Photo: Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw
Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was really, really cool. For most people on either side of 35, it was the first place you heard H Jon Benjamin (Archer, for the kiddos) and a host of now-famous comedians like Dom Irrera, Todd Barry, Jon Stewart, Ray Romano, Fred Stoller, Wanda Sykes, and, well, basically everybody working in New York from 1995-2002. Dr Katz Live at Moontower Comedy Festival was equally cool, bringing the therapy session segments – part improv game, part late night talk show appearance, part actual therapy – to Austin, minus the Squigglevision. It was also an easy way to catch a bunch of heavy hitters all on one show.
Dom Irrera kicked it off, the two trading bits under the guise of bantering about childhood and religion, and even playing an “inappropriate” voicemail Dom had left for the therapist. Emo Phillips dominated his session, with Katz just teeing up just a couple topics that Phillips took and ran with. Eddie Pepitone dropped his gruff, angry persona for an easygoing session that he was clearly enjoying almost like a kid meeting his sports hero. And Todd Barry jumped into it like they’d just recorded their previous episode last week instead of last decade.
Everyone broke the conceit at least a little, commenting on how the therapy was or wasn’t working for them with a wink. Pepitone even answered one question with, “I think that would have been better to ask your previous patient [Emo Phillips], he’d have a great one liner ready but I don’t work that way.” But no one challenged the whole structure of the show more than Marc Maron, who opened with, “My last session was twenty-five years ago!” before “yes, and”-ing back into the bit by conceding he had changed his phone number so maybe it was his fault. The rest of the segment teetered right on the brink of completely breaking the fourth wall, with Maron at one point talking out loud as he tried to find his way from Katz’s question (“People are very fascinated with other people’s procreation”) to the answer he was supposed to be talking about (“people watch too much porn”), with a diversion pointing out how uncomfortable Katz is with using blunt, scatalogical terms. At various points, it almost felt like Jonathan Katz was the guest on an episode of WTF instead of vice versa.
All in all, it was a fantastic show, whether you had obsessively watched Dr Katz in your dorm room or you just wanted to see six masters at work in the same theater.