Whether ripping into celebrity culture or agonizing over her own fading Canadian identity, Katherine Ryan is never afraid to shock – or delight.

In September Katherine Ryan is due back in Canada to speak at her sister’s wedding. Most people would fret about such duties in private, but most people aren’t stand-up comedians.

Before she gets on the plane, Ryan has a show to do on the Fringe, and she will be angsting in public about how unCanadian she has become.

“My sister used to be my very best friend,” she explains, “and I’ve noticed that I don’t know her any more. So I’ve really had to look back on the experiences I’ve had over here and what I experienced growing up. I talk a lot about who I’ve become.”

Who Ryan has become is a member of a sorority of stand-ups, and an acidic commentator on celebrity culture, especially where it intersects with gender issues. On Live at the Apollo she did a hilarious spoof of Beyoncé’s wide-thighed power dance. For Comic Relief she donned an hourglass body suit for a merciless take-off of Nicki Minaj’s enhanced curves. Does she ever mind that her targets may get the hump?

“I do worry about hurting their feelings. I know these people are human beings, just barely, and my rule, which lets me sleep at night, is that you always punch up.”

The new show is called Kathbum, which is also Ryan’s Twitter handle. “When I first got Twitter I didn’t really understand that whatever you chose would be with you forever, but that’s what my family called me growing up. It’s a little comfort blanket for me.”

Ryan came to the UK eight years ago, armed with a degree in urban planning that she had no intention of using. Now 32, she is a panel show regular and a must-see on the live circuit. Although her mother took part in her first Fringe show (“It was a really weird show. Reviewers hated it”), her family – and indeed her entire country of origin – is not really aware of what she’s doing.

“People from my home town just think I died. I grew up in such an isolated environment, but a lot of the mentality there is that they have no idea what I’m up to, and they don’t care.”

This is said for laughs, but also with feeling. Ryan owes Canada too. She acquired the confidence to perform in, of all the radically unfeminist places, the Toronto branch of Hooters. “What I learned there is just that having a voice was something that the customers were really attracted to.”

So are we done talking about women in comedy? “There will be Neanderthals who still question whether women can be funny or not. And the same goes for trolls on Twitter. They’re not well. It’ll always be a football team profile picture and they’ll follow porn stars and UKIP. If there’s anyone reading who needs special help, yes woman are funny, and I care about you, too.”

Where & When
Kathbum, The Stand, 6-22 August (not 17), 16.25pm, £12 Tel: 0131 558 7272

Words: Jasper Rees  Photography: Idil Sukan

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