Jessica Taylor has two passions. Neither of them were planned.
She’s a dental assistant, a career she entered by accident when she enrolled in the wrong college course.
Taylor is also a stand-up comedian. The first time she stepped up to the mic, she didn’t realize she was entering a comedy contest. By a twist of fate, she won.
She’s doing them both, and the 34-year-old has no regrets.
“Dental assisting is never boring. I like getting to know people. I like being the calm for people,” Taylor said. “The stand-up is therapy, because like most people I come from a dysfunctional family.”
Taylor has found her niche — at least for now. And she’s discovered her new gig and her job complement each other.
“In dental assisting, you’re constantly prepared,” she said. “It’s a similar dynamic in comedy, so reacting on your toes is easy.”
Taylor moved to Bend in 2004 to be near family while “single-momming” her daughters, Madeline, 8, and Elizabeth, 10. She’s worked at multiple Central Oregon dentist offices, finding her home at Select Dental last year. Taylor also teaches dental assisting at Central Oregon Community College, where she’s been a clinic instructor for three years.
“I don’t make as much at the college as I do at my full-time job, but I still leave my job to do it because I love it so much,” Taylor said. “My students are the best part about the clinic. Every year, the first day, none of them have slept the night before. They are so terrified. They want me hovering over them the whole time. Then by this point in the year, they barely need me in the room. It’s so neat to see.”
As a professional, Taylor’s goal is to make the dental experience better for people.
“Some people have had horrific dental experiences, myself included. When I was a kid, I was slapped by a dentist,” she said. “I always call my patients the day after (an appointment) to see how they are doing. This (one) man was super fearful. When I called him, he said it was the least traumatic experience he’d ever had. That, to me, is really cool.”
Taylor works with Dr. Amberena Fairlee, who Taylor trained as a dental assistant before Fairlee went back to school to be a dentist.
“She was one of those (teachers) who encouraged you to pay attention to the motive behind everything,” Fairlee said. “That made me want to be a dentist.”
Fairlee and Taylor met in 2007 and reconnected in 2018.
“She sent me a message saying she was looking for a job,” Fairlee said. “We had her interviewed and hired within a day or two.”
Fairlee praises her former teacher.
“Every day is fun with her. She’s hilarious. She’s a lover of people. She’s empathetic in every sense of the word. We make a good team.”
Taylor describes her dental-office role as being a sidekick.
She assists Dr. Jared Anderson in oral surgery, aids Fairlee with exams and other dental procedures, records new patient information for the hygienist, preps the exam and operating rooms, makes calls, answers phones at the front desk, places orders and tries to anticipate everyone’s needs.
“You always have to be about three steps ahead of the dentist,” Taylor said. “Sometimes even they don’t know what they are going to need to do.”
Fairlee cannot imagine her office without Taylor.
“She stays focused on what’s most important: Protecting our patients, keeping them safe and keeping them laughing.”
Taylor’s close friend Katy Ipock is sure that’s true.
“I can’t imagine that her warmth and her wit are anything but a positive experience to her patients.”
Ipock is the owner of Ipockolyptic Productions. She books comedy acts in Central Oregon. She’s been pushing Taylor to do stand-up for several years.
“She’d been coming to shows. She’d met other comics,” Ipock said. “She’s fearless, and she’s funny. She has a quick wit. She has an amazing ability to crowd-work. She’s great at reacting to hecklers. She’s a safe bet, and she’s a phenomenal bet for me. People love her.”
The first time Taylor took the stage, “she was incredible,” Ipock said. Taylor won Audience Favorite, beating 10 seasoned comics to move on to the next round of Super Fight Mic.
Taylor uses comedy to talk about family alcoholism issues, her dating mishaps and to express her previously suppressed commentary about social interactions.
“I’m a little snarky, and I’m a little sassy and slightly sarcastic,” she said. “That will be on my tombstone.”
Taylor has three 20-minute acts that she’s always reworking.
“I try to change it up all the time,” she said. “My favorite part is writing the jokes. Getting the right words. It requires full concentration. I refuse to do the same set every single time.”
Taylor avoids using dentistry in her act, although not entirely.
“I don’t want that to be my shtick,” Taylor said. “I do have one 10-minute piece. The bit starts out: ‘There are some patients I offer nitrous to, and there are some patients I have to take nitrous before I see them…’” •