Jonathan Ames: The writer on driving a taxi, his fear of crowds and becoming an extra on a porn film

'I don't like crowded events - parades or big rock concerts. I'm like an animal that wants quick escape routes.'

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The Independent Culture

Reading PG Wodehouse was an antidepressant for me

He gave me pleasure and laughter and I got to go somewhere else in my head for a while. I'm only a Jeeves and Wooster person, though: that series was so entertaining, as every turn of phrase was funny, the stories were nutty and the voice of Wooster was so clear. I don't know if those books completely lifted me out of my depression, but they did ultimately give me purpose, which is the best cure for depression. I decided I wanted to give readers some of the joy I got [by writing Wake Up, Sir!, a novel about a troubled young American writer and his valet].

I find the relationship between a man and his man-servant charming

There's this incredible attentiveness and caring; it's like an asexual marriage. I also like the upside-down element: the servant is really the master. When I wrote a TV pilot recently [for upcoming sitcom Blunt Talk, starring Patrick Stewart], I drew upon those elements and have tried to reinvent it for Patrick; he plays a British newscaster who moves to Los Angeles with his alcoholic servant.

It sounds indulgent, but I don't know if I've ever found myself

I could say I'm a writer but even that crumbles in my mind, as all sorts of strange, attacking thoughts come to me, such as, what have I written lately? Or that my grammar is spotty. I dismiss most of what I've accomplished as it's in the past and the past just kind of disappears. I don't know how other people cope.

Being a taxi driver was my favourite job

You never know where you are going to go, so each day brings with it a mysterious narrative. And at the end of the day you have cash in your pocket as a result of your labour – it's not like when you get a cheque every two weeks: if you have a good day, you see the results in your hand.

Porn sets are not at all erotic

I covered one as a journalist for three days, and at the end they put me in as an extra. I never was a big fan of porn, but after being on set I became even less of a fan; it was not at all appealing – the people were nice, but the setting made it so unenjoyable.

Every now and then you fall short

I once spent two weeks on a Greenpeace boat off the coast of Alaska for a piece I was writing. I loved being on the boat and admired all the young idealistic people from around the world, but for some reason I couldn't produce the piece.

I like purging my body

I love to go to the hot rooms in Russian bath houses. It's a sort of enforced meditation, as you have to be quiet. Circulation is one of the keys to health, and going there gets the blood sloshing around.

The greatest gift you can give someone is to listen

Well, that and money. Don't prepare your response while you're listening; take in what they are saying and then respond, rather than jumping in with judgments. When you listen well to someone, they listen well in return.

I like to have a lot of space round my body

I don't like crowded events – parades or big rock concerts. I'm prickly and oversensitive: I'm like an animal that wants quick escape routes.

The placebo is the number one medicine of all time

The writer Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a terrible illness in the 1970s, so he turned to watching a lot of Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges, and laughed his way back into wellness. Though that could be apocryphal.

Jonathan Ames, 51, is an American novelist, confessional writer and creator of the HBO TV comedy 'Bored to Death'. He has written seven novels. His latest, 'Wake Up, Sir!' (£8.99, Pushkin Press), is out now

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