Robert L. Hines can accomplish you laugh. He’s abiding of it. “I can do it with the cast of a wrist,” the Englewood-raised amateur says sitting at his manager’s abode in Los Angeles on a contempo morning. “It’s not that I’m arrogant,” Hines contends of his abiding aplomb to, say, booty his 260-pound anatomy up onstage at any ball club and advance to breach bottomward the abode afterwards arise astute about his adroitness for laying decay to any buffet. “I’m aloof convinced.”
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So yah, he’s got the accomplished big-dude funny guy cool bottomward pat. But there’s added to him than meets the eye. The comedian, who became a viral awareness afterwards arena Toby Jones — that banter freeholder and brilliant of low-budget bartering spoofs for such can’t-miss business as “Jones’ Good Ass BBQ and Foot Mage” and “Jones Big Ass Truck Rental & Storage,” whose videos been beheld a aculated 15 amateur times and alike aggressive a jig from NBA brilliant Stephen Curry and Chance the Rapper — is accessible to get serious.
“It’s actual accessible for me to sit aback and acquaint fat jokes and allocution about what’s activity on in the room,” Hines says. “That’s effortless.” This aloft corrections administrator would adopt to now accomplish you think. About amusing justice. About the bastille automated complex. About racism. “Now I see area there’s amount in cogent bodies that inmates are human,” he says. “I see the amount in that transition.”
Not that it’s necessarily an accessible one. “It’s actual activity accelerated for me to call such a abhorrent bearings and accomplish it funny,” he continues. “When you see a amateur alpha they usually allocution about actuality that’s not actual thought-provoking: activity to the bath or or tampons.” To him, acclamation added austere capacity is the abutting footfall in his progression as a banana talent. “Once you advance as a amateur … you can allocution about actuality that’s relatable on a college level. You can alpha talking about the Middle East, if you so desire. Or you can allocution about the atrocity that we amut anniversary added with unnecessarily.”
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If Hines sounds like a far cry from the slick-talking alcoholic Toby Jones, that’s no accident. In conversation, the 48-year-old amateur is cogitating and sincere, if not absolutely self-ured. Hines, who allotment home this anniversary for a three-night angle at the Chicago Ad-lib that runs this weekend, has spent the accomplished five-plus years back affective to LA acquirements to adore life. That is, back he’s not adorning his comedic chops or cycling through a host of development deals with television networks.
“It’s aloof a amount of time,” Hines says of his absolute angle in animosity of endless television deals falling through over the years. “Somebody gonna get this money,” he adds. “Eventually they’re gonna accept to appear to me and it’s aloof a amount of me cat-and-mouse and ambidextrous with them back they get here. I’m not activity nowhere. Either you appee to be acknowledged by alive with me or you don’t. That’s on you.”
Hines is the aboriginal to agenda that his and his wife’s accepted activity in LA is a breeze compared to his near-decade spent alive as a corrections administrator at Cook County Jail.
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“I was absolutely afflicted at the jail,” he says. Sure, at the time he was cheating at ball clubs like the Lakes Theater, the Fat Bean Club in Naperville or alike aperture for the Bernie Mac at the backward comedian’s own venue. But “I acquainted so far abroad from entertainment,” says Hines, who’d consistently been the funniest guy in a ancestors of storytellers and never acquainted he could do annihilation but be funny. To that end, back alive at Cook County he’d convenance his actual on the inmates. “My mentality was I’m activity in there and see if I can defuse situations with article added than my fists,” he recalls. “And that was humor. And already I started accomplishing that consistently that’s what I started actuality accepted for. Back I’d appear on the bank they’d be like ‘Oh, actuality he goes!’ ”
His affable attributes got him labeled by adolescent guards as an “inmate lover, some of whom he contends would consistently corruption their power. “They would do things to inmates that they acquainted like they could get abroad with. They would alpha riots. It was ridiculous. It was a action amid me and them to aculate the inmates safe.” Hines knew better. “Ultimately these inmates are people,” he says. “They are not the animals that we accomplish them out to be. They are not failures. They are acceptable to anniversary other. These bodies are animal beings and they do things that are amazing.”
Perhaps he feels this way because he believes he could accept been one of them. Yes, he’s quick to agenda how he grew up with admiring and aggressive parents, both of whom put a hard-days-work aloft all abroad in life. Still, not until he confused to LA did he apprehend not anybody grew up with his cirstances. “It seems accustomed to airing accomplished a pimp to me because that’s area I lived,” he says. Back he accustomed in Southern California “and started seeing how nice things could be I’m like, ‘Wow, I’ve been missing out!’ ”
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“Do you apperceive what a praline is?” he asks. “It’s a candied adorable nut that seems like it’s covered in God’s own (urine).” For best of his activity Hines didn’t apperceive things such as this existed. That is until he got fed up with his bastille gig, overcame the brainy hurdle of giving up a abiding ets for an alien activity in entertainment, abdicate his job as a corrections administrator and confused to LA to accompany a career in ball abounding time.
Lucky for him, accepting already fabricated a name for himself with his Toby Jones videos, Hines bound admiring an accomplished administrator who shepherded him to affairs with television producers and big-time arrangement executives. He’s a amateur at heart, but Hines says he’s apparent how landing a television appearance is generally the atom that gives a comic’s career some longevity. “Look at Jimmie Walker,” he says of the “Good Times” actor. “He’s still accepting appointed off of a appearance that’s about 50 years old!”
Plus, Hines notes, actuality on television would present him to the aforementioned boilerplate admirers he’s continued been allure with his stand-up. “I don’t appee to be put in a box of aloof actuality a ‘black comic,’ ” he says. “I appee to do ball that relates to everybody.”
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For now, he’ll adapt to activate cutting addition development activity aboriginal abutting month. Maybe it’ll pan out. Or it won’t. He’s hardly concerned. “Just put me on television and I will accomplish the blow happen,” Hines says. “This 27 years was not for nothing.”
Dan Hyman is a freelance writer.
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When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Chicago Improv, 5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg
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Tickets: $17; 847-240-2001 or chicago.improv.com
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