Larry Hankin: Roadrash Jones and Other Stories

Second City alum and cofounder of the 60s political-comedy troupe the Committee, Larry Hankin is one of those rare performers equally adept at comedy and pathos, turning sorrow into laughter or revealing the pain behind a comic situation. But unlike Charlie Chaplin–another master of this trick–Hankin never lapses into sentimentality: his characters remain prickly and difficult. For the past decade or so he’s been honing one called Emmett Sagittarius Deemus, also known as Roadrash Jones, a kinda likable, kinda obnoxious quixotic homeless man. Based on a compulsively talkative street psychotic Hankin met while “living on the streets of San Franciso, between jobs, in my VW bus,” Jones is a man whose brain is constantly bubbling over with crazy ideas, mad poetry, and pointed observations. Referring to himself as “an independent entrepreneur beggar-saint,” Jones is the kind of person who blurts out, “The job of the beggar is the management of guilt and pity for profit.” He goes on to describe in full detail how the churches and the beggars work hand in hand: churches teach guilt, beggars relieve it. Emmett first appeared in Hankin’s well-received one-man show Emmett Sez, and Hankin continues Emmett’s “mad dada journey without gasoline” in Roadrash Jones and Other Stories. The Second City, Skybox Studio Theatre, Piper’s Alley, 1608 N. Wells (fourth floor), 312-337-3992. September 5 and 6: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $10. –Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Larry Hankin photo/ uncredited.