Katherine Ryan: 'It turns out I do actually have a conscience'

Katherine Ryan: 'It turns out I do actually have a conscience'

credit: Carla Guler

Canadian-born stand-up and TV star takes her latest show across the UK and wonders if it's time to go easy on those long-suffering celebrities

Katherine Ryan has appeared on everything from 8 out of 10 Cats to Let's Dance for Comic Relief, but getting back on the nation's stages is always important to her. Last year her stand-up appeared on Netflix, and in her new tour she talks about having a charmed life and why the Kardashians will always be important to her

You tour every year and are on TV a lot: do you ever want to have a big break?
I do a lot because I'm a very gamey person, so as soon as anyone offers me something ridiculous like 'do you want to dance on this special charity show?', I'll say yeah. I love to do different things and I have a very fun job. What I don't have is a social life, so friends will say 'let's go and do this or this or have a weekend away?' But if I'm not working, the key is to spend as much time as possible with my daughter Violet and just be home doing absolutely nothing. In Japan, there's this thing called 'ma', about the empty space in between two things. It's important in life to have nothingness and that's what I have when I'm not working.

The new show is called Glitter Room: what's that named after?
Glitter Room is about this little thing that Violet said which encapsulates how charmed my life is now. I bought a flat, everything in there is quiet and peaceful and clean and floral, and I have these tiny little dogs: everything is a warning for a man to stay away. Violet said [adopting 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 Irish Catholic and thought I would have a normal family life, and instead I have a glitter room which is a very girly place with glitter wallpaper because we don't have to modify our décor or behaviour to suit anyone else.

Most of your previous shows have been a mix of personal material and observations about our celebrity culture: will this have the same balance?
That balance will still be there, but I think I was a bit more negative before. I'm getting wiser like you hope to, and 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 trying to make things lighter and be funnier. Some of my old stuff was heard by the celebrities that I was talking about and, you know, I don't want to hurt anyone. People say to me, 'the Kardashians don't do anything, and nobody cares' but I've always been defiant that there are lessons to be learned. Plus Khloé got me through some very difficult times last year, so the Kardashians feel very relevant to me.

Are you disciplined when it comes to writing material?
My approach to writing is like Theresa May's approach to Brexit: let's get distracted for a while, let's go for a walk, let's call an election so we're super-busy for a while, let's spend some money and then suddenly it's five days to go before the negotiations. I'm always making notes in my phone or jotting things down that I think might turn into something, so I am thinking about it a lot, but I don't have office discipline. I wish I did, but for me it's about pulling it together quickly near the end. But I think you do get better if you force yourself to sit down and you might find that extra something in a joke if you stare at it. Joan Rivers had a Rolodex of jokes: you mustn't underestimate admin.

What do you envisage Violet wanting to do when she grows up? Could she follow in your comedic footsteps?
Obviously, the real answer is she can do whatever she wants, with the exception of Class A drugs. If she wanted to be a Tory MP I would support her. I did the exact opposite to my parents so maybe Violet will thrive with some sort of structure in her life and go the other way. If I suggest us doing something today she'd say 'mummy, I'd really like it if you put it on the whiteboard next time; I really need to know what's happening.'

Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room is on tour until Saturday 14 April.

Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room

  • 4 stars

Witty jokes and pop culture observations from the Canadian stand-up and TV star.

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