Wealthy people are nothing special – at least according to Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan who met plenty of them when hosting her successful TV show How’d You Get So Rich? earlier this year.
“When you look across your block of flats to these mansions and you think ‘oh gosh they must be special and smart’, but the thing is, they’re not special”
“When you look across your block of flats to these mansions and you think ‘oh gosh they must be special and smart’, but the thing is, they’re not special,” Ryan remarks. “They have a very strong work ethic and they take risks, but they aren’t that different to you or to me. A certain level of self-belief and commitment to your goal will take you a very long way.”
Self-belief and hard work has certainly been key to Ryan’s own success. Born in a small town in Ontario, Ryan escaped to the University of Toronto at the age of 18 where she balanced studying for her city planning degree, waitressing at Hooters and experimenting with comedy at open mic nights. However, it was a move to London with her former boyfriend, followed by success at the city’s comedy clubs and the birth of her daughter Violet that propelled Ryan to become a full-time comedian.
Blonde-haired, blue-eyed and impeccably dressed, Ryan has a ‘wholesome female’ appearance that contrasts heavily with the acerbic one-liners and waspish take-downs inspired by comedians like the late Joan Rivers, Louis C.K and Johnny Carson. However, this is exactly what has made her so popular in her adopted country.
Since her TV debut on Channel 4’s 8 out of 10 Cats in 2012, Ryan has quickly grown her profile in the UK by acting in sitcoms like Badults, Episodes and Campus, and appearing on shows like The Last Leg, Travel Man, The Big Fat Quiz of Everything 2016, Taskmaster, Fake News, Would I Lie to You, and more. Frequent stints as a panellist on the likes of QI, Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week show that Ryan isn’t shy about asserting herself in the traditionally male-dominated comedy world.
Testament to her success, Ryan’s first-ever UK tour, Glam Role Model, was extended several times to meet high ticket demand and was swiftly followed by Kathbum, which had two sell-out nationwide UK tours and runs at the Edinburgh Festival, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival. In February 2017, her stand-up got a global platform when she became the second British-based comedian to have a Netflix Original Comedy Special – In Trouble – released in 190 countries. Ryan even performed a short set on The Conan O’Brien Show to publicise the special in the US.
Say what you like about her style of comedy, but it’s clear that Ryan’s nowhere near done with her welcome assault on the UK’s comedy scene.
“I do a lot because I’m a very gamey person, so as soon as anyone asks me something ridiculous like ‘do you want to dance on this special charity show?’ I’ll say yes,” says Ryan. “It’s not because I say yes to everything, just that I love to do different things and I have a very fun job.”
When she’s not working, Ryan spends as much time as possible doing ‘absolutely nothing’ with her eight-year-old daughter Violet. “In Japan, they talk about ‘ma’, the space in between clapping that’s emptiness,” she says. “It’s important in life to have some nothingness and that’s what I need to have when I’m not working.”
It was Ryan’s tight bond with Violet, her daughter’s desire for a glittery bedroom and the reluctance of the tradesmen who came to decorate it that inspired her defiant new 2017-2018 tour, Glitter Room.
“It’s about this little thing that Violet said that encapsulates how charmed my life is now,” Ryan explains. “I bought a flat, which is quiet and peaceful and clean and floral and we have these tiny little dogs: everything is a warning for a man to stay away. The other day Violet said [adopts well-spoken English accent] ‘mummy, if you need me I’ll be watching Mean Girls in the glitter room’. I have this life that I never pictured for myself. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Canada and thought I would have a normal family life: instead I have a glitter room.”
Set to be an unapologetic celebration of Ryan’s career trajectory and her journey as a single parent in a still largely patriarchal world, Glitter Room will also hit on some universal truths.
“Whenever you try to broaden your audience with something like a Netflix special, you have to talk about themes that are relatable to others,” she explains. “So this show is a lot more universal, about my life as a single mum and as a woman in this century who is questioning what kind of life I need to have.”
Just as her previous stand-up sets were crammed with hilariously savage take-downs of celebrities like Cheryl Tweedy, Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj, Glitter Room will also feature Ryan’s whip-smart analysis of modern celebrity culture. However, it’s the concept of fame and the ways people attain it that are the intended target of her sharp tongue, not the celebrities themselves.
“I do love a comedy roast – it’s a language that people in comedy can understand, but some of my old stuff was heard by the celebrities that I was talking about and I don’t want to hurt anyone,” comments Ryan. “It turns out I do actually have a conscience! Comedians can be provocative, but I know that they don’t want to hurt people, they’re just trying to make things lighter and funnier. I will still talk about the Kardashians, but in a less negative way. Maybe I’m just getting wiser.”
First performed at Caroline’s on Broadway in New York this June, Glitter Room had a six-date run at Montréal’s 2017 Just For Laughs Festival this July and looks set to continue its success as Ryan heads to theatres across the UK.
“I’m excited to be touring again,” says Ryan. “People ask me if TV or touring is more important and I just think that you can’t have one without the other. Comedy is a conversation and it’s good to see other towns on a tour. I just hope that people like me and don’t get sick of me for a few more years.”
Katherine Ryan’s Glitter Room tour hits Leicester’s De Montfort Hall on 22 February 2018.