Comedian Jonathan Katz's dry, pensive delivery and keen observations on interpersonal relationships provided the fodder for one of the best animated comedies of the 1990s: the Emmy-winning "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist" (Comedy Central 1995-2002). Katz provided the voice of the titular character, a psychotherapist surrounded by offbeat patients, and improvised much of the dialogue with a star-studded list of guest performers. The success of "Dr. Katz" led to acting, writing and producing jobs for other shows and film, but at the height of his popularity, Katz was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Though the illness impaired his mobility, it appeared to have no effect on his talent and productivity, which soon included numerous voice-over roles and a new web series, "Explosion Bus" (2012- ). Katz's wry humor and gift for understated comic situations made him a popular multi-hyphenate for over two decades.
Born Jonathan Paul Katz in New York City on December 1, 1946, he attended Goddard College with playwright David Mamet, with whom he would collaborate on several later projects, including the script for "House of Games" (1987). Katz began his entertainment career as a musician and songwriter with an R&B group called "Katz and Jammers" before serving as the musical director for Robin Williams' stand-up tour in 1979. Two years later, he made his own debut as a comic at New York's Improv and quickly vaulted to national attention thanks to appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC 1982-1993) and other talk shows. His connection to Mamet provided him with his first film appearances in the writer-director's "Things Change" (1987) and "Homicide" (1991), but his true breakout project was "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist," an animated series about the title character (voiced by Katz) and the assorted eccentrics that orbited his life and practice. Largely improvised by its cast, which included comics Jon Benjamin and Laura Silverman, and a rotating list of guests that included Ray Romano, Steven Wright, Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, and Joan Rivers, the series drew critical praise and a substantial viewership, as well as a Primetime Emmy for Katz's voice-over work, until its conclusion in 2002.
While working on his eponymous series, Katz also provided a voice for another animated show, "Home Movies" (UPN/Adult Swim, 1999-2004), which was produced by "Dr. Katz" creator Tom Snyder, using his own cost-effective, low-key Squigglevision method and largely-improvised scripts. He continued to log screen time for Mamet in "The Spanish Prisoner" (1997) and "State and Main" (2000) while also writing and co-producing the short-lived sitcom "Raising Dad" (WB 2001-02). In the midst of this flurry of work, Katz was also contending with a serious medical condition: multiple sclerosis. He found himself struggling physically while working on the sitcom "Ink" (CBS 1996-97) and received the diagnosis shortly thereafter. After attempting to hide his illness for nearly a decade, Katz revealed the news in 2003. Though he required a motorized scooter or cane to get around, the illness had little effect on his career, which soon included voice-overs for series like the cult favorite "Adventure Time" (Cartoon Network 2010- ) and his own online animated show, "Explosion Bus" (2012- ).