Interview: Katherine Ryan – ‘My face is beginning to annoy people’

The painfully honest Canadian-born, London-based comedian has hinted that she might be taking a break from touring soon. Her celebrity targets can breathe a huge sigh of relief

After observing her stage and small-screen work over the last few years, some critics have concluded that Katherine Ryan might well be the new Joan Rivers. ‘As in, am I going to die under the knife?’ is the typically frank retort which this London-based Canadian comic offers. The honest truth is that the late and effortlessly notorious Rivers is indeed one of Ryan’s idols and she doesn’t care who knows it.

‘I’ve always loved Joan Rivers; I used to stay up late on a Friday for my big treat and watch Letterman or Leno and I was into Joan, Bette Midler and all these great female comedians. I don’t agree with everything that Joan did or said, but it took a real tenacity to achieve all that as a single mum. She did a lot of great things in the industry and was confrontational but not just for the sake of it.’

While Rivers stayed in the public eye by growing old disgracefully, Ryan sees whole generations of women being sidelined and ignored at best, vilified and loathed at worst. It’s an area she touches on during her touring show, Kathbum. ‘My message is that you aren’t too young or too old for comedy that has an edge. Why shouldn’t nana hear about this stuff? She’s been knocking around long enough and she’ll be fine. I might say certain words, but I’m trying to be empowering and funny and I’m always so happy to see a mum and a dad and their teenager at my show. What’s the alternative? The kid is excluded, at home sitting in their room playing video games or logging into PS4 and being groomed. No thanks.’

A huge hit at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, Kathbum is further confirmation that Ryan is on a scintillatingly rich vein of form right now. The show features ruminations on our (and her) celebrity culture obsession (Taylor Swift, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Peter Andre all get it firmly in the neck) and more personal material such as the events surrounding her younger sister’s wedding last autumn back in their hometown of Sarnia. One thing you can be guaranteed with a Katherine Ryan show is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Well, sort of. ‘This show is pretty honest,’ she insists. ‘I might take some liberties, but comedians do the opposite from politicians. Politicians will tell little truths that if you see them written down in a newspaper seem to be true, but the bigger picture is an entire lie. Comedians will tell tiny lies while the big picture is hopefully more truthful.’

While Ryan has enjoyed taking Kathbum across the country, she suggests that a break from touring is on the cards. This is partly due to being a mother to six-year-old Violet and also to get more writing done as she aims to get two sitcoms off the ground. ‘One I’ve written is about Hooters and another one is about golf and being a single mum. Also, my face is beginning to annoy people, so I’m happy to work from home for a while and do some writing. I’d love to get a comedy series off the ground but I’d need to not be on tour to do that.’

For now, though, Katherine Ryan will be putting everything she’s got into Kathbum to make it a success, viewing the live circuit as a place to have total control on getting her ideas across. ‘Comedy is a conversation and you can’t do that on panel shows. You have to get out there and go on tour. It just makes you better as a comic.’

Katherine Ryan: Kathbum is touring until Thu 16 Jun.

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