Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Entertaining Digression with Dr. Katz

To Interview Jonathan Katz is to be caught in a constant series of entertaining digressions. He’s often trying out new material, which would be irritating from some comedians, but not from Katz. Somehow, the conversation becomes the set-up, he tees off, and moves on. And his poker-faced delivery (even over the phone) never gives you the impression that he’s “on.” Which are, of course, the qualities that made him such a great foil, and made his Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist such a great show.

I originally called Katz, who still lives in Newton, to talk about The Best of Dr. Katz, which Comedy Central released in December. He offered this, within the first couple of minutes:

“This is my marital advice tip of the day. You’re married right? Don’t ever compare your marriage to life in prison. Because I said to my wife, you know the biggest difference between marriage and life in prison? Conjugal visits. It’s not a bad joke, but she’s the wrong audience.”

We went from that into talking about Katz’s new venture, the nation’s first therapy-based theme park, called “Happy Acres,” in western Massachusetts. Again, there is no clue, other than the outright preposterousness of the premise, that he is joking.

“The big attraction is going to be a ride called ‘The Great Depression,’” he says. “It’s a place where you can go with your shrink, just to have a good time, really. To see the other side of life in therapy. There’s of course the Emotional Roller Coaster. There’s the Tunnel of Self-Loathing. What else? We have the Haunted By Your Past House. If you spend a day at a theme park, eventually you get hungry. And there’s a snack bar there called Munchausen’s.”

Here’s a little video peek at Happy Acres, recently posted on YouTube:

We did eventually wind up talking about the DVD and Dr. Katz. In December, Katz did another “Dr. Katz: Live!” show, similar to one he did at the Somerville Theatre last year. “I like doing it,” he says. “It keeps changing forms, which is interesting. It’s gone from a vehicle for me, similar to the show, me usuing the stand-up comedy of my patients as a therapist, to the most theatrical version, which is what Tom and I did in Somerville, where he plays my therapist and I get the chance to be an asshole, too.”

The new DVD features a lot of great comics, with a lot of comedians with Boston connections – Louis C.K., David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, Conan O’Brien, and Denis Leary. But the roster is not complete, according to Katz. “Two things about that list – it doesn’t include Dom Irrera, who is my favorite,” he says. “The other thing is, I was reminded how funny Julia Louis-Dreyfus was. Because she was pregnant at the time I recorded her, she was on a speaker phone. And she was very funny. Unless it’s me I’m thinking of.”

The new compilation was Comedy Central’s idea, not Katz’s, but he did get a chance to show off some scenes with Laura Silverman and H. Jon Benjamin, which were muc more at the core of the show than the comedian therapy sessions. And compilations may help him as he continues to pursue “Dr. Katz: Live.”

“I think the hardcore Dr. Katz fan is somebody who owns the boxed set, but I guess it’s a good reminder to people,” he says. “To the press, it’s a good reminder.”

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