Katherine Ryan: Little Miss Conception

This article is from 2011.

Katherine Ryan: Little Miss Conception

Canadian comedian's hits Edinburgh with show about crucial early years

Katherine Ryan dressed her sister up as Hitler and flirts with offensiveness on stage. The Canadian comic tells Brian Donaldson that she can justify every joke she’s told

As a little girl growing up in the Canadian smalltown of Sarnia (not a made-up place), Katherine Ryan’s parents put her forward into those pageants that only north Americans are capable of laying on. Yet even at an early age, Ryan showed a healthy aptitude for being a mite contrary. ‘In the talent round of my pageants, I’d do weird things that nobody understood,’ recalls Ryan with some relish. ‘I’d always want to sing a man’s song or do a funny sketch. One time, I dressed my sister up as Hitler for a school history project on the war. She was four years old and giving out these facts and I thought this was a very serious project. Well, the school counsellors were called in and asked what was going on. But I guess I always had this different way of presenting information.’

Ryan has taken a circuitous route to becoming a professional comic, having waitressed at Hooters, hung out at the Playboy Mansion, done a bit of presenting (‘I sometimes said things that weren’t appropriate’), had a cancer scare and given birth (her daughter is now two, but can be seen in an earlier, more unborn guise in mommy’s Fringe publicity shot).

Not long after her arrival on UK shores, she made it into the final of the Amused Moose competition (she came second behind Mike Wozniak) and won Funny Women (beating off the likes of Girl & Dean, Sara Pascoe and Pippa Evans on the night) with a stage presence that has her smiling sweetly while saying some dangerous things, including the odd gag about rape, race and anorexia. But don’t go calling her a shock comic.

‘I’d never say something that I didn’t feel I could defend,’ she insists. ‘I’m very careful not to tell a joke just to get a reaction. The beautiful thing about comedy in the UK is that it has a clever twist to it and when you really break it down, the joke isn’t filthy at all, it’s clever. I’m a flirt by nature and I like flirting with that line of what’s passable and what’s not and I genuinely don’t believe that I cross it.’

Hoping to stay on the right side of the line, Ryan brings us her Fringe debut, Little Miss Conception, an hour about growing up with her stage mom and strict Irish dad, using a mix of stories, slides and pop parodies. ‘The show is about how we can never really escape who we were when we were three,’ Ryan concludes. ‘Having a little girl, I’m very aware that whatever I invest in her now is pretty crucial. As much as I pushed against the pageants and didn’t want to do them and I never won and was awful, I’m still doing pageants now. Only it’s this cynical, less dressed-up version of them. I’m still a misfit in the comedy world, and still being paraded around.’

Katherine Ryan: Little Miss Conception, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, 6–29 Aug (not 15), 10.55pm, £8–£9.50 (£7–£8.50). Previews 3–5 Aug, £5.

New seekers

Brian Donaldson picks out five hot debutants

Catie Wilkins
She’s a little bit nice and a lottle bit naughty. A Chip off the Odd Block should result in some sparks flying.
Udderbelly’s Pasture, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, 6–29 Aug (not 15), 8pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6.

Lee Camp
Another of those smart US types with a history of lambasting his country’s crazy right wing.
The Stand III & IV, York Place, 0131 558 7272, 5–28 Aug (not 15), 11.45pm, £8 (£7). Preview 4 Aug, 8.30pm, £7 (£6).

Tom Rosenthal
Son of Jim the ITV sports pundit guy, this star of C4’s Friday Night Dinner discusses his magical upbringing.
Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, 6–29 Aug (not 16), 9.30pm, £9.50–£12 (£8–£10.50). Previews 3–5 Aug, £5.

Dana Alexander
Yet another eagerly awaited north American (she’s Canadian) with some sharp and sassy opinions to offload.
Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 8pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9). Previews 4 & 5 Aug, £6.

Vikki Stone
Actress, comedian, musician: there’s not much she can’t do. As her show suggests, she’ll soon be up in Big Neon Letters.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square, 0131 622 6552, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 11pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6.

Katherine Ryan: Little Miss Conception

  • 3 stars

'Warped wit … striking presence … killer lines … calm confidence' (Scotsman), 'Dark remarks … sugary innocence' (Evening Standard). Who does this chick think she is? This fresh award-winning newcomer reveals all, in her hilarious debut show.

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