How ‘Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist’ Paved the Way for All Your Favorite TV Comedies

     May 13, 2020

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I was a strange child. I didn’t have cable TV growing up, so whenever I was at a friend’s or relative’s house who did, I would, like many kids of my generation, glue myself to that set and absorb what I’d been missing. But unlike other kids, whom I imagine were interested in MTV, Cartoon Network, and scrambled dirty channels, I couldn’t get enough of the low-key misadventures of a middle-aged therapist talking to his comedian clients.

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist originally aired on Comedy Central from 1995-2002. Created by Tom Snyder and Jonathan Katz, with producer Loren Bouchard offering a strong creative voice as well, the animated comedy saw Katz playing a fictionalized version of himself as, well, a professional therapist. Each episode featured Katz having therapy sessions with standup comedians delivering conversationalized versions of their material, with Katz interjecting thoughts and observations as if they were actual therapy issues (and when it comes to standup comedy, they usually are). Episodes also highlighted Katz’s personal life, especially his relationships with his manchild son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin) and his irascible secretary Laura (Laura Silverman), and his small, relatable goals. The entire show was improvised based on loose beat sheets, rather than the tight scripts you’d usually see in animation, resulting in scenes that felt authentic and organic.

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Image via Comedy Central

Notable guests on Dr. Katz’s couch included Ray Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Garry Shandling, Bob Odenkirk, Jon Stewart, Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, Bobcat Goldthwait, David Cross, David Mamet, Lisa Kudrow, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jim Gaffigan, Dave Chappelle, Conan O’Brien, Gilbert Gottfried, Kevin Nealon, Denis Leary, David Duchovny, Patton Oswalt, Ben Stiller, Tom Kenny, Harry Shearer, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Goldblum, Paul F. Tompkins, Margaret Cho, Mitch Hedberg, Wanda Sykes, Catherine O’Hara, Whoopi Goldberg, and Winona Ryder.

The show was well-regarded among comedy fans and critical circles alike, earning an Emmy and a Peabody award during its run. It also earned Katz quite a bit of success; as he tells the AV Club, “the popularity of Dr. Katz won me the audience I’d been coveting all those years.” But the real measure of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist‘s legacy comes from the unmistakable DNA transfusion you can see in tons of contemporary television thereafter — and not just in the world of animation. Pull up a couch: Here are the many ways Dr. Katz influenced TV today.

Television