Katherine Ryan doesn’t give a fuck. Or a shit. I know this because she told us more than once during her set, as another punchline tore through the room and registered on startled faces and in gasping gales of laughter, and I believed her.
It is not that this London based Canadian comic doesn’t care about anything – far from being a nihilist, she has points to make about things that matter, and there is a sunny disposition behind that whip-smart tongue – but she really doesn’t care what you think of what she has to say. Her forthright style and quick wit make Ryan a great TV panel show guest, so it is a treat to see her live, with a whole hour under her own spotlight.
The title of her current show is based on Ryan’s musings about glamour models; while this is a reasonably common subject at the moment, her exploration of it is interestingly skewed. Prompted by the experience of confronting a glamour model who had been sexting her young child’s father (who is, since said incident, very much an ex and fair game for a luxuriantly bitter character assessment), there is a potent personal element infusing the topic bare-all vulnerability and wicked relish. But this is then opened out into a general and more idealistic line of inquiry, in which she skilfully uses her status as a non-native to highlight the absurd glitch in UK culture that is Page Three.
Feminism is just one of many themes that Ryan unpicks with a mix of no-nonsense objectivity, infuriated fervour and ruthless gags. In a sense, the combination of personal and topical makes it classic stand-up, but Ryan is set apart by her lean, colourful language, fearless honesty and a naturally entertaining, show-off personality. A pop culture sponge, she lampoons herself along with the celebrities she loves. She intertwines the light and dark strands of modern life, discussing abortion, single parenthood, terrorists and class with cogency and passion, alongside joyfully executed caricatures and homages (check out her Beyonce on YouTube), so you lose track of which is the light and which the dark.
Exuding confidence and in complete control, even when she isn’t (“I am totally cool with uncomfortable silences; they’re probably my favourite thing”, she states, convincingly, when one joke meets a rare muted reception), Ryan is a refreshingly unsanitised and reassuringly substantial voice in a world of wishy-washy telly LOLs.