FINDING the sweet centre in life’s bitterest moments, Canadian comedian KATHERINE RYAN has embarked her first solo tour. She tells CATRIONA REEVES why it’s better to be a smiler than a winger.
CATRIONA REEVES: You’re on telly quite a bit - both on comedy panel shows and as an actress - how are you feeling about going it alone on tour?
KATHERINE RYAN: I’ve opened for others on tour in the past, including [fellow Canadian] Stewart Francis, and have done two Edinburgh shows of my own. For this tour, I’ve taken the best bits of my Edinburgh shows and added some new material. This definitely feels different - I’m a bit nervous, but really excited.
I’ve been really lucky with the telly stuff. The heart of stand-up comedy is on the road, but TV gets people to come to your shows. I used to do shows where six people turned up, and live comedy does need an audience.
CR: How would you describe your comedy?
KR: My material is a bit quirky - I see myself as a bit of a misfit, and other misfits seem to commiserate with me. I’ve been asked if what I do is as a character, because I come across as a big sunshiny person on stage, but really it’s just an amplification of who I am now.
My comedy voice has got stronger as I’ve got older, and now I’m super comfortable with who I am. I’ve been in the UK for five years, and I’m a mum now, and that’s all added to who I am on stage.
Earlier on in my career, I’d go to auditions for TV panel shows and look around the room, and everyone would seem very different from me. I tried to adapt, to be more like them, but what I really needed to be doing was to be myself.
As I’ve grown more confident with that, I’ve been more successful, and now I notice the different when I watch old videos of my performance - it’s the same voice, but not as strong.
CR: How do you find being a female comic on the male-dominated stand up circuit?
The TV shows are probably an accurate representation of the circuit, where the ratio of male to female stand-ups is about 10 to one, although that is changing. The film Bridesmaids seems to have had an impact, and more younger girls are emerging.
There’s lots of female comedy role models already out there though - Miranda Hart, Jo Brand, and the writer Caitlin Moran - it’s not just about one type of comedy. It’s all about finding your own voice.
CR: What inspired you to become a stand-up comedian?
KR: I actually studied urban planning at university, but when I moved to Toronto, which is like the London of Canada, I knew that I wanted to work in entertainment. I tried presenting, and a bit of acting, but I didn’t feel like I fitted in. I like the power and control that being a stand-up gives me. I get to write my own material, hopefully saying something with a bit of purpose and making people think.
I’ve never been very good at working in groups; I like that as a stand-up, I’m entirely responsible for what I do.
CR: You say that your show, Nature’s Candy, aims to find the delicious and hilarious side to life’s blacker moments. You seem so cheery - has anything ever threatened to bring you down?
KR: I’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years; I split up with my daughter’s father and it wasn’t an amicable split - it was nasty. I’ve had health issues; and I’m a single mum in a foreign country. But I’m not a winger, and I like to find the positive in things, so the show basically celebrates that.
I’m a big fan of pop culture, so there’s a lot of that in there - Hollywood relationships and gossip magazine stuff. I like to laugh at it, but not in a mean way.
My comedy has been described as having dark edges, and that seems about right to me. I think it’s possible to find reasons to smile, but still have bite.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on February 7, 2013