The trouble with writing a series of best-selling humor books under a pseudonym is that people come out of the woodwork claiming authorship.
And when Jerry Seinfeld writes the forewords to your books, it gets even worse — folks begin to believe Jerry is actually the author.
That’s the pickle Seinfeld’s friend and collaborator Barry Marder found himself in with his hit series of “Letters From a Nut” books, in which Marder, under the nom de plume Ted L. Nancy, writes gag correspondence to companies and dignitaries, and receives oh-so-serious responses.
With the publishing of a fourth book, “All New Letters From a Nut,” Marder revealed his true face to the public while appearing live on TODAY Friday alongside his partner-in-crime Seinfeld.
Speaking with Matt Lauer, Seinfeld said he wanted to dispel speculation that he — or anyone else other than Marder — was actually Ted L. Nancy. “People did think it was me,” Seinfeld told Lauer. “We started this as really kind of a joke for ourselves, just to see if people would be interested in this. But the books took off. And then people tried to take credit for who was doing it.
“So many people think it’s me, and he’s done so much work on it. I really want the public to know this is the guy that has created the whole thing.”
Marder, who helped pen Seinfeld’s stand-up performances on his sitcom and also co-wrote his 2007 animated film “Bee Movie,” hatched his idea back in 1995: He started writing crank letters and e-mails to companies, governments and heads of state and waiting for a reply. The ensuing correspondence became the basis for his first book. In its foreword, Seinfeld claimed he found the letters by chance and had no knowledge of who Ted L. Nancy was.
That book and its two sequels sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and while “All New Letters From a Nut” still bears the Ted L. Nancy name, Seinfeld is now helping Marder reveal his true face to the public.
The new entry, the first “Letters From a Nut” book in 10 years, ups the ante in tomfoolery. For example: Marder, as Nancy, writes to an Amsterdam hotel requesting a room for his 300 hamsters as he prepares to stage the play “Hamsterdam.” He e-mails a portable toilet company to place a large order for his firm, alternately called “Papa’s Johns,” “Elton’s Johns” and “Nincompoops.”
As Marder read Lauer a letter he had written to a company proposing a new product called “Ba-Nanny Shoes” — bright yellow, banana-shaped shoes for nannies to wear — and “Waiter-Melons,” watermelon-shaped shoes for waiters — it was clear Seinfeld gets a big kick out of his pal and business partner.
And he wanted to make sure no one else would take credit anymore. “He is the guy who really created [the books],” Seinfeld said. “He’s written all the letters, he created the character. There’s a lot of people on the Internet claiming credit for it, and that started to bother us.”
But, Lauer asked, now that the cat is out of the bag, can Marder ever go back to being Ted L. Nancy?
Seinfeld admitted, “Well, we may have to change it a little bit,” if there’s a fifth book in the series.