Last night we showed up to the Upright Citzen Brigade’s new theater, UCB East, for Catie Lazarus‘ Employee of the Month. Ms. Lazarus, a young Tina Fey lookalike, was celebrating the one-year anniversary of her comedy talk show, in which she interviews famous and/or interesting people about their careers (or lack thereof).
The headlining guest of this month was Jonathan Ames, whose hit HBO show, Bored to Death, was canceled late last year. Maybe that explains why Mr. Ames spent the entire comedy show looking like he wanted to die.
“Do I have to?” Was Mr. Ames first question onstage, after Ms. Lazarus asked him to play a game of making up new gender terminology based on weird images of people found on the Internet.
Dressed in a pageboy cab and a brown tweed blazer, Mr. Ames looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks.
Ms. Lazarus then projected a New Yorker-style cartoon drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Farley Katz. It showed Mr. Ames in a store, asking “Does this typewriter come with WiFi?”
Mr. Ames just stared at it.
“You do write with a typewriter, right?” Ms. Lazarus prompted.
“No.” Time to move on.
“Do you mind if I’m not funny?” Mr. Ames asked the Ms. Lazarus. “Not funny, but in an entertaining way? I know I’m here to talk about jobs and stuff, but…” Mr. Ames trailed off. The audience waited.
“I’m sorry, I just haven’t had anything to eat tonight. Or this year,” he finally sighed.
Ms. Lazarus gamely tried to work with her guest. “So Bored to Death was canceled. How was it working on the show? How do you feel now that it’s over?”
Mr. Ames looked at the floor. “I don’t know. The first season of the show was very exciting. How do I feel about it now?”
He shook his head.
“The past is just so fleeting,” he said to the floor. “So is the future, for that matter.”
Then he apologized again for his lack of enthusiasm, and rubbed his eyes.
“I just feel…I’m just dealing this weird thing…”
When Ms. Lazarus pressed Mr. Ames on talking about some of his prolific work as a writer and editor, he was equally stingy with his comments, only noting that he had spent most of his life living hand-to-mouth, paycheck to paycheck. He drove taxis. He had to support his young son when he was only a kid himself.
We’d heard this story before (in his own essay collection I Love You More Than You Know, which he didn’t want to talk about either), but in writing it was much more entertaining. The broken man sitting on stage made us wonder if maybe he just needed a nosh, an Adderall, or the number of a suicide prevention line.
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