Steve Altes is an American writer and former aerospace engineer. He is known for getting hired into unusual occupations and writing humorous essays about his misfortunes. Some experiences he has written about include working as a hand model, a stand-in for Brad Pitt on the movie The Devil's Own, a "bank robber" at the FBI training academy, answering phones in the Arkansas Governor's Mansion for President-elect Bill Clinton, and getting hired and fired by the CIA in the span of a single day.
Altes was born November 13, 1962 in Syracuse, NY. He is a graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Manlius, NY. In 2000 when Altes was inducted into the Fayetteville-Manlius Hall of Distinction as one of the high school's "notable alumni" he acknowledged the dichotomy in his career segue from engineering to entertainment, saying, "I owe a tremendous debt to those dedicated F-M teachers for the serious half of my career. For the silly half, I’d like to thank all the class clowns."
Altes holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- S.B., Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1984; S.M., Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1986; and S.M., Technology and Policy, 1986. His master's thesis was titled, "The Aerospace Plane: Technological Feasibility and Policy Implications." Altes's thesis became the only college thesis ever reviewed by The New York Review of Books when James Fallows reviewed it in the December 18, 1986 edition.
After college, Altes worked as a space policy analyst for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. He left Capitol Hill for a position as Program Control Manager for the Pegasus air-launched space booster at Orbital Sciences Corporation. In 1991 Altes was part of the Orbital Sciences team that was awarded the National Medal of Technology (the nation's highest award for engineering achievement) by President George H. W. Bush for developing Pegasus. He is also a co-recipient of the 1990 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement in Aerospace.
In the mid-1990s Altes left engineering for a career in entertainment and writing. Among other things, he has been:
- an author of humor books
- a writer of humor essays for magazines and newspapers, such as Salon, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Capital Style, Urban Male Magazine, Funny Times, and Penthouse.
- a graphic novelist
- an actor in TV commercials, TV shows, and films
- a stunt driver in the film Spy Game
- a commercial print model
- a screenwriter
- a commentator for NPR's All Things Considered
- a member of Us Weekly's Fashion Police
- a corporate comedian
- a game show contestant
In the late 1990s Altes was paid $18,000 to be the face on the box of Just for Men Sandy Blond haircolor. In 2002, he won $32,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with Regis Phibin. In 2004, Altes competed on the first season of the TV series Extreme Dodgeball, playing for the undefeated league champions, the Certified Public Assassins.
In 2014 he ran a Kickstarter campaign which raised $43,098 to finance the illustration of a graphic novel he wrote about high-tech pranks at MIT titled Geeks and Greeks. Altes says the story is inspired by actual events he experienced as an MIT student. The graphic novel is being illustrated by Andy Fish and is expected to be published in the summer of 2015.
- 1997 - The Little Book of Bad Business Advice, St. Martin's Press
- 2001 - If You Jam the Copier, Bolt, Andrews McMeel Publishing
- 2005 - May Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor, (contributor) Harper Paperbacks
- 2006 - Joke Express: Instant Delivery of 1,424 Funny Bits from the Best Comedians, (contributor) Andrews McMeel Publishing
- 2015 (expected) - Geeks and Greeks (written by Steve Altes, illustrated by Andy Fish)
Film and TV appearances
- 1996 - The Mark Walberg Show
- 1996 - The New Detectives
- 1996 - Real Stories of the Highway Patrol
- 1999 - The FBI Files
- 2000 - The West Wing
- 2000 - Daring Capers
- 2002 - The Jamie Kennedy Experiment
- 2002 - Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
- 2003 - The People's Champions
- 2003 - Oblivious
- 2003 - Test the Nation
- 2003 - Berman & Berman
- 2003 - Foul Play
- 2004 - Girls Behaving Badly
- 2004 - Extreme Dodgeball
- 2004 - Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed
- 2004 - Live Like a Star
Altes lives in the Los Angeles area and is married to acting coach Diana Jellinek.
- "Model/Actor/Scientist Adds Writer to Resume". Lawrence Journal-World (Lawrence, KS). 1998-09-10.
- "You Want a Piece of Me?". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Standing In for Brad". Washington Post (Washington, DC). 1997-03-26.
- "Dye Hard". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Capital Style Overcomes Substance". Washington Business Journal (Washington, DC). 1998-11-09.
- "My Short, Sorry Career as a Spy". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA). 2003-02-24.
- "Hall of Distinction Inductees". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "MIT Graduate Inspires Crowd with Life Experience". The Tech (MIT) (Washington, DC). 1998-12-01.
- "The Aerospace Plane: Technological Feasibility and Policy Implications". Retrieved 2014-09-08.
- "The Americans in Space". The New York Review of Books (New York City, NY). 1986-12-18.
- "Technology and the Future Warrior: Protecting Soldiers in the 21st Century". Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA). 2004-09-23.
- "National Air and Space Museum Trophy Recipients". Retrieved 2014-09-10.
- "Notable Alumni". MIT Admissions (Cambridge, MA). 2014-09-04.
- "12 MIT Grads that Changed the World". BostInno.com (Boston, MA). 2011-02-16.
- "Top 10 famous alumni of MIT". Retrieved 2014-09-08.
- "Steve Altes - Books". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Brad and Me". Salon.com (Washington, DC). 1998-04-27.
- "How I Became a CIA Spy for a Day". Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA). 3 March 2003.
- "Reverend Me". Urban Male Magazine (Canada). Spring 2004.
- "Funny Times, November 2007". Retrieved 2014-09-09.
- "Magazine stories by author". Retrieved 2014-09-09.
- "IMDb - Steve Altes". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Spy Game - Cast and Crew". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Print model - Steve Altes". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "InkTip.com - Deals closed 2006". Retrieved 2014-09-05.
- "Bad Move". National Public Radio (Los Angeles, CA). 2003-05-26.
- "US Weekly Fashion Police". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Speaking.com - Steve Altes". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Winners of $32,000 - Primetime Millionaire". Retrieved 2014-09-05.
- "Extreme Dodgeball - Cast and Crew". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Geeks and Greeks – an epic graphic novel about MIT pranks". Kickstarter (Los Angeles, CA). 2014-06-12.
- "How Do I Love Geeks? Let Me Enumerate the Ways". ForeverGeek (Los Angeles, CA). 2014-05-29.
- "You Can Help Turn MIT's History of Hacks Into a Graphic Novel". BostInno.com (Boston, MA). 2014-05-05.
- "Geeks and Greeks graphic novel official website". Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "DianaJellinek.com". Retrieved 2014-09-04.