Interview: Jonathan Katz Revives 'Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist'
By A.D. AMOROSI
Comedian Jonathan Katz is famous for many things including a wry stand-up career and acting in films by his old friend David Mamet such as Things Change, Homicide, The Spanish Prisoner and State and Main (Katz and Mamet co-wrote the catty noir drama, House of Games). But from 1995 to 2002, Katz was Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, a Comedy Central animated program in “Squigglevision” – a device created by Katz’s partner Tom Snyder – where his comic pals (e.g. Ray Romano, Dom Irrera, Gary Shandling, Marc Maron) could vent on his psychiatrist’s couch. Seventeen years later, Katz is staging a live therapy session for fellow comedians as part of a May 7 event at Punch Line Philly. Proceeds benefit Artwell, a nonprofit that provides art education to kids.
A.D. Amorosi: Lord knows we are pleased to see you reviving Dr. Katz. Why did working with ArtWell (Katz' daughter, Julia Terry, is Artwell's Program Director) seem like the best time to bring him out of retirement?
Jonathan Katz: Now seems like the perfect time to be supporting the work of Artwell. The work they do in Philadelphia effects the lives of thousands of young people annually.
A.D.: How much do you and your Squigglevision partner, Tom Snyder, feel responsible for the birth and success of Bobs’s Burgers? It's a bit more absurdist, but the tone is so similar.
Jonathan: The creator of Bob’s Burgers worked for years as the apprentice of Tom Snyder, my Dr. Katz partner, and it was there that he met H. Jon Benjamin, the voice of Bob, as well as the voice of Archer.
A.D.: What ties you to Tom Snyder - you have worked together repeatedly?
Jonathan: Collaborating with Tom Snyder makes me happy. He knows so much about writing, science, history, literature, music and has jokes about all those things.
A.D.: What do you hear most about the Comedy Central Dr. Katz program so many years later?
Jonathan: The thing that surprises me the most is its lasting impact. I hear from people around the world about the impact of Dr. Katz on their lives. I am always certainly stunned by its popularity, and Comedy Central was a great home for the show.
A.D.: You’re playing another doctor in the upcoming film The Truth about Lies. Are you worried that people, even in the industry, now think of you as part of the medical profession?
Jonathan: Yes…and flattered.
A.D.: It is exactly 30 years since House of Games. Fanboy question: what is it like working with your pal David Mamet? That film is still the most quotable movie of the last half century.
Jonathan: David has been my best friend since 1965. Working with him a blessing and a curse: it’s a blurse.
A.D.: Do you have any words about Carrie Fisher and having her play your ex-wife on the Dr. Katz series?
Jonathan: Meeting her, hanging out with her was great. She will always be Roz Katz even if Ben [H. Jon Benjamin] didn’t know her name was Roz.
A.D.: Beyond the work with Benjamin during Dr. Katz, how much of the interactions were improvised, and as a writer, were you always cool with people doing their own thing?
Jonathan: Every episode was based on an outline created by me and Tom initially, and then others. First we recorded the script as written, and then we did the same the off script. What aired was almost always improvised.
A.D: Do you think such improvisation loosened you up… or do you not need such prodding?
Jonathan: Oh, absolutely. Before Dr. Katz I was doing my act for 15 years, like a guy stuck in a one man show.
A.D.: It is 21 years since you got the MS diagnosis… you’re working physically on stage and in film, etc. I read a CNN.com article in which you said – teasingly but poignantly – that “as a person, I can't run that fast; as a cartoon character, I can fly -- literally.” Do you feel as if you have kicked MS’s ass and are moving forward skillfully?
Jonathan: I seem to have stabilized my condition with the help of medication and physical therapy, but living with MS is a challenge.
A.D.: I know you have been asked this before, but let’s roll the dice – have you been in therapy, and what did you find out that you didn’t know?
Jonathan: I have been in and out of therapy since I was a kid. Now I see a therapist on a “need to know” basis. He seems to know Tuesdays at noon.
Jonathan Katz performs a live Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist session for ArtWell, Sunday May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Punch Line Philly, 33 E. Laurel Street. VIP tickets: $85, general admission $35. For more info visit TheArtWell.org
Photo by Michael Fein, courtesy of Guinivan PR
Posted on Saturday, May 6, 2017