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.
On April 21, 2000, the Boston Herald’s Robin Vaughn’s review of one of Barry’s shows included a concise Boston Comedy history lesson.
“In 1979, Crimmins, a politically minded comedian from upstate New York, started booking Boston’s brightest, brashest young wits into the Ding Ho, a seedy Chinese restaurant in Inman Square. The club, run for and by comedians, was an unpedigreed underdog, but broke conventions of the day in paying its performers reasonable fees and maintaining Crimmins’ comedy booking standards. He was hell-bent on originality and unforgiving of plagiarism. It was boot camp for the best comics in Boston and some of the most successful standups in the country. ”
According to that same Vaughn review, Crimmins hasn’t lost any prowess as a performer.
“To his old crowd, Crimmins is the patron saint of original, creative comedy in Boston and a brooding ideologue. His wit is as sharp as his sense of social justice, which has been known to eclipse a joke or two. But his hour-plus show, ‘Chicken Soup for the Vegetarian Soul’, served as a persuasive example of what intelligent stand-up comedy, politically themed or otherwise, can be.”
After helping jumpstart Boston comedy, Barry left production to concentrate on performing. In short order he gained attention as one of the top political satirists in the country. He has made countless television appearances on everything from The NBC Nightly News to The HBO Young Comedians Special to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He has recorded two CD’s: Strange Bedfellows on A&M and Kill the Messenger on Green Linnet. His writings appear regularly in the Boston Phoenix as well as several other publications. He was a staff writer for the syndicated Dennis Miller Show and has toured in performance with Billy Bragg, Jackson Browne, Utah Phillips, Michelle Shocked, Steven Wright, Dar Williams and numerous others.
As special as it is to see Barry anytime, his election year performances are exceptional. After months of inundation with campaign ads and stump speech and media hot air nothing scratches the pesky political itch better than Barry’s well-reasoned and just plain funny responses to political conventional wisdom.
For example, we’re told repeatedly that if we don’t vote we have nothing to complain about. Barry’s reply: “Oh yeah, have you read a ballot lately? The biggest problem with this election is someone is going to win it!”
But by the end of his show there are very few people who wouldn’t feel a little guilty about not voting or, for that matter. becoming active in grassroots efforts. Barry has worked tirelessly for a myriad of causes and has been honored on numerous occasions for his willingness to drop everything when his insight and leadership were needed. Crimmins received the Peace Leadership Award from Boston Mobilization for Survival. He has also been honored, along with Ms. Maya Angelou, with The Courage of Conscience Award from Wellesly College and The Life Experience School at The Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Community Works gave the Artist for Social Change Award to Barry for his years of activism.
Selected comments about Barry Crimmins:
“Barry is hilariously funny, but more important, his humor comes out of a deep intelligence, and extraordinary understanding of the world around him and an intense commitment to social change.” — Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States.
“He breaks down reality in a hilarious way. He seems ticked off at everything, and when you hear him, you agree. One of the few political comedians who are really good.” — Steven Wright in U.S. News and World Report
“The finest political satirist in the nation. A prolific writer of comedy who is both keenly insightful and superbly humorous.” — Swift Kicks
“Barry makes Jack Reed look like Michael Milken.” — Dennis Miller