Where to start with Canadian Comedian Katherine Ryan, whom I first discovered via this very website? Well, you would have seen the native Ontarian on 8 out of 10 Cats, Campus, Mock The Week, NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Episodes. You may have been lucky enough to go to one of her stand-up shows, which I sadly haven’t had the chance to see yet.
But her volume of work speaks for itself. A truly international comedian, having appeared on red carpets, at the Playboy Mansion, comedy clubs in The US, The UK and Canada. She also has a very keen interest in Genetics, and having bravely battled two bouts of skin cancer developed an 8-part webseries about her own genome with the Wellcome Trust.
Ryan was deemed the UK’s funniest woman in 2008 by Nivea, and last year, her sellout Fringe Show Little Miss Conception proved to be a massive hit- her seemingly innocent presence hides a twisted, black soul- and that’s a complement! Her comic stylings are sick, shocking and in bad taste… and you’d be hard pressed to find a funnier stand-up set based on her online offerings. Ryan was kind enough to take up some time to talk about her career, her comedic methods, and her general thoughts on the world of comedy.
So, Katherine, what brought a Canuck like yourself to the land of your former colonial masters?
My boyfriend wanted to come so I followed. VERY boring, but I’d made a deal with myself that I’d try it for a month…then another month…then another. That boyfriend is gone but London remained.
I was reading a piece in Judd Apatow’s issue of Vanity Fair, where there was a piece on the fact there is no distinct Canadian sense of humour, despite the fact some of the best US comics are Canadians (Martin Short, Dan Akroyd, Rick Moranis, John Candy, etc.) Do you agree with this statement?
There is no distinct Canadian sense of humour? You’ve really done your homework; I hadn’t read this. I mean…I’d say Canadian humour is a mixture of West Coast American, East Coast American and British. We’re a bit (sorry) smarter than your everyday American, but we’ve got to play those horrendous rural clubs to survive. In my opinion, successful Canadian comics are strong because they’ve had to fight HARD for their place, and have enjoyed the luxury of developing a unique voice because in Canada, nobody’s watching.
Who were your comedic influences growing up?
As a child, I thought I would marry Adam Sandler. As an adult, I see that his stuff is written for children. What a perv. I liked Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Bette Midler, and watched lots of SNL.
What are you trying to achieve with your stand-up? Do you see it as a form of therapy? Are you purely trying to make people laugh, or provoke them?
I like to find the positive aspect of whatever. My aim is to celebrate! Celebrate life, celebrate relationships, celebrate everything. I think you can be honest and still have fun. I want my audience to go away feeling like they can seek out the good in whatever they’re facing.
Have you found that dramatic events in your life, such as battling cancer and having a child have affected your material, or have you tried to steer clear of them?
My child is the funniest person I know. And being a mum isn’t about just parenting, it’s also about taking a clearer look at humanity. She has definitely affected my material for the better. And cancer was funny to me because it’s in my nature to find the good. Cancer unites us because it affects us all. Why shouldn’t we joke about it?
However rude, do you have a favourite joke you’d care to share with us?
My 3 year old said to me, ‘What are two things you’d NEEEEVER have for breakfast?……give up?…….LUNCH AND DINNER!!’ then rolled around the floor with laughter. That was a f**king good gag.
What are your thoughts on the state of American and British comedy today, on stage, online and on screen?
I love New York comedy cause it’s ‘F**K YOU’ while Los Angeles comedy seems more ‘F**k Me. ME ME ME ME ME….’ British comedy is the most clever in the world and British comedy actors are definitely taking over the silver screen. I’m British really. A British mum, but with a monkey upbringing and a weird accent.
After your work on Campus, have you thought about trying some fiction work, like a TV show or a film?
Yes, I’m writing a TV series about my experience opening the first Hooters restaurant in the UK
What advice, if any, would you have for aspiring comedians?
DO NOT TAKE ADVICE.
So, what’s next for you? When can we see you again, be it on tour or on our TV screens?
I hope to do more topical news panel shows this year. I’m also working on a few new projects of my own. Most have to do with empowering young women which doesn’t sound funny, but trust me, it will be.
This article was first posted on January 13, 2013