Barry Crimmins RIP: A founding father of Boston comedy dies at 64

Back in January, Barry Crimmins — beloved comedian, social activist, and political satirist, long considered a founding father of Boston comedy — announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and faced a grim prognosis going forward.

Even still, he assured his social media followers that his “care, attitude and emotional state” were fine, and followed through doing what he had always done best — fighting the good fight.

Sadly, on Wednesday (February 28), almost a month to the day of his original announcement, his fight ended peacefully, with his wife, Helen and best friend Bobcat Goldthwait by his side. He was 64.

Helen Crimmins went under the guise of her husband’s twitter handle to report the news: “Barry passed peacefully yesterday with Bobcat and I. He would want everyone to know that he cared deeply about mankind and wants you to carry on the good fight. Peace.”

The news of Crimmins death comes particularly hard. Crimmins, the subject of acclaimed 2015 documentary Call Me Lucky, revealed his cancer diagnosis only a few weeks after the local comedy community rallied around Helen Crimmins at the Stand Up to Cancer fundraiser in Somerville. She has been battling stage four ovarian and cervical cancer, and the news of Crimmins’ own condition was shocking.

“Prayers appreciated — statements of your stance on spirituality or lack thereof are not,” Crimmins wrote. “Most importantly, I have Helen and she, despite all of her own health challenges, has been my champion. I love her so much and she makes it clear with her every act that she feels the same about me. We’re OK, we two. We really are.”

A New Yorker at heart, a Bostonian by trade, and even as a pacifist by choice, Crimmins personified what it meant to truly be a fighter. From his advocacy for victims of sexual abuse and his famed battle with AOL in front of Congress, to his solidarity with Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan at the gates of George W. Bush’s Texas ranch, Crimmins fought tirelessly in an attempt to bring justice to an unjust world, and in the midst of chaos and melancholy, he maintained his ability to be resilient and side-splittingly funny.

Whether he was comparing Richard Nixon to herpes, requesting an ex-communication from the catholic church via Twitter, or coining the phrase “dildoic”, the New York State native always used his sharp, relevant humor as a means to make people think.

And while he may have borrowed those tools from the playbooks of Mark Twain, Lenny Bruce, and Dick Gregory, he never carbon-copied them. He was always uniquely Crimmins in his delivery and material, balancing tongue-in-cheek jokes about Babe Ruth’s genitals with how he would’ve handled World War II as a pacifist (“Well, I just wouldn’t have started World War I!”), and never wavered from what he believed in.

Last fall, Crimmins was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Boston Comedy Festival, in recognition of a career spanning nearly 40 years and stretching far beyond the label of stand-up comedy. In true Crimmins form, the lifelong Yankees fan took his moment of celebration to share some inspirational wisdom with the crowd: “Stand up for people in worse shape than you are. At the end of the day, when you go home, you won’t have to look for a leader, because you’ll be that leader.”

As news of Crimmins’ passing spread overnight on social media, praise for Crimmins’ career and who he was as a person came flooding in.

“Barry Crimmins was a compassionate, hilarious man who touched so many lives,” tweeted Judd Apatow. “He gave so much of himself to help other people. I hope his life inspires others to follow his example. And he was hilarious. We love you Barry.” Added John Hodgman: “Barry Crimmins has been an inspiration as a comedian and model of human courage and decency for as long as I’ve been conscious.”

“Barry Crimmins was my brother,” tweeted Tom Arnold. “He’s a warrior & funny & most of all a very good boy. ❤️to his family & million friends. Barry loved people but not a huge fan of the Pope.”

From the Ding-Ho to Lawrence, Kansas, and all around the globe, Crimmins affected droves of people with his words of wisdom, courage, and understanding, and will surely continue to influence more as long as Call Me Lucky and Whatever Threatens You remain available to the masses, and are used as not just entertainment, but also education, as well.

Rest in Power, Barry.