There is no reason David Sedaris' books move like chili through the digestive system, while the six books of Jonathan Ames—a humorist of the spontaneous pee-inducing caliber—do not. While Ames' latest book, I Love You More Than You Know (Black Cat, 266 pages, $13), isn't the comic masterpiece of his last (the novel Wake Up, Sir!), it's a finely tuned, heartfelt collection. But there's still plenty of body humor to be had: The email he recently sent out touting his book tour began, "My new book has just been published. It is a collection of essays, both comedic and depressive, and I don't think it will cause any James Frey-like scandal, but I am worried that my testicle is exposed on the front cover of the book, which features a picture of me in my boxer-shorts running down a road from something fearful." Ames spoke to WW from his apartment in New York.
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.