Dr. Katz Professional Therapist is a very funny series that ran on Comedy Central from 1995 to 1999; however, it may best be known for its animation style known as “Squigglevision,” which series co-creator Tom Snyder invented. This form of computer animation looked very bizarre as all the outlines of animate figures undulated. It takes a few episodes to get used to, but the high comedy quotient makes it worthwhile.
Each episode has a similar formula that combines the professional and personal life of Dr. Katz. He usually saw two patients an episode, and the roster is an impressive who’s-who of comedic talent. They are mostly stand-up comedians whose therapy sessions are a combination of their routines and riffing with Dr. Katz. The roster included famous (Rodney Dangerfield, Garry Shandling, Joan Rivers), the soon-to-be famous (Ray Romano and future Comedy Central stars Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart), and cult comics (Dom Irerra, Judy Tenuta, and Mitch Hedberg). Occasionally, he has sessions with actors and writers like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, Ben Stiller, Carrie Fisher, David Mamet, and Harry Shearer.
While the series is a stand-up aficionado’s dream, the biggest laughs come from Dr. Katz’ personal life. Most storylines involve misadventures with his son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin), a twenty-something Gen-X slacker, and/or his mean and aloof secretary Laura (Laura Silverman, who appears on her sister's series, The Sarah Silverman Program), who both have an equal disdain for work. Ben can’t seem to find a job he is interested in. “Daredevil” isn’t listed in the want ads, and no one is looking for what he was good at as a child: wearing his father’s pants, pulled up over his head, and bumping into things. Laura doesn’t like the job she has even though she does whatever she pleases from taking days off to stealing office supplies. Ben at least makes an occasional effort, such as ordering two Vietnamese Pot Belly pigs for breeding, although he forgot to specify the sex, and starting a celebrity limo service even though he has no car or even a charge card to rent one. Ben is smitten with Laura, as he is every woman, and she could not be more obvious that she has no interest, yet he doesn’t take or seem to understand the word “No” as an answer. Dr. Katz also spends time at the local tavern with Stanley (Will Le Bow) and bartender Julie (Julianne Shapiro).
Before Larry David made the improvised sitcom vogue with Curb Your Enthusiasm, Katz and the gang had done the exact same thing years ago. The stories were only outlined and everyone contributed material, giving the scenes a loose, natural feel to them like when Dr. Katz and Ben shout things about having nothing of value before then proclaiming they are police officers with automatic weapons at what they think is someone trying to break into their home. The actors crack each other up, but it never ruins the context of scene. In the same episode, when discussing upgrading the security on their apartment, Dr. Katz suggests a lower peephole in the door because in every scary movie he's seen there’s been a midget that kills. Actor Benjamin understandably almost loses it as he is caught off guard.
After releasing the first two seasons individually in 2006, the decision was made to release all six seasons on a mammoth 13-disc collection, certain to annoy the serious fans who already committed. There are three “Lost” episodes from the final season that aired in Canada, but not the U.S. The bonus features from the first two releases are exactly the same: audio commentaries by Katz, Benjamin, Snyder, Romano, and Dave Attell, a bio of Dr. Katz, shorts from an old Comedy Central series called Short Attention Span Theatre, a Squigglevision short, and follow-up calls with patients Joy Behar, Emo Phillips, and Steven Wright. New features include a live stage performance of Dr. Katz from 2007 with patients Maria Bamford, Kathy Griffin, Andy Kindler, and Paul F. Tompkins. There are also a few shorts under the title “Why I Haven’t Been Coming To The Bar,” which are conversations between Dr. Katz, Julie, and Stanley, but they aren’t too funny.
Dr Katz Professional Therapist – The Complete Series, is expensive, but at roughly $10 or less a disc, the laugh-per-dollar ratio is very much in the buyer’s favor considering all the comedic talent involved. If not a must-have for you, it’s an absolute must-rent.
Dr. Katz and Ben discuss his looking for work: