Finding Your Voice with Jonathan Ames

In addition to being one of this unknown TVWriter™ minion’s most common if not necessarily favorite daily pastimes, being bored to death was also one of my favorite TV series. BORED TO DEATH, that is, the Jonathan Ames-created comedy delight that featured a heroic writer character named – Jonathan Ames. Anyway:

jonathan_ames-640x386by Monique Madrid

Jonathan Ames isn’t “just” a television writer. His prolific career spans from personal essays to graphic novels, storytelling, screenplays, a one-man show, as well as his HBO series Bored to Death, which fans are still clamoring for after it was cancelled. The man is a writer in just about every possible way.

Lately, he’s the creator and writer of the new comedy show Blunt Talk on the Starz Network, which is not only co-produced by Seth McFarlane, but it stars Patrick Stewart. The Patrick Stewart! Ames talked to me about his writing process, how the show came about, and even gave me some good writing tips.

I watched the first two episodes last night and wow, Blunt Talk is kind of a bizarre show. It’s really stylistically unlike anything I’ve seen. Obviously it’s a dark comedy, but how would you describe it?

Hmm, well I’m glad to hear that. I don’t know if you were able to see episodes three and four, but I feel like the show gets better and better, and really better and better episodes five, six, seven, eight… But, I guess I don’t necessarily see it as a dark comedy myself. I like my comedies to be uplifting, where you kind of feel good at the end, because it’s about heroes, you know loony heroes with well intentioned hearts who are doing their best. It’s kind of like all of us if we look at the world in a compassionate way. I mean there could be dark moments, and certainly as the season goes on, darker moments, but really I think because the characters are always persevering and questing. I want the audience to feel good at the end, so stylistically that’s why we also try to shoot it as cinematically as possible, so that there’s a feeling of beauty and exuberance. Whether it be the colors of the automobile, which I specifically chose, so that each car kind of matched the character, or to have a Busby Berkley dance sequence. I want people to feel good at the end of watching an episode of Blunt Talk.

I don’t mean it was dark in that you walk away feeling down, it’s just… he’s just got a lot of… maybe raunchy is the word? But that doesn’t feel right either. You know, there’s obviously a lot of sex and drugs and stuff.


So, those various dream sequences and interesting transitions, is that your voice? Is that how you envisioned it?

Yeah, I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I’m mostly working from the images from my mind or images from films. As I’ve matured as a TV writer, though I’m still immature as a TV writer and as a person, I really like to make fun images. I try to build every episode around a beautiful image since this is a visual medium and we’re watching these on these HDTV. This isn’t the era of All in The Familyanymore, you know? I try to make each episode like a small film. For example, in the first episode I had various images in mind. Like the story sort of came to me of, a man alone at a bar, him standing on the Jaguar surrounded by police, the splitting the screen so he’s interviewing himself. I thought, “Wow, one Patrick Stewart is fascinating, two will be even better….”

Read it all at Splitsider