Michael Cyril Creighton is getting ready to say goodbye to someone very important to him. His name is Jack.
Jack is the centre of the Jack in a Box universe, an online series created and written by Creighton. It follows the titular character, an underemployed actor who spends days trapped in the retail purgatory of a theatre ticket booth. Comic relief comes from Jack’s interactions with idiot customers, needy co-workers, and his catch-phrase-touting mom. It’s no wonder Jack self-medicates with cupcakes and cigarettes.
The series, now in its fourth season, began as a collection of vignettes and one-liners.
“The first episode was actually just going to be a teaser for something I planned to do way down the line; just a one-off kind of fun thing,” says Creighton. “I didn’t realize people would respond to it as much as they did.”
Inspired by the reaction to that first video, Creighton decided to develop the character and series, building an entire universe of offbeat characters and situations around Jack. Jack deals, among other things, with nymphomaniac agents and self-centred trust-fund girlfriends. But over three seasons, we learn that the crotchety man in the ticket wicket is more than just a gay everyman who hates his job; he is as scared and vulnerable as any of us.
So, how much is Jack a reflection of his creator? The answer is not much, with some caveats.
“I get ideas from my own life but manipulate them or change them a great deal by the time they make it into a script,” says Creighton.
Series viewership is strong — one episode in particular garnered more than 25,000 views — and Creighton occasionally gets recognized on the streets of his hometown, New York.
“More often than not, people think I’m someone else, though,” he says, joking. “Guys with glasses and beards all look alike, right?”
But if Creighton looks familiar, it’s not just because he’s bearded and bespectacled. He recently appeared on 30 Rock as a know-it-all hipster store clerk who convinced Tina Fey to buy jeans. He has also gained considerable press for his work in various New York theatre productions. Not wanting to pigeonhole himself, Creighton says that, like all good things, Jack must soon to come to an end.
“I’ve really enjoyed making it, but in order for me to focus on some other ideas, I think I need to close this door to open another. Ending anything is scary, but I’m also excited.”
But Jack still has a few things to do before his run wraps up.
“We’re going to see some new challenges at work and in his personal life, but also possibly a happier side of him,” Creighton says. “With every personal victory for this character, there will be an additional challenge. There is a new regular character, who will be seen in the second episode of the season, and a bunch of returning characters.”