One of the most cherished cult classics in Comedy Central history, Dr. Katz Professional Therapist is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Comedy Dynamics is releasing a recording of a rare live performance of the show featuring the original voices playing their characters, as well as BJ Novak, Eugene Mirman, and Andy Kindler appearing as the guest-star patients. We spoke to Jonathan "Dr." Katz himself about the new release, as well as two decades of Dr. Katz.
This live Dr. Katz performance was originally recorded in 2008. What made now seem like the right time for its release?
Dr. Katz: Well, with the 20th anniversary of the Dr. Katz TV show. We've done Dr. Katz Live a few times and this was the best performance of the show that we've done. One of the things that makes it fun for me is that I get to be both patient and shrink. I play the patient of Dr. Snyder, who is portrayed by Tom Snyder, the co-creator of the show.
Was that something you wanted to try on the show but never got a chance to?
I think we tried that in one episode. I cast a therapist who lived or worked in New York City. It was an episode about the kids' game Guess Who? Do you know that game?
Yeah, the one where you flip the faces?
Yeah, we used the shrink. It worked out well, but that was never the intent of the show.
That was the episode where you cheated at Guess Who?, correct?
Yeah, I was looking in the reflection of the TV to see the guy he was looking at. I cheated my own son. Uggh! It's funny because I still get comments from fans that say everything they learned about parenting, they learned from me and H. Jon Benjamin. And that frightens me. Dr. Katz was not a great shrink, but he was a loving father. I don't know how skilled he was as a parent.
Revisiting Dr. Katz, it's amazing how different the pacing was from the majority of other, especially animated, '90s shows.
We weren't afraid of silence. We also left the laughter in because I was laughing so hard at Jon Benjamin, at some point I wasn't sure whose joke I was laughing at. Other shows would have cut the laughter out, but the fact that we left it in, I think made it more interesting.
Dr. Katz premiered on Comedy Central in '95 and ran through '99. In between that time Comedy Central had a pretty large popularity increase, with shows like The Daily Show and South Park. Was it very different working with the network between those years?
This is such a vivid memory of mine. Doug Herzog, who is the CEO now of Comedy Central, showed up one day with a VHS tape and said "Jon, check this out." It was the tape of the South Park audition tape. I was so jealous of my younger, more successful sibling on Comedy Central until I discovered how incredibly talented they are and the depths of their work on that show and other things.
And you recorded a cameo for South Park early on.
Yeah, I was killed by a snake. It was done remotely, I was in Boston, they were in L.A. I didn't get to see anybody, but it was fun to do it and fun to appear in such a popular show. I wasn't in control of the use of my voice for that particular project, as opposed to this recording. I'm going to turn it around and make it seem like you've recently been radicalized and just back from a trip from Africa, so you could be in a lot of trouble.
Wouldn't be the first time. Another thing that made the Dr. Katz show stand out was its smooth score.
It was written by Tom Snyder. Tom's such an accomplished musician, he's written one musical, he's working on another. His name appears encrypted inside every Apple computer because he was on the team with Steve Jobs that developed the Apple. And he's an educator. And I love him. Goodbye.
He was in the software business for educational software when he and I met, and it was because he was drawn to my comedy that we started collaborating together in the early 90s and we haven't stopped. We did a show last night.
Did you have a moment when you realized how loyal and devoted the Dr. Katz fanbase had become?
I think it was when friends who lived in other countries said "I think I heard your voice today." My likeness and my voice are more popular than I am. And, I don't mind.