Meet our newest contributor Larry Hankin

By on June 12, 2015

Meet Larry Hankin, Night Flight’s newest contributor! We’ll be featuring his short films right here on a regular basis, every now and then, but to start off, we’re going to feature a snippet from Larry’s one-man performance at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California, back in 2011, where he tells us about one of his characters, Sometimes Jones — and this edit features Hankin’s own animated drawings too!

You probably recognize Larry Hankin from his many memorable appearances on syndicated TV fodder like “Seinfeld” (as “The Other Kramer” who stole the raisins), “Friends” (as bathrobed grump Mr. Heckles), or from scads of other TV shows, including “Breaking Bad,” and movies too — he had the cell next to Clint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz, and appeared in three John Hughes’ films: She’s Having A Baby, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and Home Alone — but seriously, you’re going to get carpal tunnel scrolling down on IMDB if you want to see everything he’s done, his listing there is endless! He’s appeared in over 40 films, and guest-starred on over 80 TV shows.

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Hankin — who was raised in Far Rockaway, Long Island, New York — graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Industrial Design and then ended up in Plattsburg, New York, after he traveled there to recuperate from breaking his arm in a barroom fight on graduation night. He designed sets for summer stock theater and joined the acting troupe, then headed back to Manhattan, where did began doing stand-up comedy in the Greenwich Village coffee houses at night, before agents Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins added him to their client roster and he graduated to club dates, opening for for such diverse acts as Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Miles Davis.

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Hankin then had a brief stint in St. Louis with The Compass Players, before theater pioneers Viola Spolin and Paul Sills invited him to become an early member of The Second City comedy group. He spent a few months in Chicago before, as his website states, “a splinter group of malcontents,” including Hankin, ventured further west to San Francisco’s North Beach to help form The Committee, a politically-driven counterculture satirical theater revue that flourished from 1963-1973, launching successful careers for many of its members, including Peter Bonerz (from “The Bob Newhart Show,” before he became a top TV director); Howard Hesseman; Michael McClure; Avery Schreiber; Del Close (the improv genius who mentored John Belushi, Chris Farley and others); and good friend, Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, who had first met Hankin at Syracuse in the fall of 1957.

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The Committee appeared regularly on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and showed up in the cult classic Billy Jack, and apparently Cheech and Chong stole much of their drug-laced improv skits for their own stand-up routines. Then Harkin started to get those film and TV roles you’ll find on IMDB, but we’re going to have to jump way ahead here, and skip over quite a lot of his accomplishments, simply because we’d end up with Tolstoy-sized novel, not a blog, if we attempted to type it all up for you, so what we’d like to focus on here is the fact that Hankin has himself been focusing on making his own films, something he started back in the late 60s, and we’re featuring several of them here for you here, some of which aired on Night Flight back in the daze.

These days Harkin has retired from acting in other people’s projects and is returning to his first loves: writing, storytelling, and directing. He’s created some pretty memorable characters who voice the stories he’s got floating around in his head, like Sometimes Jones (real name: Lawrence Bartholomew Pittsburgh), and Jones’ silver-haired alter-ego, a delusional aging outlaw biker named Emmett “Sagittarius” Deemus, who once stole a Hell’s Angel motorcycle for the fuck of it.

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We recently spoke to Hankin, who lives in Los Angeles:

“I was making these kinds of film shorts, they were sometimes a minute, or two or three minutes, back in the 80s. They got longer as I went on. The ones with the character I’d created, Sometimes Jones, kept on getting reviewed here in L.A. because I was showing them in local coffeehouses and movie places, and that’s where a guy came to me said he thought the films were great, and so we started a commercial venture together. There was just glimmer of people interested at the time in little movies like these, but a lot of the new cable channels needed ‘product’ and I remember they ended playing on Z Channel a lot, late at night, and TV shows like “Night Flight.” So, he had this idea of me making film shorts. and this was pre-Youtube, and he paid me a couple of bucks. Ridiculous. But I just wanted to make to make films. I made several of these films before he ran out of money, and then he disappeared. And I kept making films, but If I don’t’ have any money, then I just go back to ones that I have… and I start fucking with them, I edit them again, and sometimes I make them into little compilations, and I change them. I’m obsessed with the filmmaking process, and editing.”

Hankin’s comedic shorts have appeared at the Santa Cruz, Pasadena, San Francisco Independent, Chicago International, Venice, Montreal Just For Laughs and Marin County Film Festivals, as well as the Method Fest and on IFILM.com’s Hit Parade.

Check back here regularly for more of Larry’s short films!

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About Bryan

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide and a dozen other websites and zines, most of them long gone. He’s also worked for over twenty years at reissue record labels, and penned scads of liner notes -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He is now somewhat reclusive and bides his time quietly in his dusty Miracle Mile hermitage in Los Angeles, CA.