Short Story – Brian Barr – Jest in Case

Jest in Case:

The Legacy of Quacks

This story was first published on Dark Chapter Press’s original website, and will be featured in Brian Barr’s first horror short story collection, Brian Barr’s Brutal Bazaar.

Jest in Case will also be co-released with a longer bizarro clown horror story, Lonely Hearts and Comic Tragedies.

Allen didn’t want to release Quacks again.

Not after the last time, when comedy ended in tragedy. Not when millions of people ended up dead. Not when blood, guts, and carved out organs littered many a theatre aisle and living room.

No. All Allen had wanted to be was funny, and it worked at first, but things became unfunny real quick. No way was Allen going to be a party to that again.

If only he hadn’t found that old jester scepter in the dump behind the old, abandoned joke shop.

Allen thought it must have been a lucky find, stumbling across that two-foot long golden stick with the hilarious jester’s head on the top. That white clown head donning a motley cap with bells had a face with the most amused, wide-mouthed smile, its eyes filled with glee.  How much it reminded Allen of himself or what he had always wanted to be.

A failed comic, called a hack by most of the comedy community, Allen felt like he had failed. He would forever be known as a stealer of jokes, a taker of unoriginal material, a mule that had one good break at a few comedy clubs, only to come out and end up flopping. Instead of joining the Lenny Bruces, Bill Hicks, and George Carlins of the world, he would be despised with the Carlos Mencias and the Denis Learys, only without the fame or brainwashed supporters.

Allen knew he could be funnier, as soon as he saw the scepter. Somehow, this piece of junk was the answer to all of his comedy prayers.

After he took the scepter out of the trash, Allen took it home and polished it up.

In his living room, holding the scepter and looking into the jester head’s clown face, Allen began to hear a voice that boomed in his mind. The voice came from the scepter: a male voice, boisterous and merry.

The scepter saw the potential for better comedy in Allen, too… and he could help the struggling comedian bring it out.

What was the harm, huh? Allen could get a few laughs, have people laugh at him, make them see just how funny he could really be, all with the help of that scepter.

But Allen had to snap back to reality. No logically sensible person should have been talking to voices in their heads, voices that obviously didn’t reflect his own personality, his own traits. This was an outside entity, binding to him, letting him know there was something beyond what Allen always knew to be real.

That’s how Allen met Quacks, the spirit who resided within that glorious scepter. Crazy, mischievous, and more hilarious than any clown he’d ever met.

How Allen wished he could be just as funny as the jester head resting upon that scepter, as debonair and fresh with material. But Quacks swore he could, he really could…

Just let me handle it, he said.

Allen had his doubts at first, but after more coercion, more insisting and sworn promises, Quacks had finally gained Allen’s full trust.

Allen talked to his agent and swore that he could pull off a really good show.  Even with Allen’s bad reputation in the comedy scene, and the agent’s previous considerations of letting him go, the agent gave him the green light. One more chance. If Allen failed, it was back to open mics in small towns and on shitty college campuses.

That first night, Quacks came out and inhabited Allen’s body. No one else could see the spirit of the jester—they only saw Allen. But Allen saw and felt Quacks, from the painted face, the ghastly smile, the excited eyes, and the bright motley costume with jolly bells. Every part of Quacks burned with comic energy.

The crowd laughed boisterously. Allen had never seen people laugh with such unrestrained pleasure at his jokes before.

The show opportunities came like an avalanche after that. Chicago, L.A., London, Paris. Shitty bus tours transferred to plane rides after weeks. Bumpy flights in coach turned into private jets over a matter of months.  Comedy shows fell into the comedian’s lap, left and right.

Allen had entered the big leagues.  His face was on televisions, posters, and billboards. He was getting star roles in comedy movies. People were saying he was in the circle of elites, living and dead, of Kinison, Chappelle, Martin, and Pryor.

Little did they know the real clown running the show…Quacks. It was always Quacks.

When that big cable special was announced, Allen’s fans were stoked. Not only was the show going to be as raunchy and dirty as his comedy shows usually were, but it was going to be broadcasted worldwide. Allen lovers from the U.S. to Australia would be able to tune in and see the comic display his amazing talent.

The program showed that, once again, Allen would exceed the already positive expectations placed upon him by critics and fans. Holding his trademark scepter that he kept with him at all times, the comic had people rolling down the aisles, busting their guts, laughing uncontrollably.

That’s when Quacks finally surfaced, beyond the veil of Allen’s skin.

Unexpectedly, Allen as the comic was pushed deep into the subconscious chambers of his own mind, and Quacks manifested before the audience.  Allen’s recognizable mug disappeared behind a silly jester’s white face with patchwork paints over the eyes and red, grinning lips.  A bouncing cap of bells sounded loudly as the surfacing clown walked, his motley costume covering Allen’s Hawaiian shirt and jeans.  Big floppy shoes replaced Allen’s far smaller Converses.

A real clown, a mammoth of comedy, stood before the audience. Gloved hands gripped his scepter with royal prestige.

“Hey folks,” said Quacks. “I just flew in from Denmark after strangling the king about, say seven or eight centuries ago…and boy, are my arms tired! From the strangling, not from the flying.”

The crowd burst into laughs and tears. Never had they known such humor, or felt such mirth.

Quacks was still funny, even funnier than he was in those medieval European courts, before the jester’s magic was used against him and he was trapped in that damned hunk of metal for punishment. He could tell. The crowd loved him, roaring hysterically at his jokes.

Quacks had failed in his attempts to rule His Majesty’s kingdom back then. Now, through new technology that brought his humor across the globe, Quacks had a chance to rule the entire world.

“You know what would really be funny?” the clown asked. “If everyone just committed suicide, right now! Come on! You know you want to!”

Everyone laughed uncontrollably. What a hilariously true suggestion!  It would be funny if everyone killed themselves, right at that instant!

People began to grab at their own throats and choke themselves. Some had knives available to stab their own hearts, puncturing hole after hole into their chests. Lighters were used to set clothing on fire, for audience members to burn their own bodies. There were a variety of funny ways people chose to kill themselves, all at the same time.

Quacks didn’t laugh once.  He only smiled, knowing his service in bringing joy to the masses was done.


Allen couldn’t let Quacks kill again…but that wasn’t up to the retired comic, now that he was in prison.

As law enforcement tried to figure out exactly how Allen killed so many audience members and television spectators, a homeless man found a jester’s scepter in a garbage bin, behind a big cable company.

Man, did that scepter have some funny ideas.

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