Who: Comic writer Ames is blessed with a total lack of inhibition when it comes to his work, which mines the embarrassing, the shocking, and the sexually transgressive to tragicomic effect. He admits to being "probably the gayest straight writer in America."
Backstory: Ames grew up in suburban New Jersey in a middle-class Jewish family (although he says with his fair hair and skin he was often mistaken for a non-Jew) and attended Princeton and Columbia, where he studied with Joyce Carol Oates before receiving an MFA in Creative Writing. His senior thesis became his first novel, I Pass Like Night (1989), which was blurbed by Philip Roth ("an authentic voice of youthful suffering"), but Ames' truly captured the public's attention in the late '90s when he started contributing to the New York Press. His columns and essays regaled readers with graphic details of his sexual exploits with transsexuals, his masturbatory habits, his preoccupation with his rapidly-thinning hair, and much more.
Of note: Readers nationwide can experience Ames' untrammeled oversharing-and obtain intimate knowledge of his STD history and experiments in colonic irrigation-thanks to several well-received compilations of journalism: What's Not To Love: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer (2000), My Less Than Secret Life (2002), and I Love You More than You Know (2006). He's also had another go at fiction writing, but his two novels, The Extra Man (1999) and Wake-up, Sir! (2004) didn't go down nearly as well as his true-life stories, which are reliably hilarious, as are his always packed readings.
In 2009, Ames made the jump to television with Bored to Death, a series on HBO that Ames created and which is loosely based on his life. The show stars Jason Schwartzman (as Ames, a struggling writer and part-time detective); Zach Galifianakis as Ames' best friend, Ray; and Ted Danson as the editor of a magazine for which Ames occasionally writes. In 2010, the film adaptation of The Extra Man—starring Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Katie Holmes, and Paul Dano—hit theaters.
On screen: In addition to a cameo on Bored to Death, Ames has appeared several times on The Late Show with David Letterman and he was the lead in The Girl Under the Waves, an IFC movie that also featured Cindi Lauper's husband. (Ames was also an extra in a porn film called C-Men.) Before Ames' Bored to Death was picked up by HBO, he created and starred in a Showtime pilot called What's Not To Love. The pilot aired on the cable channel as a special, but the series didn't get picked up.
Personal: Ames lives in Carroll Gardens. He has a college-age son, who sensibly chooses not to read his father's work (in which he's often featured; indeed, in What's Not to Love, Ames describes his conception). Ames is currently dating—much to the surprise and jealousy of other middle-aged, balding, Jewish guys—Fiona Apple.
Full Name: Jonathan Spencer Ames
Date of Birth: 03/23/1964
Place of Birth: New York, NY
Undergrad: Princeton University
Graduate: Columbia University
Residence(s): Brooklyn, NY (Carroll Gardens)
Filed Under: Books, Television
[ Photo via Getty Images]