Creator's Blog

Oct 5, 2009

Dear Kindly Person or Persons Curious about 'Bored to Death,'

I'm on something of a deadline as I write this to you. It's 9:36 a.m. and I leave for New Orleans at noon. I need to pack and buzz down the few meager hairs I have, as well as take a shower. Let's say I do all that from eleven-thirty till noon, when I have to leave for the airport. So this gives me, roughly, two hours to write this blog-letter, which should be sufficient, if I don't go on any mad tangents. Then again everything I've written in these blog-letters has been a tangent.

Speaking of which, the word 'blog' is so unappealing, which must be why I like to think of these ramblings as letters and why I added -letter to blog. I think I will just call them letters from now on. When I write them, I imagine my reader as some young person who is interested in the show and knows how to use the Internet and somehow has found my creator's letter.

Actually, blog-letter isn't bad. It's both ugly (blog) and lovely (letter), and I've always liked that mixture, since it's true to life and kind of how I see things. There's even a French word which somewhat addresses this: beaulaid. Something so ugly that it's beautiful, but that's not quite what I'm thinking. I'm thinking more of beauty and ugliness being side-by-side, like how I have found kindness in the places where you shouldn't find it. Something like that.

Anyway, before I look at my script and give a run-down as I have in these past blog-letters, I should mention that I just came from my local café here in Brooklyn, Building-on-Bond, and while I waited on line to order a coffee, a young mother was breast-feeding. For a moment, the lucky infant, needing to swallow or take a break, pulled his blondish head away, and a scarlet and engorged nipple was revealed to my hungry eye. How lovely it looked. The woman continued her rather passionate dialogue with the woman sitting across from her and then the baby reclamped. I kept looking, like a dirty old man at the beach, hoping for another glimpse, but that one moment of scarlet nipple was to be it.

I ordered my coffee and slinked back home. I mention all this because we have our one moment of upper-torso female nudity in this episode, and George Christopher says, just before we see our beautiful, half-nude actress, "I'm very oral these days. It's like I'm half-man, half-infant."

That's often how I feel and it's how I felt just a few moments ago. The breast is so soothing. I do love for a woman to hold me there and it's like I travel back and forth through time, from needful infancy to needful manhood. The suckling then often motivates me to ravage the woman - and, of course, be tender; it's always good to modulate between ravaging and tenderness - so that she doesn't feel that she's with an infantilist, but when I am suckling I do like to give myself over to a wash of profound subconscious nostalgia and the old rocking chair in New Jersey where I was held and breast-fed forty-odd years ago...

I don't think it made it into the final script, but I also had George say at one point, "My whole sex life runs through my mouth." Again, that's me. I'm very oral. It seems like there's a direct link between my mouth chakra and my groin chakra.

Anyway, it's now 9:54, and I've spent eighteen minutes on this opening tangent. The reason I'm so pressed for time is that I procrastinated writing this blog-letter all week. Having the show on the air has caused a kind of psychic tinnitus in my head. I can't really concentrate or focus or get any work done. I go on Facebook and post links about the show and then stare at my eight-hundred unanswered emails. I'm truly losing my mind, but I have to get this in today, Friday, for it to be up on Monday, and I don't like to travel with my computer and won't have time, anyway, in New Orleans to write (I'm giving a reading there and attending various debauched, I hope, parties).

So I'm writing this the way I do most things in life - last minute. But I must do this for the thrill, the risk. I do like to take risks. It makes you feel alive. A chiropractor once told me that the greatest pharmacy in the world is in our bodies. He was speaking to how we can heal ourselves, but I'm thinking of all the pharmaceutical drugs in our body - the adrenaline, the serotonin, the endorphins, and who knows what else, and risk-taking releases a lot of these things, which is much better than taking man-made pharmacy drugs like speed or oxycontin and so on. At one time, the body's liquids were called 'humours,' which is wonderful - they make life humorous and comedic, and that's why we're here, me writing this blog-letter and you reading it, since I've, supposedly, created a comedy show and you're interested in my comedy show and so you're reading this...

Oh, my god, I'm being willfully tangential! I will now shut up and race through the script. If I don't cover it sufficiently, to my taste, I will amend it next week when I won't procrastinate writing about episode 4. From here on out in life, I will do things ahead of time, like paying my bills.

Clearly, I'm full of s**t. I've paid more in late fees over the years than actual bills. It's maddening. But money is the strangest communal illusion of them all. We shift these numbers around that we all agree have meaning...Has anyone seen Dark City? I love that movie. I believe the makers of The Matrix may have been deeply influenced by it. It's kind of a more poetic Matrix, which I also loved. To be honest, I have a whole mad theory about the relation between those two films, which I will not go into now. It's now 10:06. Thirty minutes down. Ninety to go.

The Print House Club

It's now 10:16. I checked my email and it was very slow. I have AOL, can't let go of it and it's often quite constipated, and Zach Galifianakis wrote me a text just now - I had wished him happy birthday and he thanked me - and so then I thumb-typed an overly long text to him...

Okay, this scene. I like to mention the things I cut. I had a longer discourse where George went further into the notion that all his internal organs were female, but he did clarify, alluding to his penis, with a line that went something like: "Except for him. The one proud rooster in the menagerie." I must have cut this because of time considerations. One has so little time in TV; you really need to move the story along and all that...Anyway, I get to resurrect some of these missing lines here in my blog-letter.

This is the first time we meet Oliver Platt's character Richard Antrem. I don't want to give anything away of course, but don't be surprised if you see Antrem again. In this scene, Oliver held Jason's hand for a little bit longer than scripted, which was wonderful. In the script I have him holding the hand quite a lot, but Oliver pushed it even further, and Ted than came up with a great improv, breaking the two hands apart. In this scene, I loved Oliver's vaguely flirtatious approach to Jonathan, which we discussed and I encouraged. The whole thing was getting very kinky, which I like.

Leah's House

Zach is wonderful in his underwear in this scene. When we shot it, I really laughed and for some reason I almost never laugh. I may have some kind of mild brain injury. When I was an infant, under the care of a baby-sitter, I fell off a bureau onto my head, or so I've been told. I've never made the connection before, but perhaps this is why my face and verbal inflections are without affect. This could also explain why I rarely laugh and that I'm color-blind. I also don't perceive sarcasm, until well after the fact, like thunder following lightning. I take everything as truth, but I do think that sarcastic remarks express what the person really wants to say.

Anyway, I have Leah mention all the plastic in the ocean, because Heather Burns, the wonderful actress who plays Leah, went out with me one night and we got to talking and she disclosed that she's rather obsessed, as well she should be, with all the plastic in the ocean, and so I gave her character those lines so that they could be spoken with real conviction.

In a separate conversation, Ted Danson told me that all the plastic in our oceans breaks down and gets eaten by the tiniest creatures who then get eaten by larger creatures. So, following this theory, when we eat fish, we're also eating plastic to go along with the mercury. It's a complete diet.

Ted is very involved with the oceans. As I've said before I don't do anything to help the environment, but at least I know someone who does - Ted Danson. And speaking of tiny bits of plastic - now isn't plastic made from petroleum? And isn't petroleum made from dinosaur carcasses and ancient vegatation, i.e. fossil fuels? So basically we drive around using distilled dinosaurs and we wrap everything with distilled dinosaurs. Will our bodies, all those enormous cemetaries, some day be used as oil? That's where the drills will go three million years from now. I'm sure my science is incorrect, but...well, I better press on.

Angel Orensanz

It's now 10:51. I read over what I've done and I checked email again. I hate email! I have thirty-eight minutes. I hope I can do it.

This scene takes place in a Lower East Side of Manhattan 19th century synagogue, now used for parties and things like that. In fact, in 1999, I had my first boxing match at Angel Orensanz. I fought as "The Herring Wonder," and came into the ring with a jar of herring. I saw myself as a reincarnated, turn-of-the century Lower East Side Jewish boxer, and bought my herring, which I love, even if it eats plastic for breakfast, at a place called Russ and Daughters, just up the street from Angel Orensanz. Russ and Daughters has the best smoked fish in the city and they catered my second boxing match in 2007. I really could go off on a tangent now, about my love for fish and the time I was in Alaska on a Greenpeace boat in 2003 and it was night and whales were about fifty yards away, feeding and bursting volcanically out of the water into the night sky, and along the side of the boat, reflected in the ship lights, like streaks of liquid silver, were millions of herrings, which whales love. I ate the herring to make me strong in the ring and I wasn't so dumb, since that's what whales like to eat and they're awfully strong.

And, God, there's lots I could say about this scene, but I'm really getting worried about buzzing my head and packing and calling a taxi...Anyway, I have George and Jonathan discuss how Jonathan always looks for Suzanne wherever he goes, because I once had that after a heartbreak. Wherever I went, I looked for this one girl and it was completely absurb because she was out of the country. But I so wanted to see her again. I touch on this in my graphic novel, The Alcoholic, and I've written about my boxing matches in my books, My Less Than Secret Life and The Double Life Is Twice As Good. What odd titles I come up with, especially when I see them side-by-side just now as I typed them. One title says I don't have secrets and one title implies that I do.

I have George wearing a hummingbird tie, because I have one and whenever I wear it, women always compliment me on it and often stroke it. In fact, I wore the tie the first day of shooting episode two, which was really the commencement of the show and occurred several months after we filmed the pilot, and so I thought I should dress up. So the morning of that first day, festooned with my hummingbird tie, I went into the hair-and-make-up trailer to run lines with Jason Schwartzman, and Nicky, our make-up mistress, commented on my tie and drew it out of my jacket and admired it. I had already written this same moment into this episode and so here was a case of life imitating art, though the art was already an imitation of life, since this had happened to me many times before, but it was great that it was happening again.

Nicky is the wife of the director of episodes 1 and 2, Alan Taylor, and so I told him later, to kind of razz him, "Your wife really liked my tie." This kind of teasing is perfectly fine, because we were a very loving and affectionate set and there was lots of flirting going on at all times, but this happens wherever people gather.

Back to the scene, 11:07, twenty-three minutes to go - Jim Jarmusch is great in this scene and I was honored to work with him. When I wrote the bit about Frank O'Hara, I hadn't yet met Mr. Jarmusch, but it turns out that he's a huge fan of O'Hara and has thought of doing a documentary about him. This was a bit of artistic kismet and the kind of thing that makes you sort of vibrate inside; well, it makes me vibrate - I love coincidences.

Vanessa Ray, who plays Claudia, was also quite wonderful in this scene, and I tried to put myself in a young girl's mind when I have her say, "With a man, you feel like you're being taken. And you like it. With a boy, you feel like they're taking something from you. And you don't like it."

Therapy Office

This scene was shot in Park Slope, which, to me, is the most beautiful residential neighborhood in all the five boroughs.

I'm very happy with how this scene of physical comedy played out and I'm particularly fond of the shot of the father, from behind, staring out the window. I just like the way he looks in his robe and Denis O'Hare was great in this role. I know I compliment all the actors, but, to my eyes, they were all so incredible.

I'm not sure the father and daughter dialogue is heard perfectly, since we get it from Jonathan's point-of-view, but I love their little battle, especially when Claudia says, "YOU CAN'T DEAL WITH BEING ATTRACTED TO YOUR OWN DAUGHTER!" and Dr. Worth says, "DON'T TRY TO PULL TRANSFERENCE ON ME! I INVENTED TRANSFERENCE!"

And then Vanessa blows out her cheeks and makes the most exasperated sound. That's the kind of thing you don't write into a script, like Ted breaking apart the hand-holding, but which comes about between the actors and makes things just really come to life.

All the Other Scenes

Okay, I have eleven minutes. I'm going to fly through this and free-associate. Zach is so brilliant in the before and after therapy moments. I have him say "Boo Radley" when Jonathan is hiding behind the tree, because Boo Radley, from "To Kill a Mockingbird" hid things for the children in a tree...And that's the rare occasion where the book is great AND the film is great.

Jonathan doesn't have a case in this episode, but getting back his own screenplay is like the case. Jason in the therapy office was just amazing. This was kind of my homage to HBO's 'In Treatment' as well as to my fourteen years of ongoing therapy, the last eleven of which have been done primarily on the phone. The therapy scene is kind of a super-condensed version of the "work" I've done. Mostly, though, I would characterize my therapy as fourteen years of kindness. The main thing I've learned is to be somewhat forgiving of myself, but that helps one be forgiving of others and to quote St. Francis again, "Better to forgive than be forgiven." Sorry to be cheesy, but as I mentioned, I have in mind that a college student is reading this and I want to somehow pass on advice.

When I have Ray say that he was gutted like a fish that's a line I stole from my first novel, I Pass Like Night. Later, when he talks about his penis being recessed and how he used to push it in as a kid, that's something I used to do; I would push it in and make it disappear. Where it went, I'm not really sure. I was living in New Jersey and my penis maybe would go to Connecticut and then come back.

The last scene was something Mr. Jarmusch suggested - the riding of a bicycle in a loft. Jason, as always, is brilliant in this and before we shot the scene I had a great moment of levity, riding around on the bike and I felt happy. Like not laughing, I rarely feel 'happy' but riding that bike I did.

Okay, it's 11:29 and I'll stop now. Thank you for reading this blog-letter. I know it's all frivolous and I was reading about the soldiers in Afghanistan, so I feel lucky to get to have such a job as this...My rationale, as I've said before in life, is that I'm a clown and the world has always needed clowns. So if I give someone a bit of distraction or relief with this blog-letter or the show, then I can sort of live with myself.

All the best and none of the worst,
Jonathan Ames

PS I don't know how to use spell-check, so I imagine this may be more riddled than usual since I can't go through and proofread...

PPS A kindly reader of this blog-letter informed me that he doesn't recall anyone saying "Serpentine!" in Animal House, though he did recall someone saying it in The In-Laws, another great film of that era. I had mentioned this "serpentine" thing in my previous blog-letter and I think this individual may be correct. Belushi ran in a serpentine fashion and either Alan Arkin or Peter Falk said "Serpentine!" in the other film and so those two excellent comedic moments may have fused in my head. For the record, I love Peter Falk, and not just because he played a detective...It's now 11:34. Good bye!! Damn, I wrote over three-thousand words in two hours! If I made an effort like this more often, I could get another novel done! Well, again, good bye!

PPPS To hear the hairy call, click here.

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