make him into a hero. The thing you have to remember about John Dean is that he chose to work for Nixon. I’m glad he finally spoke up, so I wouldn’t completely condemn him, but I will not forget who the son a of a bitch went to work for and facilitated. It would be a lot funnier if it weren’t so dangerous.
Trump is a ridiculous figure.
Did you see his inaugural address? He went to a truck stop and bought all the bumper stickers. One of the scariest parts about Trump is that he’s a pretty dumb guy. Maybe dumber than “W”. Unfortunately he believes his own crap and anything that agrees with or covers up his incompetence, immediately becomes spoken word. That’s a pretty nutty guy to have in the White House. He is so surrounded by “yes” people, he doesn’t have one good friend that will say to him, “Look you really shouldn’t go out of the house with that crap on top of your head. Flock of Seagulls isn’t selling anymore.” We joke about his hair, but its a real tip off that nobody ever tells Trump the truth. The ones that do are exiled and sent into the Phantom Zone.
When you do shows that are mostly millennials in the crowd, how do you bridge the gap?
You provide context and don’t act condescending. I think too often “political comics” come out and act like they are smarter than the crowd. I think doing political comedy is my job and the people in the audience might have been stuck in traffic jams all day and really scrambling to survive. People are kept busy on a lot of levels. It’s my job to report back. I try to provide context and bring the audience up to speed. I find my audience, no matter their age, to be pretty smart. It was the millennials who were behind Bernie, I get along with them. All this generational stuff is just another way they get us to be divided and conquered. I learned a long time ago when my friend got upset about punk music, because we rock and rollers, it was obvious we just repeat what people said about us five years ago. Kids are supposed to annoy older people. The only way to get back at them is to not be annoyed at it.
The general stereotype is that millennials are so naïve.
Truth is they are on the hook for unsupportable debt just to go to college, they don’t have real jobs to look forward to and they are living in a world where the habitat might not hold up for their natural life span. So they work on issues that involve those things and they get called naïve. Its naïve to not understand that millennials should have a lot longer to be on this planet then we do. So their concerns go beyond us. That’s why last year they supported the one candidate who spoke to things like living wages and issues surrounding social and environmental justice.
Godamm, Barry, you’re a glimmer of hope.
Well, my boy is Howard Zinn. He always called himself an optimist because he would find these moments in history when people stood up to evil. One person standing up can be the spark that creates the prairie fire that changes the country and the world, time and time again. Being a Zinn optimist requires continuing to speak up. Don’t drive people off by acting like you are the sole possessor of the truth. You’re part of it, listen to other people and try to remain accessible.