Jake Massey

Interview: Katherine Ryan

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Katherine Ryan is on the fringes of stardom.

Take one look at her CV and it’s up there with the best. She won Funny Women 2008 – before the competition’s pay-to-play scandal – and Ryan’s TV credits stretch far and wide, from 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Mock The Week to Matt LeBlanc sitcom Episodes.

But it was the unnaturally large arse of an American pop star that propelled Ryan into the British public conscience. Last month she made the final of Let’s Dance for Sport Relief, a Comic Relief show that has helped raise the profiles of Russell Kane, Nick Helm and more in recent years. Her frankly tremendous rendition of Nicki Minaj’s Starships stuck, and fans have followed her on a debut national tour of the UK.

Ahead of shows across the north, Katherine chats with Jake Massey about her comedy, Minaj’s bum and the plural of moose.

JM: Hi Katherine. First up, how’s the tour going?

KR: It’s been really cold, on lots of delayed trains, getting in late at night, and I love it.

JM: Has your show evolved at all while you’ve been on the road?

KR: I think it has to or you get bored. The show is my favourite it’s ever been right now. I try to add some material specific to the city/town I’m in too to keep it fresh.

JM: Do you enjoy being on tour? Is it better or worse than playing the clubs?

KR: You walk on stage as a surprise in many clubs. A good surprise or a bad one. For the most part, the people who’ve come to see you on tour already know what you’re about; so they’re on board from the start. I’ve had great audiences and it’s been lovely to meet some of them and hear about their towns.

JM: You are one of many successful Canadian exports on the UK comedy circuit, which is quite surprising consider there’s not really a big comedy scene over there. Would you say that Canadians and British share a similar sense of humour?

KR: Yes and no. The Canadians who come to the UK are wonderful because they’ve had to fight for their place. You get the best. Don’t think there aren’t a thousand more terrible ones. We have to adapt a bit when we come here though. It’s fitting that Canadians would entertain you Brits. You own us, don’t you?

JM: What kind of person would you say your show is aimed at?

KR: I see myself as a ‘chick’s chick’ but there are always loads of men at my shows. I tend to notice big groups of lads, couples, older people – just like I see in clubs, but then also teenagers scattered all around. The teenagers are taking over my shows.

JM: Which comedians have had the biggest influence on you and your shows?

KR: Different comedians influence me every day. Everyone loves Louis CK. Stewart Francis is my fave, Sarah Millican is amazing, Lou Sanders, Joe Lycett, Sara Pascoe. I admire Jimmy Carr, Sean Lock & Jon Richardson and when they laugh at my stuff on 8 out of 10 Cats, it gives me the confidence to continue with the type of material that I believe in.

JM: What is the best advice you have ever received from a fellow performer?

KR: ‘Don’t take advice from fellow performers’.

JM: Is your growing notoriety in the UK having an impact across the Atlantic?

KR: Only with pirates. There’s a huge community of people who love British comedy panel shows. They download everything (illegally) because there’s really nothing like it in America.

JM: You recently performed Nicki Minaj’s Starships on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief – a nice change from stand-up? Did you have to eat differently to attain her figure? 

KR: The costume department performed miracles on Let’s Dance. I was so lucky to be allowed to do Nicki Minaj as it fits with my pop culture obsession. There was some feedback that the big bum was racist or mocking larger women!?! Um, Nicki Minaj has bum implants! It was my comment on an over-sexualised music industry and society in general.

JM: If you could take one thing from Canada across to Britain, what would it be?

KR: Dill Pickle Crisps. So good. They even make dill pickle-flavoured chicken wings now. And popcorn. I also love Caesars, which is a drink like a bloody Mary but with clam juice added. I’m all about food. 

JM: Your home country is known for its moose population. You don’t by any chance know what the plural is for moose? Is it mooses? Surely not, that doesn’t sound right, that’s why the plural for goose is geese, but the plural for moose definitely isn’t meese is it? Or is it just moose? Help please.

KR: When you see a moose, it’s always the last thing you see. We didn’t need a plural form.

JM: Finally, have you got any plans for once your tour is over? Anything exciting you can let us in on?

KR: YES! I’m doing loads of festivals this summer; Latitude, Bestival, Glastonbury…and I’m writing a comedy series for BBC. More panel shows hopefully, and I might even make it to Canada for some crisps…

Katherine Ryan is at the Durham Gala Theatre on Saturday 6 April, Leeds City Varieties on Sunday 7 April, and the Newcastle Stand on Tuesday 9 April. Click for Katherine Ryan tickets.