Jonathan Ames Is Confused

untitled 2 Jonathan Ames Is Confused

On Monday night, the New York premiere of The Extra Man began with a man standing in front of the audience and letting out a rolling, throaty yodel that sounded like a cross between a sea otter and an exotic bird. 

This happened shortly after Shari Springer Berman, the co-director of the film, welcomed actors Kevin Kline and Paul Dano to the front of the theater on Second Avenue in the East Village. Katie Holmes was there, too, but didn’t come up to the stage. Then Ms. Springer Berman introduced Jonathan Ames, the author on whose 1998 novel the film is based. “Jonathan, would you like to do your ritual?” she asked. Mr. Ames took the mike.

“To clear the air before the film is shown, I’m just going to make a sound for you,” he said. “I always make it at the end of my readings or performances. It’s a sound my friends and I would make on the playground when being attacked by more normal children, known as the Hair Call. I won’t use the mike.”

Mr. Ames, dressed in a black blazer, blue tie and a gray newspaper-boy cap, put down the mike and extended his arms into an opera stance-left arm reaching into the air, the right close to the chest-and opened his mouth wide. “Eeeeeeeeeee!”

Stephanie Pratt, a star of MTV’s The Hills, looked confused but smiled. Sean Lennon did not.

“Eeeeeeeeee!”

Fashion writer Derek Blasberg looked up from his BlackBerry.

“EEEEEEEEEE!”

At the after-party, Mr. Dano described Mr. Ames: “He’s a unique fellow. He’s incredibly funny. At times strange. Lovely guy, though.”

The Extra Man is the story of a young man (Mr. Dano) who moves to New York to be a writer and rents a room from an “Extra Man” (Mr. Kline), an escort for the wealthy widows of New York society. Mr. Dano and Mr. Ames live within one block of each other in Brooklyn and were able to meet up and talk about the script as Mr. Dano prepared for the character-a sensitive, bumbling young man who experiments with cross-dressing.

“The character is not actually Jonathan; it’s a fictionalized version of stuff he went through, so I just wanted to do what I felt the writing inspired me to do,” said Mr. Dano. “But I was definitely able to take things away from hanging out with him”-such as the gray cap that Mr. Dano wears throughout the film.

“They’re all perfect,” Mr. Ames said of the actors chosen to play the characters he invented. Ms. Holmes skipped the after-party but told reporters earlier that the role was “fun” and “interesting.” Mr. Ames called Ms. Holmes “very pleasant.” “We met a few times. She was very sweet to me,” he said. “All of my life is confusing, so all these experiences are odd to me.” 

In the movie, Mr. Ames has a cameo. “In the way that Charles Bukowski could briefly be seen in Barfly, I’m seen in a tranny bar,” he said. 

Mr. Ames, who has been primarily a writer and performer (in Oedipussy, his one-man show, and as a boxer), has more recently become an HBO program creator and writer (Bored to Death) and one of those lucky authors whose books have begun to garner interest in Hollywood. (Two more of his books are currently in production or being adapted.)

Does he still have time to write novels?

“Working on the TV show is like writing a novel. It’s like chapters, so I do a lot of writing that way,” he said. “But I’m not doing much prose writing at the moment. Someday, again, maybe.”

The Transom asked if he was still dating singer Fiona Apple. 

“Uh, probably, yes,” he said.   

Probably?

“No, no, don’t put probably. Just say yes.”