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Jonathan Ames

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Jonathan Ames
Born (1964-03-23) March 23, 1964 (age 60)
New York City, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, television showrunner
EducationIndian Hills High School
Princeton University
Columbia University (MFA)
GenreMemoir, literary fiction, television comedy

Jonathan Ames (/mz/; born March 23, 1964)[1] is an American author who has written a number of novels and comic memoirs, and is the creator of two television series, Bored to Death (HBO) and Blunt Talk (STARZ). In the late '90s and early 2000s, 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]

Two of his novels have been adapted into films: The Extra Man in 2010, and You Were Never Really Here in 2017.[3] Ames was a co-screenwriter of the former and an executive producer of the latter.

Early life[edit]

Raised in Oakland, New Jersey, Ames is Jewish.[4] He attended Indian Hills High School.[5][6] Ames graduated with an English degree in 1987 from Princeton University, and where he authored his senior thesis entitled Eye Pity Eye: (The Collected Writings of Alexander Vine).[7] He also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Columbia University.[8] 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".[9] In September 2008, Ames released The Alcoholic, his first foray into graphic literature, illustrated by Dean Haspiel;[10] an excerpt was included in The Best American Comics 2010.[11] In 2009, he published a new collection of essays and fiction with Scribner, titled The Double Life Is Twice as Good. In 2018, Vintage released an expanded version of Ames's first thriller novel, You Were Never Really Here, which was originally published at Byliner as an e-book in 2013.[12][13]

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.[14]

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.

The film adaptation of You Were Never Really Here was theatrically released in April 2018. The author produced the movie based on his book, which was directed by Lynne Ramsay. It premiered at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, where Ramsay won the award for Best Screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix won the award for Best Actor.

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.

In 2015, Ames teamed up with Patrick Stewart and Seth MacFarlane to create Blunt Talk, which aired on the STARZ network for two seasons. For his performance in the starring role, Patrick Stewart was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy and a Critics' Choice TV Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.



  • I Pass Like Night (1989)
  • The Extra Man (1998)
  • Wake Up, Sir! (2004)
  • You Were Never Really Here (2013 and expanded version in 2018)
  • A Man Named Doll (2021)
  • The Wheel of Doll (2022)


  • 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)




  1. ^ "Cover Biography for October 2007". 2007. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  2. ^ Littlefield, Alex (July 25, 2007). "Jonathan Ames's Punch-out!". New York Magazine. Retrieved June 2, 2008.
  3. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (December 6, 2017). "'You Were Never Really Here' Trailer: Joaquin Phoenix Gets Violent In Lynne Ramsay's New Thriller". Deadline. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  4. ^ Roth, Mattheu. "Jonathan Ames Doesn't Look Jewish, (201) magazine, September 28, 2010. Accessed February 10, 2023. "[I]n my youth, for a brief period, probably between nineteen to twenty-one, I probably didn't look Jewish, my hair was very blonde from being at the beach a lot, from the ocean, so I think I made mention of not looking Jewish during that period. And I think it was during this period that people would make anti-Semitic remarks, assuming I wasn't Jewish, and it had the effect on me that I wouldn't say I was Jewish, because I think that I was embarrassed embarrassed for them, embarrassed for me, and wanting them to like me."
  5. ^ 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."
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ Ames, Jonathan. "Jonathan Ames' 1987 Senior Thesis "Eye Pity Eye: (The Collected Writings of Alexander Vine)"", Princeton University. Accessed November 18, 2018.
  8. ^ Meslow, Scott. "A morning at a Russian bathhouse with "Blunt Talk" creator Jonathan Ames", The Week, August 21, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2018.
  9. ^ Alford, Henry (August 1, 2004). "Crying Jeeves When There Is No Jeeves". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2008.
  10. ^ "DC Comics: Coming September 2008". 2008. Retrieved June 1, 2008.
  11. ^ Neil Gaiman, ed., The Best American Comics 2010 (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), 317
  12. ^ Lodge, Guy (May 26, 2017). "Film Review: 'You Were Never Really Here'". Variety. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  13. ^ Ames, Jonathan (March 20, 2018). You Were Never Really Here. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780525562900.
  14. ^ Ames, Jonathan. "Entry 4" Slate (July 17, 2003)

External links[edit]