Moontower Preview: Jonathan Katz, Still Finding Comedy in Odd Places (Interview)

dr katz live jonathan katz moontower

He has a substandard poodle, he owns the domain name patheticmen.com, his groupies are middle aged jewish couples who invite him over for soup, he likes to find comedy in odd places, and he is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of his show, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. The “he” in question, of course is stand up comedian . In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the series, Katz is bringing a live version of the show to the Comedy Festival later this week, and we couldn’t wait to talk with him about the show.

was….it was such a big deal for him to be on that show. It was his first time on national television. It meant a lot to a lot of those guys.

When Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist first premiered in 1995, it was groundbreaking in the worlds of comedy and animation.  H. Jon Benjamin played Dr. Katz’s son Ben, and was still relatively unknown. This was before he took over the animated voiceover universe (Bob’s Burgers, Archer, Home Movies, Venture Bros  just for starters). who played Dr. Katz’s receptionist “Laura” had only done a few guest roles; this was pre-The Show and The Comeback.  And the list of comedians who appeared on the show as Dr. Katz’s patients is an endless who’s who of stand-up comedy; , , , , , , , O’Brien, , , , and dozens more.  Many of them were just getting started, like Ray Romano, who Katz says got his national television debut on his series. “Ray Romano was….it was such a big deal for him to be on that show.  It was his first time on national television.  It meant a lot to a lot of those guys.”

Not only was the show a comedy barometer, but Katz had an impact on his ‘patients’..or at least some of them. “It helped one guy and it made one woman cry,” he said referring to the show’s ‘therapy.’ He disclosed the identity of the comedian who he helped– Bob Balaban– saying only that Balaban “actually felt better after seeing me.” He won’t divulge the identity of the woman who cried– too gossipy– but he blamed himself for her emotional outcry. “I made one woman cry because I took my role a little too seriously as a therapist….She’s a wonderful comedian, she had issues that are difficult to talk about, and I thought that was where the comedy was going to come from but I was so wrong,” he said. “The comedy actually came from letting them do their act,” Katz continued. “And me, adding my voice after the fact, which I often did. Sometimes people recorded in LA and I wasn’t even there, I just was listening on the phone and then a month later I would drop in my voice.”

The other reason for the show’s success he hands off to the show’s co-creator. “I give all the credit to Tom Snyder,” Katz said. “If it wasn’t for him, it just would have been an idea we had one day over lunch, cause he actually gets things made.”

Don’t expect a reboot of the show on television, as there are apparently some rights issues in the way.  But since the series concluded, there have been a few subsequent incarnations of Dr. Katz including a live album, Dr. Katz Live , and several live versions of the show.  Some of the live versions have included co-stars H. Jon Benjamin and Laura Silverman and some have included co-creator Tom Snyder portraying Dr. Katz’s therapist.  This past January at San Francisco Sketchfest, Katz said he “was accompanied on the piano by Tom Snyder and Jon Benjamin who plays Ben.”

The Moontower performance of Dr. Katz Live will be completely different from the previous live versions.

Katz said he plans to open with stand up this time, and make the “almost magical transition” from Jonathan Katz to Dr. Katz early in the show.  Starting with straight stand up, Katz told us is liberating.  “I’m going to start it with stand up which is kind of liberating somewhat,” he said, “because I don’t have to pretend that there’s no audience there, cause Dr. Katz is in his office in therapy.”  As for the rest of the evening, we don’t want to give too much away, but we can tell you this– H. Jon Benjamin and Laura Silverman won’t be in Austin but their characters will figure into the evening.  And you’ll also see several familiar patients on hand live including , , , , , , Todd Barry, and , all of whom appeared on the original Dr. Katz series.

Katz didn’t say much about what he has planned for his stand up set, but he did laugh, telling us that he had to rewrite his opening joke because his wife thought it was a little too “Kindler-esque” which got us talking about some of Katz’s famous patients, and he shared a few thoughts on them. He summed up Andy Kindler for us saying, “his whole thing is apologizing for being Andy Kindler- is pretty much the essence of his act.  But he’s so good,”  On Emo Philips, he said “Emo is one of the most eccentric guys I’ve ever worked with and he’s also a brilliant comedian.” And about Marc Maron, he shared, “I guess his default mode is anger, but I don’t think he’s actually angry, it’s kind of a place comedians go. , that’s his mode.  I’m not an angry comedian, I’m mildly annoyed.”

I’m working on a book with David Mamet called The Home for Unfortunate Animals.  We have the substandard poodle, the nervous tic, the praying mantis whose faith has been shaken and a goose with down syndrome.

Outside of his stand up and the world of Dr. Katz, Jonathan Katz is a really interesting guy.  He counts David Mamet of one of his friends, and they’re working together.  “I’m working on a book with David Mamet called The Home for Unfortunate Animals,” he said, “and we have things like the substandard poodle, the nervous tic, the praying mantis whose faith has been shaken, and a goose with down syndrome.”  It’s a book of puns that they both wrote, and Mamet is illustrating. Katz said that Mamet likes  to illustrate things which he called “a nice coincidence” and added that “while we’ve been talking he’s probably written another play.”

He’s also learning to play the steel lap guitar on YouTube and told us he can’t help but start to recognize the pants all the instructors wear, and he’s looking forward to hitting up Austin for the very first time.  Not only for the BBQ, but also for the music, especially since Austin is the home of the world’s best steel guitar player, Cindy Cashdollar.

Like many other performers, he has a podcast, but unlike most podcasters, it’s not about interviewing celebrities. Hey We’re Back is as original as Katz himself. “What i’ve been doing lately,” he said, “is I’ve been calling funeral homes and asking them if they do children’s parties, so I like to find comedy in odd places.”

 


You can see Dr. Katz Live on two nights at the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas.  Dr. Katz happens Live on Thursday and Friday night at the Paramount Theater.  For tickets and info go to moontowerfestival.com or austintheater.org.  Visit patheticmen.com for all things Katz, and follow Jonathan on twitter @Jonathan_Katz.

 Follow Jonathan Katz on Twitter | Get Tickets to Dr. Katz Live at Moontower

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