Jonathan Ames (Bored to Death)

Created by Jonathan Ames

Ray: “You’re an idiot!”
Jonathan: “Thanks for understanding.”
— from “Super Ray is Mortal!!”

There’s something a little too self-consciously hip and edgy and meta-smug about the HBO comedy Bored to Death (2009-11), but underneath it all, there beats a warm and generous heart.

I think.

Jason Schwartzman stars as JONATHAN AMES, a nerdy, self-obsessed, frustrated New York novelist/nebbish suffering from periodic bouts of alcoholism and writer’s block who–bored and stoned–places an ad offering his services as an unlicensed detective on Craigslist.

He’s completely out of his league, of course, but like everyone else in this show–particularly his two best friends and some-time accomplices Ray (Zach Galifianakis), an equally frustrated comic book artist, and George (Ted Danson), a successful editor at an Esquire-like magazine (or is it supposed to be The New Yorker?) and pothead-about-town going through a major mid-life  crisis–Jonathan’s too full of himself to see it.

There are almost as many neurotic Manhattanites in this show–male and female–as a Woody Allen film festival, and while most of the cases Jonathan gets drawn into are admittedly small potatoes (a stolen skateboard?), there’s a woozy slacker charm and almost existential slapstick vibe about the whole thing, as Jonathan and his pals wander around the Big Apple like little boys lost in Wonderland, oblivious to the banana peels of their own neuroses. And to tell the truth, it’s when the show ventures into near-screwball territory (a grudge boxing match, a whorehouse, assorted sexual misadventures, etc.) and puts its pretensions aside that it’s funniest.

The show was created by Jonathan Ames (see what I mean about meta?), based on his own 2007 short story that was published in McSweeney’s. But Ames is certainly no stranger to self-reference–he’s his own favourite subject, it seems, having written numerous stories and essays presumably based on his own misadventures. Of particular note is the 2009 graphic novel The Alcoholic that he wrote that follows a New York writer’s ongoing struggle with alcoholism. The character’s name was… Jonathan Ames.

Irony and ennui spoken here, apparently…

Ames’ other works include the novels I Pass Like NightThe Extra Man, Wake Up, Sir!, the novella You Were Never Really Here (made into a film starring Joaquin Phoenix), and the essay collections include What’s Not to Love?My Less Than Secret LifeI Love You More Than You Know, and The Double Life Is Twice as Good. He also edited Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

THE EVIDENCE

  • “I think I may have the smallest penis in the world.”
    — Jonathan
  • “For what its worth, I read your first book — I’m not Jewish, but I liked it.”
    –Cop friend to Jonathan
  • “I’m so glad that possibly my last erection is with you.”
    –George faces a prostate scare.
  • “Let’s go have a drink and get drunk. Sixteen gin and tonics.”
    –Ray to Jonathan
  • “In my heart, I’m a vegan. In my mouth, I lack discipline.”
    — Jonathan
  • “I suck at everything.”
    — Jonathan
  • Jonathan: “Oh my God! What is that?”
    Ray: “I’ve got a long foreskin. Not everybody is Jewish, ya know.”
  • “Can you please look at my penis and tell me I’m an adult male.”
    — Jonathan
  • Jonathan: I still like the way pot makes me think — maybe it’s healthy.
    Suzanne: Pot is not healthy.
    Jonathan: They give it to cancer patients.
    Suzanne: You don’t have cancer.
    Jonathan: Not yet…
  • Ray: You can’t do that. That’s illegal.
    Jonathan: I say that I’m not licensed. And that makes it more legal… ish.
  • “You know, I never thought I’d be in a graveyard in a spa robe talking to a beautiful transvestite in the moonlight”
    — Jonathan

SHORT STORIES

TELEVISION

 

  • BORED TO DEATH
    (2009-11, HBO)
    24 episodes
    Created by Jonathan Ames
    Writers: Jonathan Ames, Donick CaryMartin Gero, Sam Sklaver
    Directors: Alan Taylor, Adam Bernstein, Michael Lehmann, Paul Feig
    Starring Jason Schwartzman as JONATHAN AMES
    with Ted Danson as George Christopher
    and Zach Galifianakis as Ray Hueston
    Guest stars: Heather Burns, John Hodgman, Mary Kay Place, Oliver Platt, Kristen Wiig, Bebe Neuwirth, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Bacon, Jonathan Ames, F. Murray Abraham, Mary Kay Place, Olivia Dukakis

    • Season One Buy this season on DVD Buy it on Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    • “Stockholm Syndrome” (September 20, 2009)
    • “The Alanon Case” (September 27, 2009)
    • “The Case of the Missing Screenplay” (October 4, 2009)
    • “The Case of the Stolen Skateboard” (October 11, 2009)
    • “The Case of the Lonely White Dove” (October 18, 2009)
    • “The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer” (October 25, 2009)
    • “The Case of the Stolen Sperm” (November 1, 2009
    • “Take a Dive” (November 8, 2009)
    • Season Two Buy this season on DVD Buy it on Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    • “Escape From the Dungeon” (September 26, 2009)
    • “Make It Quick, Fitzgerald!” (October 3, 2010)
    • “The Gowanus Canal Has Gonorrhea!” (October 20, 2010)
    • “I’ve Been Living Like a Demented God!” (October 17, 2010)
    • “Forty-Two Down!” (October 24, 2010)
    • “The Case of the Grievous Clerical Error!” (October 31, 2010)
    • “Escape From the Castle!” (November 7, 2010)
    • “Super Ray Is Mortal!” (November 14, 2010 )
    • Season ThreeBuy this season on DVD Buy it on Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    • “The Blonde in the Woods” (October 10, 2011)
    • “Gumball!” (October 17, 2011)
    • “The Black Clock Of Time” (October 24, 2011)
    • “We Could Sing A Duet” (October 31, 2011)
    • “I Keep Taking Baths Like Lady Macbeth” (November 7, 2011)
    • “Two Large Pearls And A Gold Bar” (November 14, 2011)
    • “Forget The Herring” (November 21, 2011)
    • “Nothing I Can’t Handle By Running Away” (November 7, 2011)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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