In Slate, Sam Anderson writes about one of my favorite comedy series, Dr. Katz.
The show emerged at the height of the Seinfeld era, when every standup comic was given a TV series along with a glass of water (a strategy that turned out some spectacular disasters). But Katz reversed this formula: Instead of building an entire series around one comedian, it stuffed as many comedians as possible into a single series. The show was an unabashed comedy parasite. This turned out to be a unique solution to TV writing’s chronic shortage of funny material, and it makes the DVD a kind of “Best of” anthology of mid-’90s standup. Roughly half of each episode consists of Dr. Katz’s so-called psychotherapy sessions, in which animated guest comedians, posing as patients, deliver their standup acts from the couch, complete with supplementary squiggly illustrations, while the doctor interjects serious hms and uh-huhs. The cartoon couch was admirably democratic: It cupped the wiggling animated buttocks of midrange working comics (Dom Irrera, Joy Behar) and big stars (David Duchovny, Julia Louis-Dreyfus) alike, and it made almost all of them seem funny. It was my first exposure to many big (or soon-to-be big) comedians: Jim Gaffigan, David Cross, Dave Chappelle, Mitch Hedberg (whose disjointed one-liners seemed to have been designed for the show).