Jonathan Ames at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Blunt talking: Jonathan Ames to open up on-air

The Brooklyn Paper
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This funny man is getting serious.

Boerum Hill scribe Jonathan Ames — best known for his colorful memoirs and sometimes-auto-biographical fiction — will drop by the Brooklyn Historical Society to talk about three things that he deeply cares about for the Public Radio Exchange podcast “Person, Place, Thing” on July 23. Ahead of Ames’ chat, The Brooklyn Paper caught up with the raconteur and creator of TV’s “Bored to Death” to talk about new projects, Patrick Stewart, and his philosophy of neutrality.

Max Jaeger: So tell me what person, place, and thing you’ll be discussing with host Randy Cohen.

Jonathan Ames: I’m going to talk about my 102-year-old great aunt who for many years, lived in Brooklyn. She is now in a nursing home in New Jersey, and she’s very dear to me.

For the place, I’m going to talk about the Russian baths on E. 10th Street [in Manhattan] which I go to most nights of the week. It turns out my great grandfather — who I’m named for and lived in Brooklyn for 30 or 40 years — used to sometimes head over there. I didn’t know that until I had been going there a few years.

For thing, I’m going to talk about these novels by Richard Stark — which is a pseudonym for [Brooklyn-born author] Donald Westlake — that I’ve been very obsessed by for years and have read from beginning to end at least four times.

MJ: It sounds like your stories each have a Brooklyn angle. How long has your family been living here?

JA: There’s a Lower East Side connection, too, but probably since at least the ’20s. I’m not sure — I’d have to ask my dad.

MJ: How has living in Brooklyn affected your prose?

JA: I don’t know if it has affected my prose. I first moved to Brooklyn back in ’95. Back then most artists were still in downtown Manhattan, but early on it was just a sense of greater quiet in Brooklyn. Some sense of less of an industrial hum on the streets, and so your mind could be a little calmer out here, and that helped for sitting in one little room and trying to write.

MJ: You spoke about a lot of that in the past tense, do you think that’s changed?

JA: I still think there’s less hum here, you know, unless you have an apartment in Downtown Brooklyn, but its still quieter. Obviously the rent has changed over here as well.

MJ: You have a new show in the works. Tell me about that.

JA: It’s called “Blunt Talk,” and it stars Patrick Stewart as a cable news anchor who may be losing his mind. It’s set in L.A., so I’m going to be living part-time in L.A. now. It’s called “Blunt Talk” because the fictional character’s name is Walter Blunt, and his fictional news show is called “Blunt Talk,” so our show is also called “Blunt Talk.” Walter Blunt is the name of the first character in Shakespeare that Pat Stew ever played, so that’s why we named the character that.

MJ: Your last book was 2013’s “You Were Never Really Here” — are you working on any new prose at the moment?

JA: I’d like to expand that novella into a novel, but I got sidetracked by a number of TV projects.

I’m still working on the “Bored to Death” movie, and I wrote a pilot for Showtime — an adaptation of an Icelandic comedy called “World’s End” — and that might happen. Then I wrote another pilot, but I don’t really want to talk about that yet.

MJ: And how is the “Bored to Death” movie coming?

JA: I’m trying. It’s interesting trying to make a film out of once a TV show. It’s a little more challenging than I thought.

MJ: You live in Boerum Hill. Have you been following developments in your backyard regarding the sale of Long Island College Hospital or the demolition of the Kentile Floors sign?

JA: I went to a party to watch the Kentile sign lit up — that was interesting. But I maintain a neutral stance in most things because I feel like I don’t know enough to have a solid opinion. I try to take the position of ignorance. There’s always the story underneath the story underneath the story. I just strike my neutral attitude and try to think of myself as a clown whose role in life is to occasionally give some laughs or distraction to a few people — not many, unfortunately. So it’s not my place to have an opinion on important things.

MJ: Sometimes the important things are the 102-year-old aunts.

JA: Right.

“Person, Place, Thing” with Jonathan Ames at Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, July 23 at 6:30 pm. $5.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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