Unless you’re a fan of British panel shows or caught Wednesday’s episode of Conan, you probably have no idea who comedian Katherine Ryan is. That’s all about to change. Her new stand-up special, In Trouble, is part of a plan initiated with British comic Jimmy Carr’s Funny Business last year, by which Netflix hopes to play to its increasingly global audience with more non-American comedy specials. As a result, American comedy fans now have the chance to enjoy the London-based Canadian performer’s brand of comedy, which is quite good.
Unlike Carr, however, Ryan’s style of stand-up may find a much stronger footing in the United States due to what she dubs her “monkey accent.” She sounds like an American, which her European fans treat as a novelty, but across the Atlantic that lack of novelty means Ryan must work even harder for her laughs. She does just that in In Trouble, channeling the likes of Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer and Ali Wong to make her listeners cackle about everything from her sister’s wedding to “Christmas dick.”
Congratulations on Conan.
Oh thank you. I was so nervous since I’ve never done anything in America before. I don’t know… I haven’t seen it yet, but I probably did okay.
Do you not watch or listen to yourself?
Definitely. I haven’t seen the special, and I didn’t see Conan. They sent me the link so I just tweeted it, but I haven’t clicked it yet. I feel like, I don’t know… I’m just not interested. I like to pretend I’m not actually up there doing stand-up. You can’t actually ever look at yourself from a third-party perspective. That’s really dangerous. Sure, watching yourself can be helpful if you can take notes to make yourself better that way, but I try not to do it as much as I can.
That’s interesting, especially since a lot of comics your age I’ve talked to make it a point to record themselves or watch previous sets to help improve them.
Well, I think it’s important to edit your set and make it the best that you can for your tour. But the way I do it, really, is I listen to the live audience responses while I’m on stage performing. So the Netflix special, In Trouble, I tweaked for nearly a year. There were bits people really didn’t laugh at, so unless I absolutely loved them — and I’ve kept bits in before that I loved even though they didn’t get as many laughs — I’d cut them. If people didn’t laugh, then that’s when you know you need to cut it out. You don’t have to watch it. Especially because you have such talented women, and men, dressing you and doing your makeup. If I watched myself on TV, I’d be really disappointed with the way I wake up in the morning. That’s who I really am.
You said doing Conan was the first time you’ve ever appeared on American television.
Yeah. It was so weird because I landed from London, and over there I have this “monkey accent” and they think I’m funny for it. Whenever I’m buying groceries, even, I just sound silly to them. We sound very silly to them — sorry to let you know. Well I needed to warm up for Conan, I needed some practice, so I went to the Comedy Store and did stand-up there. And it was kind of scary because all of a sudden I didn’t have this magic accent anymore. I sounded like everybody else, but everyone was so lovely! I love American audiences even though I have no experience with them. It is quite daunting, but it was great. I never imagined I would be a comedian, let alone performing comedy in America — let alone on TV in America.