WW: What can you tell readers to prove that you actually exist, unlike JT Leroy?
Jonathan Ames: I don't feel like I need to do anything. I haven't reached the audiences that these people have. The people who come to my readings see me, and I'm clearly the person who's written these essays or novels. I exist.
Some of your essays seem too funny to be real, like in that classic essay "I Shat My Pants in the South of France." In the wake of James Frey, have you ever had to prove that you shat your pants in the south of France?
No, but early on, when I was writing for New York Press, they were like, "You can't make anything up." I took that to heart. It never occurred to me to make up wholesale events. So I actually did shit my pants in the south of France, and I have a good friend who was there, if you want his phone number.
What are you working on now?
I'm finishing up a screenplay of The Extra Man. I'm also going to be working on a graphic novel, part fiction, part nonfiction...[with] Dean Haspiel, who just illustrated Harvey Pekar's new book, The Quitter. It's called The Alcoholic.
Well, it's going to take some real-life stuff from me, but then I'm going twist it around.
Jonathan Ames appears at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 10. Free.