BOROUGHWIDE — Monsters are normally depicted lurking in the shadows, waiting under the bed or finding creative new ways to menace their would-be victims. But did you ever stop to wonder what characters like the Headless Horseman, Frankenstein and Medusa get up to when they’re not working? Or how inspiring so much terror in others might affect their mental and emotional health?
In “You’re Not a Monster,” streaming now on IMDb, former “Colbert Report” writer and Brooklyn-based monster expert Frank Lesser explores the tender side of these terrifying characters as they work through their hang-ups and neuroses with reluctant para-therapist Max Seward (Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family”).
Kelsey Grammer is once again reprising his role as therapist, this time as a vampire on the cusp of retirement who’s handing the practice off to his great-great-grandson Max. The 14 five-minute episodes also feature Aparna Nancherla as a sex demon receptionist, Amy Sedaris as Medusa, Paul Danilo as one of the snakes in Medusa’s hair, and voice performances from Ellie Kemper, Patton Oswalt, Joel Kim Booster and others.
Lesser says his monster fascination started as a kid growing up in Bexley, Ohio, the same town that produced famed children’s horror writer R.L. Stine.
“It seems like a peaceful, idyllic suburb, but for some reason I think anyone who’s there is like, what is the deep dark secret?” Lesser said.
Now as an adult, Lesser is quick to sign up for a ghost tour and has tagged along with Bigfoot hunters on deep woods expeditions. In 2011, he published “Sad Monsters,” a book that probed the inner lives of mummies, zombies, gorgons and more.
“You’re Not a Monster” takes that premise a step further, giving these familiar characters the therapeutic help they’d clearly need if they were real. In the series, a mermaid has to learn to live with her half-body issues. The invisible man teaches his therapist not to focus on appearances. Medusa and the Headless Horseman find love.
Lesser says he workshopped these scenarios with his own therapist, who loves the show. He hopes that, even though the characters are non-humans, audiences will be able to relate.
“There is something to the idea that no matter how monstrous you think someone is, they’re all still people,” said Lesser. “They might be awful people, but they’re still people.”