Comic Candy: London Calling talks to comedian Katherine Ryan on the eve of her new UK tour

Image © Katherine Ryan via Facebook

London Calling talks to comedian Katherine Ryan on the eve of her new UK tour

I think audiences need a positive voice. You don’t want to leave a comedy show even lower than when you came in. I think you can look at anything in life and give it a positive angle. And that’s what Nature’s Candy is about.

London Calling: Your tour kicks off in London at the Soho Theatre. Are you looking forward to performing there again?

Katherine Ryan: I’ve seen loads of shows there and I’ve performed there. I did my Edinburgh show there, which was called Little Miss Conception, about a year and a half ago, and that was lovely. I’ve been to see Rob Delaney at the Soho Theatre, and I took part in their compilation shows. What’s so great about them, is even when I was just starting out, competing with new acts, they’re really good at nurturing new talent. The UK just smashes it for that. There are so many more opportunities than in Canada.

LC: Is that what brought you over to the UK?

KR: There was an exodus of comedians from Canada. I had a partner at the time, who had been doing comedy for about 10 years in Canada, so he knew the rats were leaving the sinking ship. I had just just just started but I was also finishing university and was working at Hooters. And I thought: oh, I love Hooters. I was a corporate trainer for them, I travelled all over the world, opening new Hooters, training new girls, so I always had this relationship where the girls respected me but got along with me - but also feared me in a way - I was a perfect Hooters trainer.

I thought, ‘this is my calling! I’m going to open my own Hooters’. But then my partner was like ‘no, we gotta move to London.’

He was one of those guys that talks a lot … but then doesn’t follow through, so I thought: this was another example of that happening. And he went and got a flat and got everything set up and said ‘we’re going, we’re going’. And I didn’t want to come, I had to leave my job, it was really traumatic, and I said I’d try it, maybe for a month, and that’s always what I’d say.

I’d say I’d not properly moved here then, and then I very slowly started falling out of love with him and in love with London.

LC: Is there a particular theme to the new show?

KR: It’s called Nature’s Candy. When I was thinking of a name to call my first Edinburgh show, I was on the phone with my ‘best gay’, he’s from Canada and is called Andrew Johnson - he is one of the only progressive comedy producers that I know here - and he said I should call it Nature’s Candy … cus basically that’s fruit. We have a similarity in our styles … he’s super fruity... and with me, my comedy has been described as ‘difficult’.

LC: One review we spotted described your comedy as ‘warped’ and ‘dark,’ but in a good way.

KR: Life can be really warped and dark, but my whole outlook is tirelessly positive. And I’ve been through a lot in the last four years - like splitting from my partner and raising Violet on my own, being in a foreign country - but I never gripe about that.

I think a lot of comedy is ‘urgggh look at my life’, but I don’t look at it as a negative. I think audiences need a positive voice. You don’t want to leave a comedy show even lower than when you came in. I think you can look at anything in life and give it a positive angle. And that’s what Nature’s Candy is about.

LC: When did you realise you wanted to be a comic?

KR: A lot of it was accidental and gradual. When I was a little girl I grew up with two sisters and learned the value of humour. You can get away with being a little naughty if it’s funny. Like my mom would turn away and laugh as she was telling me off, and I knew I wasn’t really in trouble, and so I was always playing to the adults, not the kids.

I was a huge outcast at school for a while. I wasn’t a class clown, but I was hugely misplaced. If my mom thought I was funny I could get away with anything.

I covered this in my first show - but I’ll tell you about it. My mom put me in a baby beauty pageant. There was a lot of that. A lot of musical theatre, and tap and ballet, and gymnastics and piano and singing.

We were always overscheduled when we were young, we were always performing. I’m not really sure if it was because we liked it or because my mum liked it. Looking back, was she a pushy mom or was she a mom who nurtured what we had? The line’s a bit blurred

I was always saying the wrong thing, or coming out with something that wasn’t appropriate, and that was a hindrance. At Hooters again, it was a hindrance. I’d say something too far. One day, I wrote on the lunch board ‘club sandwiches, not seals’ and all these Canadian fishermen were in and they got really upset

I was always getting into trouble. And the owner was in - he was always yelling at the girls - and he shouted at me in front of the restaurant. And he said ‘you’re a freak, you’re a freak, you’re always doing this!’ and I looked at him, I thought I’m trying to be this Hooters girl, this presenter, this is not who I am.

I was so hurt that instead of crying, I marched next door to the comedy club. I’d thought about it a few times, and I sat there all day alone, in my Hooters uniform, just drinking all day, and they had an open mic night every Wednesday and I did five minutes of material. I thought ‘call me a freak, I’ll be a freak then’ and it was something I always wanted to do, and I just did it. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. I kept going back every Wednesday alone and I wouldn’t tell anyone.

And I loved it. It was really scary, and it was kinda awful at first, but it kinda clicked: I thought everyone’s a freak, if you’re in the wrong place. Y’know, we’re all misfits until we find the place we belong.

LC: How are you with the whole touring experience?

KR: To do a tour as a young mom, you have to get creative, you can’t be on the road until late, so the tour is designed around my daughter Violet, and it goes on until April 11. Three days on, three days off. She gets to glamorous locations like Portsmouth! She gets to come sometimes or gets to stay in London.

LC: You live in London now?

KR: I live in Crouch End. It’s amazing! It’s where I’ve lived for five years.

LC: What do you like to do in London?

KR: I do love Crouch End. When you’ve got a little village like that, you don’t need to leave that often. But Violet actually goes to a lot of theatre, I take her to loads children’s theatre in central London - she’s been to see Dora the Explorer, The Snowman, and The Gruffalo.

I’m from a town… the town that fun forgot, and I love raising a child in London, there’s so much theatre available, and we do a lot like that. On most days, we kick around Crouch End really. We go to the gym, the library. There’s a restaurant in Crouch End called the Titanic, and I love that. There’s loads of green space around here.

LC: You’ve not left Crouch End in five years have you!

KR: I know! Ha. Like I go to gigs… there’s Paradise in Kensal Rise, I love that. It’s a beautiful gothic building. My thing is not the nightlife. I don’t have a social life really. I just do daytime stuff. We go to cafes!

LC: With most theatre you get a lot of time to rehearse and practise on stage before you go out in front of an audience . Do you get time ‘in the space’ when you’re doing comedy? How does that work?

KR: I’m very much of the school of you just need a working microphone, and a light. I don’t need a tech rehearsal. I feel like that’s the best comedy. A lot of people are getting really creative - using all sort of mediums, and that’s great- but I think what if something goes wrong?

That’s what I like about comedy: it’s just a microphone and a light.

LC: Is this tour the first stepping-stone on a world domination plan?

KR: I have no plans for domination! I think I realised the meaning of life like super young: I think we are all just meant to be happy in our own little space and do something that makes us feel that we have a purpose. My main interest - would sound creepy coming from others - is the young girls. I’m very interested in the 14, 15, 16 year olds who follow me on twitter. I remember how hard it was to be that age.

And I really wanna give the freaks some encouragement, so positivity.

That’s what I want to do this year - I have a few projects coming out about all different things: health, wellness, and positivity. I just want to bring a bit of positivity to 2013.

Katherine Ryan started her tour on Wednesday 30th January - visit for tour dates or follow Katherine Ryan on Twitter for updates on the road

Interview by's editor-in-chief, Tom Hunter