Ken Baumann


“My brain and body can be utilized for fun and profit again.”
Immense fame is:
Asymmetrical to what nature has built so slowly and surely

At twenty-four years old, Ken Baumann is both a key player in the independent literary world and a TV star on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. He is one of the few people who can get teenagers to retweet Gilles Deleuze. He founded his publishing house, Sator Press, in 2009, which has since published three books: The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney by Christopher Higgs, The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover by Mark Leidner, and Confessions from a Dark Wood by Eric Raymond. His own first book—the novel Solip—was published by Tyrant Books in May 2013. It’s a challenging puzzle-box of a book that reveals his love of Beckett and diabolical imagery. It’s also an exploratory dreamscape where standard narrative is eschewed for brief explosions of insight.

Baumann was born in Urbana, Illinois, and grew up in Abilene, Texas, on a ranch where his family raised miniature horses and cared for rescued wildlife. He began acting at age ten. He moved to the notorious Oakwood Apartments in Los Angeles at fourteen, booked a pilot show with Alan Ruck, and watched as the pilot made it all the way to Rupert Murdoch, who personally passed on it. He then booked pilots for ABC, ABC Family, and Fox—none of which were turned into series. He acted in commercials for Audi and T-Mobile, guest-starred on Jonny Lee Miller’s short-lived ABC comedy-drama Eli Stone, and appeared in the indie film Spring Break ’83, on the set of which he met his wife, Aviva. He then booked The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a show that turned the taboo topic of teenage pregnancy into a lovably debauched plot engine on a channel owned by Disney, and that became ABC Family’s flagship drama. (It was originally pitched to the network as The Sex Life of the American Teenager.) The show’s 121st (and final) episode aired on June 3, 2013.

As Secret Life neared the end of its run, Baumann began exhibiting symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a debilitating intestinal ailment that affects more than two million people. In 2012, he underwent major surgery for Crohn’s, spoke about it on Good Morning America, and wrote about it in Vice magazine. We met for lunch at the Oinkster, in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in northeastern Los Angeles.

—Sabra Embury

THE BELIEVER: Describe the sandwich you ordered. What made you order this sandwich? What is it going to do to your body?

KEN BAUMANN: “The [Marc] Maron” consists of a beef patty stuffed with cheese wedged between jalapeños, pickled onions, and a New Mexican–style green-chili relish. I ordered it because it seemed like the most egregious thing on the menu. And also it’s temporally rare; the sandwich is disappearing from the menu in June. I’ve watched Maron on IFC, and have listened to a few of his podcasts, but that’s irrelevant to what promises to be a delicious and difficult thing to process. What’s it going to do to me? Untold things. We’ll find out.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Sabra Embury’s writing can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Tottenville Review, NANO Fiction, and other places. She lives in Los Angeles with her son, Felix.

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