Jonathan Katz [Interview]

Photo by Michael Fein

 

Hello Folks! And welcome to 2021! Isn’t it great that everything is all better now?! Phew, what a relief! Just kidding, we are still living in a tunnel of misery, but the remote possibility of an end is (sort of) insight. Anyway, let’s kick this year off with an even more special than normal version of our signature interviews here at Trainwreck’d Society. I am really, really, excited for this one, Folks.

To kick off the year, we have some amazing words from the absolutely brilliant man and a legendary figure in the world of comedy. It’s Jonathan Katz, Everyone! If you’re a 90’s kid who grew up on mid to late 90’s Comedy Central (which sounds specific, but oddly I believe there are a lot of you out there), then you will definitely recognize Jonathan as the one and only, Dr. Katz. This was such an ideal show for me growing up. I knew a little bit about stand up comedy at that age. But, I was more on a level, say around 96 or 97, where I was wondering why all the comedians didn’t smash fruit with a mallet as a finale? But, through Dr. Katz, I discovered that what was happening was essentially just a few minutes of stand up, infused with a story line and additional characters. It was revolutionary to me at the time, and still holds as one of the greatest achievements in comedy history.

Basically, Dr. Katz started it all for me just over 20 years ago. I’ve stated my love on this site regarding past guests for pre-South Park Comedy Central, that held so many gems but didn’t really catch a ton of attention until South Park, and later The Chappelle Show. Don’t get me wrong, these shows are classics. But I, being the unknowing hipster that I am, was well into the channel before Viacom realized they have a sound investment on their hands.

Of course, I am rambling on about one single facet of the 40 year career of Jonathan Katz, a man who has an illustrious career both on and off of television. In fact, Dr. Katz has been turned into a wonderful Audible Original series, and he even has bigger plans in the near future. Jonathan was kind enough to take some time out if isolated yet busy schedule to share a few words with us below about how he got into comedy, the legend of Dr. Katz, and what the future holds for him. We are honored to have Jonathan with us to kick off the new year.

So, without any further babbling, please enjoy these amazing words from the brilliant Jonathan Katz!

 

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What initially drew you into the world of comedy? Was it something you were passionate about from your youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I guess I discovered as a kid that I had a talent for making people laugh.  Before comedy I was drawn to the world of music. While I was living in Chicago, I met a Japanese jazz singer, named Debie Sabusawa and we formed an act called Sabusawa and Katz. I was Katz. In the late 70s, I formed a band in NYC called Katz and Jammers. I was Katz. That led to working as Robin Williams musical director and then, ultimately, to stand-up comedy.

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work to date?

I performed in a red-neck part of Connecticut. The  crowd consisted of a softball team that had just been defeated and they were very drunk. They hated me and after a few minutes the owner of the club came on stage, he took the mic out of my hand and said “You have no business being on stage you. You should get a job in factory” I said, “Wait! I have the administrative skills.”  What did I learn? My comedy is an acquired taste and not everyone has acquired it by the time they get to the club.

With close to 40 years of experience in the world of comedy, and the advancements in technology since you first began, there are clear and obvious differences in the way that comedy is produced and consumed. With that in mind, I am curious to know what aspects of the world of comedy have actually remained the same since you first began? At its core, what do you feel are some applicable characteristics in 2020 that were similar to 1981?

My comedy has always thrived on long pauses and well-crafted jokes. The only thing that has changed is that I’ve gotten better at it.

In my early days and for years, almost my entire act was pre-recorded. I held a guitar in my hands but I wasn’t playing it. The guitar had a tape-recorder built in which could play back on cue.  In fact,.  So the use of technology has always played a part in my act and I still love the challenge of combining comedy and technology.  Right now, I’m doing it on a much larger scale, performing virtually during this pandemic.

I grew up loving Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist on Comedy Central, and it remains one of my all time favorites. I am curious to know what it was like to develop this genius show? Where does an idea like the premise of the show come from? And what would you personally believe to be the ultimate legacy of the series?

Dr. Katz had two creators: Tom Snyder and myself. When we met I had been doing stand-up for 15 years. Tom had built a very successful educational software company.  We had very different skill sets but we both loved comedy. We did several projects together but Dr. Katz was the one with “traction.”

The part of the show that Tom and I liked best was the relationships between Ben, Dr. Katz, and Laura.

 

 

Back when we were allowed to leave our homes, you performed your genius comedy all across the globe. I always like to ask comedians about some of the more interesting rooms or locations that they have worked. Especially within the “fly over states”. So, what are some of the unique places that you have done comedy in? And what are some places that were incredible that most people may not realize are great to do comedy at? 

My favorite place to perform was at Catch a Rising Star in Cambridge, MA – great crowds. The Improv in NYC, where I cut my comedy teeth and learned how important it was to connect with the other comics. Their acceptance meant so much to me. It’s like being part of a club. One of my best night in comedy was opening for the legendary jazz singer and pianist, the late Mose Allison, at the Bitter End in NYC. That club had such an amazing history, with incredible musicians and comedians passing through. It was great feeling like I was a part of that.

In contrast – sometimes I’d be doing a one-nighter in a remote Mid-West town and it felt like I was wearing a Tutu in front of a bunch of pirates — I just wasn’t who they had in mind.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? 

I’m looking forward to the vaccine.  In the meantime, I’m working on a new virtual show being streamed by a company called RushTix. This will be the “home version” of Dr. Katz Live.  All my patients and I will be performing in our own homes. Laura and Ben will be part of it and I’ll probably have 4 or 5 patients — TBA.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

A video of my 29 year-old daughter that cracks me up every time I see it. I watch it at least once a day.

 

Be sure to check out Dr. Katz: The Audio Files, only at Audible! And stay in touch with everything that Jonathan has going on a jonathankatz.com.

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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