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Jonathan Ames Essayshark

Jonathan Ames (born March 23, 1964)[1] is an American author who has written a number of novels and comicmemoirs. He was a columnist for the New York Press for several years, and became known for self-deprecating tales of his sexual misadventures. He also has a long-time interest in boxing, appearing occasionally in the ring as "The Herring Wonder".[2] In 2009, he created the HBO television series Bored to Death.

Raised in Oakland, New Jersey, Ames attended Indian Hills High School.[3][4] A 1987 graduate of Princeton University, he holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Columbia University. He has been an infrequent faculty member at Columbia, The New School, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop.


Ames's novels include I Pass Like Night (1989), The Extra Man (1998), and 2004's Wake Up Sir!, described by The New York Times as "laugh-out-loud funny".[5] In September 2008, Ames released The Alcoholic, his first foray into graphic literature;[6] an excerpt was included in The Best American Comics 2010.[7] In 2009, he published a new collection of essays and fiction with Scribner, titled The Double Life Is Twice as Good.

While at the New York Press, his columns were often recollections of his childhood neuroses and his unusual experiences, written in the gritty tradition of Charles Bukowski. These columns were collected in four nonfiction books, What's Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer (2000), My Less Than Secret Life (2002), I Love You More than You Know (2006), and The Double Life Is Twice As Good: Essays and Fiction (2009). Ames was also responsible for the Most Phallic Building contest which followed an article he wrote for Slate magazine where he claimed that the Williamsburg Bank Building in Brooklyn, New York, was the most phallic building he'd ever seen.[8]

Other media[edit]

Ames became known as a raconteur in New York City following his 1999 one-man stage show, "Oedipussy," and continues to perform frequently with the New York-based storytelling organization The Moth. He has also been a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman several times and played the lead role in the 2001 IFC film The Girl Under the Waves, an on-screen experiment in improvisational acting.

In 2004, Showtime commissioned Ames to develop a pilot based on his writings, titled What's Not to Love? Ames starred as himself, but it was not developed into a series, instead airing as a one time special in the winter of 2007-2008. Ames also appears in The Great Buck Howard, directed by Sean McGinly and starring John Malkovich, which debuted at Sundance in 2008.

Ames created the HBO series Bored to Death, which stars Jason Schwartzman as a struggling Brooklyn novelist named Jonathan Ames who moonlights as an unlicensed private detective. The show debuted on September 20, 2009. He also started to guest-star as Irwin during the second season, appearing fully nude in one scene. On December 20, 2011 it was reported that Bored to Death was cancelled by HBO after airing its third season.

The film adaptation of Ames's novel The Extra Man, starring Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Katie Holmes, and Paul Dano, was released in 2010.

Ames has also appeared in HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm in the Season 8 episode "Car Periscope," playing a brief role as Larry David's business manager.

Ames acted as Executive Producer on the ASS Studios horror-comedy Satan, Hold My Hand, written by Reverend Jen Miller and directed by Courtney Fathom Sell. The budget of the project was estimated at $27.00 [9][10]

In 2015, Ames has teamed up with Patrick Stewart and Seth MacFarlane for the sitcom Blunt Talk.



  • I Pass Like Night (1989)
  • The Extra Man (1998)
  • Wake Up Sir! (2004)

Short Stories[edit]

  • You Were Never Really Here (2013)


  • What's Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer (2000)
  • My Less Than Secret Life (2002)
  • I Love You More Than You Know (2006)
  • The Double Life Is Twice As Good: Essays and Fiction (2009)


  • Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs (2005)




External links[edit]

  1. ^"Cover Biography for October 2007". 2007. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  2. ^Littlefield, Alex (2007-07-25). "Jonathan Ames's Punch-out!". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  3. ^Spelling, Ian. "Ennui Enterprise: Oakland native Jonathan Ames strikes gold with Bored to Death", (201) magazine, June 1, 2011. Accessed September 12, 2015. "Ames’ years in Oakland, he notes, helped shape his life and career path. His mother was a teacher and a poet, and his father was a salesman and a voracious reader. He studied at Indian Hills High School."
  4. ^Barone, Matt. "Happy to Be 'Bored to Death'", Inside Jersey, April 6, 2011. Accessed September 12, 2015. "The prolific 47-year-old writer was born and raised in Oakland, where he attended Indian Hills High School."
  5. ^Alford, Henry (2004-08-01). "Crying Jeeves When There Is No Jeeves". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  6. ^"DC Comics: Coming September 2008". 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  7. ^Neil Gaiman, ed., The Best American Comics 2010 (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), 317
  8. ^Ames, Jonathan. "Entry 4"Slate (July 17, 2003)
  9. ^http://filmmakermagazine.com/75673-how-i-made-the-cheapest-film-ever-and-lived-to-tell-about-it/
  10. ^http://filmmakermagazine.com/62591-the-merit-of-bad-cinema/

(Photo: Jake Chessum)

These details are provided freely by Ames, so you can be sure they are true, more or less. He’s written about them, used them in plays (such as his one-man show, Oedipussy), and built monologues around them to perform at the Moth, the downtown storytelling showcase where he’s been a frequent guest. Once, during an event at the now-defunct Fez, he told the story of how, after the first time he masturbated, he was so proud that he ran into his parents’ room to demonstrate for his mother. After he told this story, his mother followed him onstage to read a poem based on the event. His father sold books in the back.

Ames grew up in New Jersey, with the young writer’s usual idols. Hunter S. Thompson. Jack Kerouac. Ernest Hemingway. He dreamed of a literary life but also wanted an adventurous life. After a first novel, I Pass Like Night, published in 1989 (and blurbed by Philip Roth), he dropped the fictional veil and started exposing his adventures directly: his sexual anxieties, his problematic drinking, his narcissism, his fascination with transsexuals. He had many lean years, supporting himself through teaching and taxi driving, and he moved back in with his parents. Then came his follow-up novel, The Extra Man, and “City Slicker,” his column that ran from 1997 to 2000. These swashbuckling tales of ribaldry were both anxious and adventurous, as though Woody Allen had stolen Charles Bukowski’s date book. “They were kind of a mini-sensation,” recalls Thomas Beller, a writer and Ames’s longtime friend. “They were lewd but never sensational just to be provocative. And there was this outrageous level of candor. It was all like a high-wire act. Yet very grounded too.”

Before I sat down recently to read Ames’s collected columns, I knew him mostly by reputation as That Funny Brooklyn Guy Who Writes About Sex. Characteristically, Ames has written about being thought of this way, a self-advanced designation he now claims to regret: “Geniuses and Great American Novelists sell a hell of a lot more books than Perverts,” he writes. “I should sue myself for libel.” I assumed his essays would make for a pleasant afternoon of breezy titillation, reading like (to borrow one of his most durable blurbs) “an edgier David Sedaris.” What I found was that the columns were surprisingly sweet and surprisingly sad, and that the waves of comical oversharing came with a powerful, tugging undertow of earnest pain. In among the rollicking essays about pant-shitting, for example, you’ll also find one in which an ex-girlfriend aborts a baby that Ames believes is his; afterward, dopey on Valium, she tells him blankly that, as he writes, “the dead baby was too old to have been mine.” Beller describes Ames’s writing as “tender,” and I think that’s true, though perhaps less in the sense of an all-encompassing human empathy and more in the sense of the vulnerability of a flinch; tender to the touch.

“I write a lot of stuff so I can keep my secrets. It’s hiding by not hiding!”

Granted, it’s also shtick, of course: the public confession of private shames. (How shamed can you be if you’re declaring it to the world?) Good writing requires a large dose of fearlessness, but also a large dose of exhibitionism, and Ames has both. And if he’s not the world’s first rabidly confessional writer, his columns did anticipate the cultural compulsion to reveal a little (or a lot) too much. But the emotional punch of his earliest writing still lands with genuine impact. It’s as though he saw the whole culture of TMI coming and preemptively yawped from the top of Mount Overshare: Damn you all, I will not be out-confessed.

As a result, Ames seems, on the page at least, like the last lone man who truly does not give a shit. He’s armored by his nakedness. What can you reveal about him that he hasn’t already revealed? The cartoonist Dean Haspiel, Ames’s friend and collaborator (the character of Ray is loosely based on him), has found that he and Ames share a tactical belief in self-revelation as self-defense. “It’s like that last scene in 8 Mile,” says Haspiel, “when Eminem goes up onstage and decides, ‘I’m just going to show it all—all the bad with the good. That way, you can’t diss me. You can’t diss me better than I can diss me.’ ”

This is beautiful.

So this is what Brooklyn literary stardom looks like. A hundred adoring people—two hundred?—crammed in elbow-to-elbow, hunched protectively over plastic wine cups, smiling in the sunlit backroom of Book Court in Cobble Hill. There are long-limbed young women of the publishing breed: bespectacled, tastefully averse to makeup, bare-shouldered but not showing too much skin. Scoping them out: reed-thin males, intellectually disheveled, conversating seriously while scanning the room. And they’re all here to see Jonathan Ames. But which Ames?

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