Review: Katherine Ryan @ the Dukes

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Canadian Katherine Ryan is undoubtedly one of the funniest performers currently on the British circuit and one of the leading lights of this generation of comedians. Her unique brand of pop culture observations and bold unapologetic musings on modern life make for a laugh-a-minute show. With boundless energy, razor sharp wit, and effortless presence, Ryan delivers an incredible set. She doesn’t drop a beat, her comic timing is flawless and her interaction with the audience feels natural rather than confrontational; she laughs with the audience rather than at them. Her performance is reminiscent of Joan Rivers in her prime, just with less Botox and hate.

Ryan reflects on her own reputation as a “nasty comedian”. She recounts a story where she shared a venue with Peter Andre and the staff ensured she didn’t have any Andre related material (if she did, she’d have saved it for that night). A similar incident occurred before a panel show where she teamed with N-Dubz singer Tulisa. It’s evident to see where this reputation comes from: she is unforgiving in her jokes, no ground given in her assault on the failings of pop culture. But in the same nature of Britain’s best comedians the tone of her delivery, and her affable nature blunts the razor sharp edge of her comedy.

There’s an undoubted feminist undercurrent to Ryan’s jokes, which makes her one of the few comedians currently around who raises serious questions of the audience in front of her.  Not in the Bono sense; she doesn’t shove her opinions down her throats, but with effortless and hilarious persuasiveness she brings a fresh and fascinating perspective on pop culture, the new religion in her eyes. She questions the sexualisation of One Direction members and considers the death of chivalry with regards to the horrific rape threats she received after she made a joke about Tulisa.

Despite her own conflict with Tulisa and her fans, she defends the N-Dubz singer to the death over the way the media treated her, putting that down to her class and gender, in a typical laugh-inducing manner. She takes a moment to welcome the younger audience members to the room, encouraging a round of applause to make them feel at home. When Ryan says “you’re with friends” it doesn’t feel insincere or ironic, you truly feel part of some inner circle. She empowers the women in the audience, reminding them that if they can leave an arsehole if they want and that if even Beyoncé can be cheated on then anyone can.

A key part of Ryan’s jokes is that they stick to the golden rule of comedy: all the jokes are aimed upwards. She criticises the media and the institutions that treat people (be it celebrities, or even herself) unfairly.

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