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Sheryl Nields/August

Lisa Kudrow hurts patients more than she helps them on her new series, Web Therapy.

If you’d been a homeless teen, penned indelible folk ditties about malodorous felines, carried triplets for your brother and been a key ingredient in television’s most famous sextet ever, you’d probably need therapy. Emmy-winning actress Lisa Kudrow survived all that — or rather, her on-screen alter ego, Friends’ Phoebe Buffay, did — so it’s only appropriate that her latest project is Showtime’s subversively hilarious, improv-based comedy series Web Therapy, about Dr. Fiona Wallace, “the world’s worst therapist.” She chatted with American Way about the show.

American Way: Americans are obsessed with therapists on television. Why?
Lisa Kudrow: Ideally, in therapy, you’re unlocking mysteries buried deep inside of you. But if my character is your therapist, you’ll emerge more damaged. And hopefully the audience will laugh.

AW: She really is the world’s worst therapist.
LK: The basic premise was: What’s the worst service someone could offer over the Internet? The producers and I thought three-minute psychotherapy over the Internet would be good. Who has time for an hour on the couch anymore? Then we had to start asking, What kind of person would offer this kind of therapy? We decided she’s got to be the worst person in the world.

AW: Every episode, you get to riff with great actors and comedians “suffering” with their emotional issues.
LK: That’s the best part of doing the show, working with all of these old friends from [comedy troupe] the Groundlings and people like Jane Lynch, Alan Cumming, Steven Weber and Bob Balaban. The show started off as [short] webisodes, and friends would say, “Oh, I love the show. It’s so funny.” And I’d say, “Really? Wanna be in it?” [Laughs.] That’s how we got Meryl Streep.

AW: Friends was tightly scripted. Web Therapy is an improvised free-for-all.
LK: Yeah, we start with an outline and then make it up as we go along. It’s pure fun. We just take that initial idea, and I go at it with the guest star until we get to the funny as fast as we can.

AW: Improvisational comedy is no joke.
LK: It’s so much fun. The whole point of improv is, whatever someone says, they’re not wrong. I love that idea, and it’s a great way to work.

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