For the comedian behind ‘Dr. Katz,’ the live Philly show is a family affair

Most people come to Philadelphia for the history or the food, but not comedian Jonathan Katz -- cocreator and star of Comedy Central’s classic animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist -- who doesn’t want to see the Liberty Bell “until they repair it.”

For Katz, the main attraction to the City of Brotherly Love is his family. Both of Katz's daughters live in Philly. “And I have two grandchildren, one who works on Wall Street and — no, no, my grandchildren don’t have jobs. They’re little,” says Katz, 70, a Newton, Mass., resident by way of New York City.

 Katz will be at Punch Line Philly on Sunday for LaughWell with Dr. Katz Live. The event will be a fund-raiser for ArtWell, a local nonprofit arts-education organization where Katz’s daughter, Julia Katz Terry, works as program director. (Katz’s other daughter, Miranda, works as an apprentice at the Arden.)

“She’s just a little kid. … No, I’m kidding. She’s actually 34,” Katz says of daughter Julia, who created ArtWell’s Art of Growing Up, a program that focuses on children's transition to adulthood. “In my act, [Julia] was 6 years old for about 15 years. I have so many jokes about her.”

LaughWell will re-create the beloved Dr. Katz series, which ran from 1995 to 2002, as a live show, with Katz's falling back into the show’s titular role. Like the animated series, the live show will feature celebrity “patients” — comedians David Feldman, Janelle James, and Bonnie McFarlane are scheduled to sit down on Dr. Katz’s couch in Philly. Musical performances will come from area acts Rumi Kitchen and Johnny Showcase.

Katz — who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996 and uses a cane and a motorized scooter — has been performing a version of the live Dr. Katz show since about 2014, and he says the version coming to Philly is “a more elegant form” than the original. Either way, it makes the doctor laugh.

“The audience loves it when I’m laughing on stage,” Katz says. “Just like the TV show. I get to go to work and laugh. Not a bad gig.”

Despite the live Dr. Katz shows, Katz insists that folks not get worked up about a reboot of the animated series: Comedy Central owns the copyright. Katz says a new audio-only version of the show, however, will appear online this year, dubbed Dr. Katz: The Audio Files – a fitting title for Katz, a self-described audiophile who has been recording everything he could ever since his father brought home a reel-to-reel tape recorder when Katz was a child. “That’s only since I was about 8 years old,” he says. “I’m 70 now. My daughters' lives are either on videotape or audiotape, and they resent it.”

Aside from the show and seeing his family, Katz says, he is looking forward to a couple of things when he comes to town: pawn shops and rowing, “just like everybody else.”

“I want to go to pawn shops because where I live in Massachusetts, they don’t have pawn shops,” the comedian says. “And I’m not crazy about the outdoors, but I would consider rowing, if the weather was nice.”

In addition to his LaughWell appearance, Katz can be heard on podcasts such as his own Hey, We’re Back program and Tom Snyder’s Explosion Bus. Katz will also appear this summer in director/writer Phil Allocco’s The Truth About Lies, but to hear the comedian tell it, he has a lot of additional projects going on -- just not under his own name.

“I also do all these action movies where I play Tom Cruise,” Katz jokes. “I am so full of" nonesense.


LaughWell with Dr. Katz Live, Punch Line Philly, 33 E. Laurel St. $35-$85, 215-386-7705, theartwell.org.