For the past 23 years Jonathan Katz and his character Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist have brought over 100 of the greatest comedic minds into his office and onto his couch. The magical combination of Katz’s hilariously impassive therapy style, paired with the solid gold stand-up material his comedian “clients” continue to deliver has provided endless laughs to comedy fans everywhere. Jonathan Katz is a treasure chest of comedy and I had the opportunity to forage through the gems during our conversation about his new Audible Original series, “Dr. Katz: The Audiobook” that is being released on August 16th and all things comedy.
The Interrobang: I’ve been a fan of your show since it originally aired in 1995 and have always been impressed by the caliber of talent you deliver. There has definitely been plenty of household names on “Dr. Katz,” but you’ve also had plenty of comedians who were lesser known. Some of the funniest, most memorable moments came from the comedians that were first introduced to me through your show like Todd Barry, Louie C.K., Marc Maron, Jeff Ross, Jim Gaffigan, Joy Behar, Dave Chappelle and my personal favorite, Dave Attell.
Jonathan Katz: Dave Attell is so good! I used to drive my daughter and her friend Laura to school and they would quote Dave Attell from the show. “Ants! Ants! Ants! Ants!”
The Interrobang: Fast forward 20 plus years to 2018 and many of the comics you had on your show are the biggest names in comedy today. This speaks volumes about your eye for talent. How did these super talented comedians end up on your show? Did you personally book them?
Jonathan Katz: Initially, it was me calling in favors from my friends in comedy. I worked as a stand up in New York for 15 years before I did “Dr. Katz” and I knew a lot of these guys from that. I knew Marc Maron, Todd Barry and I knew Paula Poundstone but she wasn’t animated on the TV show, she was on the Audible show.
The Interrobang: I remember seeing Paula Poundstone’s comedy on VH1 when I was really young and loving it.
Jonathan Katz: I don’t think I can remember the last time a woman said the words VH1 to me… (LOL)
The Interrobang: They used to air a lot of comedy back in the day.
Jonathan Katz: Yes, they did and so did MTV.
The Interrobang: I don’t think MTV aired enough comedy. Music and comedy should go together more often.
Jonathan Katz: In the 60’s folk music and comedy went together. Most folk singers would have a comedian open for them. Woody Allen would open for some really great folk singers.
The Interrobang: Woody Allen has become quite the musician in his own right. I’ve seen him and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band play the Carlyle in New York and he is pretty damn good.
Jonathan Katz: Is that why you came to New York? What were you doing in the city?
The Interrobang: That trip to see Woody Allen was the first time I ever went to New York by myself. I go all of the time now, but back then I was dead set on seeing him play live, it was a Monday night and I was like, “That’s it! I’m going!”
Jonathan Katz: Did Woody Allen actually appear that night?
The Interrobang: Yes, but he didn’t open his eyes more than once or twice the entire concert.
Jonathan Katz: What time of year was it?
Jonathan Katz: Did you stand outside under the awning of The Carlyle Hotel? It has heaters in the awning. I used to wait for the bus out there on Madison Avenue when I was a kid.
The Interrobang: Every once in a while, during a conversation with your “son” Ben you would hint about your upbringing and I have always been curious about what was fact from fiction. I remember an episode where you told Ben that you were so poor as a kid that your mother often served a slice of cheese with celery for a mouth and half a cherry tomato for a nose for dinner and called it “Clown.” Is “Clown” real?
Jonathan Katz: My mom used to make Clown for us because we were so poor and our parents didn’t want us to think we were poor, so my mom made these adventurous meals.
The Interrobang: That is so sweet! I love that! I can’t believe that “Clown” is real!
Jonathan Katz: So much of Dr. Katz is real. My daughter once said to me, “Dad, can’t you make anything up?”
The Interrobang: I was lucky enough to preview a few of the newly released episodes of “Dr. Katz: The Audiobook” and I have to say that I loved Susie Essman! She is the queen of improv!
Jonathan Katz: Yes, even when she was doing stand-up, a lot of it was improvised. I used to do stand-up and it was essentially 15 years of doing the same jokes every fucking night. It was like I was trapped in a one-man show. Then I met Jon Benjamin and I realized there was a whole other approach to being funny.
The Interrobang: And then you brought him on to play the role of your son Ben?
Jonathan Katz: He actually read for the role of my father. Then we realized, there was probably a better role for him. I also brought my actual father in to read for the role of my father. He didn’t get the part either. It was so sad. LOL!
Jonathan Katz: We have Colin Quinn joining us on the Audible show this season and he is a great addition!
The Interrobang: “Dr. Katz: The Audiobook” has so many great names on its roster! I was really happy to hear Dom Irrera’s voice returning to the show this season. Dom has become synonymous to me with “Dr. Katz” because the show is about the voices as much as it is the material and there is just as much meaning in the silences as there are in the jokes.
Jonathan Katz: Thank you for noticing. It’s a great collection and Dom is great. He’s not a patient anymore. Now he’s just a guy who likes hanging out with me and vice versa. We also have Jen Kirkman joining us this season. We also have Seth Green and Bob Saget on the Audiobook and aside from being one of the dirtiest comedians alive, Bob is a really funny guy.
The Interrobang: Absolutely! Out of the entire list of comedians you have ever had on your show, who was one that you absolutely had to get back on the couch again this season?
Jonathan Katz: That would be Dom Irrera. He’s my oldest and best friend in comedy so it’s nice to be connected to him in that way.
The Interrobang: You have an impeccable eye for talent. Are there any comedians on the scene in 2018 that you haven’t had on your show yet that you have your eye on?
Jonathan Katz: Yes. John Mulaney and Gary Gulman. Do you know Gary Gulman? I think that he is perhaps the best comedian in America right now.
Interrobang: Oh, wow! That’s awesome!
Jonathan Katz: Who is your favorite comedian these days?
The Interrobang: Dave Attell but he’s already been on your couch. Big Jay Oakerson or Ari Shaffir would be fun to have on.
Jonathan Katz: I like Ari a lot.
The Interrobang: But if there was one giant get that I would love to see return to your couch in 2018, it would be Louie C.K.
Jonathan Katz: Wow, that would be wonderful.
The Interrobang: What about you? Who would be your big get for “Dr. Katz: The Audiobook”
Jonathan Katz: I’d love to get Steven Wright back. Steven Wright is so elusive when you try to book him on the show. I think he is very protective of where he spends his comedy because when he performs, let’s say an hour of material because he has so many one liners, that is a lot of jokes.
The Interrobang: That makes sense. It reminds me of Emo Philips and Emo was another shining star on the original animated show on Comedy Central.
Jonathan Katz: Yes. Emo has been wonderful every time I’ve worked with him. Do you have a favorite joke of his?
The Interrobang: Ahhh!!!! There are SO many!
Jonathan Katz: Can I tell you mine?
The Interrobang: Yes! Of course!
Jonathan Katz: It’s where Emo is walking down the street and he sees an old friend he went to grade school with, then smacks him on the back and makes him cry… He then figures out that if this was actually, in fact, his old friend from school, then he would have grown up too! LOL!
The Interrobang: LOL! I love that joke and you helped me remember mine! It’s where Emo describes seeing a homeless man digging through the trash. He says, “I just hate seeing another human being having to go through someone else’s garbage for food… So, I made him a really nice raccoon costume!” LOL!!! A classic Emo redirect!
Jonathan Katz: LOL, that is a great joke! You saw him at Moontower? We did a live “Dr. Katz” there a few years ago.
The Interrobang: I would love to see your live show but the last one you did was during the week in San Francisco and I couldn’t take the week off work from my job as a middle school counselor. You’ll have to do another one closer to NYC or Chicago!
Jonathan Katz: I did a show where I played a guidance counselor. It was called, “Julia’s Point of View” which aired briefly on NBC. It starred my daughter Julia. I still have clips of it up on my website.
The Interrobang: You’ve done so much! I will definitely check it out!
Jonathan Katz: So, you’re a guidance counselor in a middle school? That’s tough.
The Interrobang: Sure. It can be.
Jonathan Katz: Do you have kids? I didn’t even ask.
The Interrobang: We have one foster son who we would love to adopt, but they are currently making us his legal guardians.
Jonathan Katz: How old is he?
The Interrobang: 3 years old
Jonathan Katz: Oh, sweet! We have one adopted daughter and one biological daughter.
The Interrobang: That is so wonderful!!!
Jonathan Katz: I’m a big believer in the world of adoption. Oh, I have another call, but I will call her back later. It’s an old girlfriend who also happens to be Robin Williams first wife.
The Interrobang: Oh, wow!!! One thing I learned about you recently is that you worked for Robin Williams as his musical director back in the day.
Jonathan Katz: Yes and Valerie was the reason I became connected to him. She introduced Robin to my music and I had a couple of songs that could pass as funny.
The Interrobang: And there’s the circle… comedy and music coming together! Very cool! I am so excited to hear the rest of “Dr. Katz: The Audiobook” on Audible on August 16th and with this being the age of the podcasts, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to release these.
Jonathan Katz: Oh, you think we’re done?! It’s been so much fun talking to you! Ok. Take Care…. [laughing]! It just seems so abrupt. Is there a game we could play or something? LOL! I’m so proud of you working with 8thgraders. My wife used to teach Sex Ed. to 9thgraders and one night when we were laying in bed she said to me, “Not tonight honey. I have herpes in the morning.” [laughing]! Maybe that will be my closing joke. What do you think?
The Interrobang: [laughing] That was awesome! It definitely could be! Thank you so much. It’s been great speaking with you!
Don’t forget to check out Jonathan Katz’s new Audible Original series, “Dr. Katz: The Audiobook” at www.audible.com on August 16th.