Raised in Oakland, New Jersey, Ames enjoyed a happy, middle-class childhood . He was encouraged to read and write by his mother, a poet, and served as editor of his school paper. At Princeton, he worked on a novella, under thesis advisor Joyce Carol Oates, which eventually became his first novel, I Pass Like Night (1989). Despite this early milestone, success would be a long time in coming. Ames spent most of the '90s supporting himself with odd jobs and writing columns for the New York Press, though he became well-known in New York City underground and bohemian circles. During this time, Ames also fathered a son, his only child. In 1999, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and created an off-off-Broadway one man show, "Oedipussy," that raised his profile as a storyteller and performer.The release of the first in a series of memoirs, collections mainly of his New York Press columns, was released in 2000 with the title What's Not to Love? The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer. From early masturbation stories - following his first success, he ran to tell his mother - to dalliances with drugs and prostitutes to run-ins with STDs, Ames ruthlessly mined his own experiences for good copy, an approach he would later see as having its drawbacks: "Someone will read something I wrote 10 years ago and to them it's very resonant. They think: 'This is how he is right now.' But I've changed so much. Honesty ends up not having a shelf life" (The Guardian, March 27, 2011). Understandably, Ames' now-adult son has never read his nonfiction. Ames published two additional novels as well, The Extra Man (1998) and Wake Up, Sir! (2004). A year later, Ames was cast as the lead in the IFC film "The Girl Under the Waves," an improvisational experiment in fourth-wall deconstruction that includes the director's instructions to his actors. Ames went on to publish several more volumes of his nonfiction and in 2004 was commissioned by Showtime to develop a pilot for "What's Not to Love?" As a series, however, it went nowhere, eventually airing as a one-time special on Showtime in December 2008 and January 2009. Ames began dating singer/songwriter Fiona Apple around this time, who would later pen the song "Jonathan" about him, which among other things makes reference to a day they spent at Coney Island where "he takes all his girlfriends," according to Apple (Interview Magazine, June 2012). Ames also collaborated on a graphic novel with artist Dean Haspiel, The Alcoholic (2008). In 2009, his show "Bored to Death" (2009-11), starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson, began airing on HBO. As the lead character, Schwartzman played failed-novelist-turned-private-eye Jonathan Ames, who was aided, abetted and sometimes stymied on his misadventures by his best friend, Ray (Galifianakis), a comic book artist, and his editor George (Danson), whom Ames has acknowledged as at least as autobiographical a character as the one named for him. Ames himself appeared in two episodes of the series as the demented new boyfriend of Ray's ex-girlfriend. Ames also saw his second novel adapted into a film of the same name, "The Extra Man" (2010). Despite a debut at the Sundance Film Festival and an all-star lineup including John C. Reilly, Paul Dano, Kevin Kline and Katie Holmes, the film was poorly reviewed. In 2012, Ames created something of a stir online when footage of his drunken, bitter and funny speech shortly after the cancellation of "Bored to Death" at the Writer's Guild Awards went viral; Ames announced. "I've already been cancelled; I'm going back to novels!" In 2013, after expressing some interest in writing in the crime genre following his comic take on noir in "Bored to Death," Ames released a noir novella, You Were Never Really Here.