Comedy Writing

Comedy Writing by James Croal Jackson


(originally published in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Summer 2017)

Rob Delaney

Hi, I am Rob Delaney.
I am not Rob Delaney

and he would never begin a five-minute set like that,
but before California dangled blackberries
above my granite mouth,

Rob showed us the way and the truth and the life
(John fourteen-six by the score of silent thumbs)

god, twitter fame was the only thing
that could bring us nearer gods we do not believe in

this big bang of a perpetually expanding following
we cannot fully understand

by choice I never listened to robins
conducting high-frequency symphonies

(but I did read Last Call of the Passenger Pigeon
by Daniel A. Hoyt that summer
and could form the parentheses of a whistle
enough to calculate the slow kettle of tea)

my father would sit on a pig stump
(an oak whose life he ended himself)
and watch birds fly the superhighway,
clouds like rush hour in L.A.

like some hippie saint claiming
all that is God
is not man-made

I always thought of bird-watching as a way
for the elderly to augment their loneliness

now all the young men I know
fetishize loneliness in themselves


(originally published in LEVELER – Summer 2015)

Cavity of the Soul (Part II)

(continued from Part I)

At 7 AM Wayne’s alarm trilled him awake. Typically after a dental appointment, there are aches and pains, but he never felt anything this extreme. It felt as if malignant parasites had made a home in his teeth and rented condos in his gums. His cavity was on the right side of his mouth, but most of the pain was on the left. Without warning, the pain would switch sides. It made no sense. Wayne could not wait to sit back in that uncomfortable chair, in hopes that Hakoum could extricate the pain.


The lights in the office were off. The sign on the outside still read “CLOSED”. But as Wayne approached the door, the handle turned and soon enough a foreign hand held the door open.

“Sorry, the lights weren’t on,” Hakoum said, leading Wayne inside. “I just got here myself.”

The doctor flicked the lights on. “Not used to being here before the receptionist, either.”

Hakoum walked into the back and began a brew of pitch-black coffee.

“How are you feeling this morning?” he asked his patient.

“Awful,” Wayne said as he clutched his cheek.

“I figured,” Hakoum said, filing through papers at his desk. “Cavities are more serious than most people imagine.”

“I remember the story from yesterday,” Wayne said with a grimace.

Hakoum looked up from his desk. “There’s no reason to be crass with me this early in the morning.”

“I’m just in a lot of pain,” Wayne said, fingering his teeth now. “I don’t mean to be rude to the guy who’s going to be working in my mouth.”

Hakoum walked from his desk, clumsily bumping into another one on his way to get his coffee, knocking over a bunch of papers. Somehow they fell with a loud KLANK.

Wayne, curious as to how a bunch of papers could make such a loud sound while feigning a desire to help clean up, hobbled over to the stack of papers. There was an oddly-shaped bump at the bottom of the pile. Wayne cleared the top couple papers away and nestled underneath was a big, red power drill.

“That’s funny!” Hakoum said, cup of coffee in his hand. He picked up the drill with his free hand. “A drill like this has no place in a dentist’s office.”

Hakoum took a sip of his coffee and set it down. Smiling, he examined the drill.

“I wish the receptionist were here already,” Hakoum said. He pointed the drill like a gun toward Wayne. “I kind of think that if she’s not here already, she’s not going to show up at all.”

Wayne looked to see if anyone was even in the office at all. The place was completely empty except for dentist and patient, despite it being well past 8:00.

“This is getting a little weird,” Wayne observed, leaning against a desk.

“Dentistry takes a lot of people by surprise.”

Hakoum placed the drill back onto the desk. He led Wayne to the annex and opened the door to the same room they occupied yesterday.

“Go ahead and wait in there,” Hakoum said, pointing to the chair in-between sips of his coffee. “I’ve got to go prep the novocaine.”

Wayne thought about sprinting out of the office at that moment, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind, he felt his gums rage and burn.

So he sat down and waited, staring at the images again, his mouth feeling the imaginary pain that the children’s drawings on the wall portrayed.

He waited for a long time. He waited until the dim light of the room drifted him to sleep.


Hakoum was seen approaching with a needle when Wayne awoke.

“What are you doing!?” Wayne shouted at his dentist.

Hakoum slowed down. “I’m very sorry you woke up. I was just about to inject the novocaine into your right gum so that this cavity procedure would be as quick and painless as possible.”

“Well, wake me up for that, please, next time.”

“That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”

“The purpose? The purpose of what?”

“Most patients are deathly afraid of needles. If they don’t know I’m sticking their insides with a needle, it makes it easier for me, too.”

“I’m not afraid of needles, but I DO like to know when I’m getting things shoved inside delicate places.”

The doctor shrugged. “To be completely transparent, I am about to…”

Hakoum stopped speaking, opened his mouth wide, and gasped in horror at whatever atrocity might have been behind Wayne, who turned his head to see what was happening. Hakoum stabbed him in the gum with his needle during the distraction.

Wayne howled with pain.

The light suspended above his chair became brighter than the sun. Wayne began to perceive everything in the room as cats, but soon Hakoum and the cat-shapes in the room became forms of pure blackness. “I want cotton candy,” Wayne mumbled.

“Causes cavities,” Hakoum said in a language that Wayne thought sounded like tongues. “Can’t administer.”

Wayne drifted into dreamland on a cat-shaped cloud…


After the minor operation, Hakoum was drenched in sweat and out of breath. He sprinted into the receptionist’s office. He fumbled through the jar of pens on the desk and scribbled some words on a piece of paper: “CLOSED FOR THE DAY – SORRY” and struggled to sign his name.

He ran outside with the paper and taped it to the door, over the “OPEN” sign. The receptionist sleepily walked down the pathway on her way to the door. Slamming the door, Hakoum went to the couch in the waiting room and pushed it to barricade the entryway. The receptionist knocked, jiggled the door handle, and then tried her key.

Hakoum administered himself a shot of novocaine. He took the power drill and opened Wayne’s mouth.

(to be continued in Part III)