Reviewer: Jo Beggs
In the past few years, Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan has found her way into that coveted TV panel show seat, with regular appearances on Mock the Week, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Have I Got news For You. This is what’s taken her from The Lowry’s studio just a few years ago, to the 1700-seater main house. It’s a tough room to play on your own, so she’s brought along comedian and friend Stephen Bailey as support.
Local boy Bailey gets a very welcome leg-up on this tour. Next week he’s playing that very same studio that Ryan started out in, but tonight he’s clearly enjoying the chance to deliver twenty minutes of camp comedy to a big crowd. Bailey’s child-genius appearance (suit, bow-tie, crazy hair) belies his edgy sense of humour. He’s an arch-bitch with a winning smile, everyone’s favourite gay best friend. Bailey’s confident, funny, and suitably rude set really sets the scene for Ryan’s own acerbic, or in her words ‘all out of f**ks to give’ wit.
What you don’t get with Ryan on TV is the nicely crafted story-telling that makes this show a winner. Her one-liners can be great but it’s the sense of the personal and lots of clever call-backs that make Kathbum a successful stand-up show. Although she starts with some digs at the world of celebrity, the British press, and a glancing blow at American politics (hard not to in the run up to such a momentous election), Ryan mostly talks about her family. The title of the show is, in fact, her family pet name and sharing this with a room full of strangers is just the start of the touching intimacy that runs through her material – quite an achievement given the definite lack of intimacy in the Lowry’s cavernous room. Of course though, it’s not all familial bliss, and Ryan’s signature sardonic wit is the thing that convinces you that there’s more than a grain of truth about it all, as she threads deliciously barbed comments about her home life and her hometown through it all.
Ryan’s ‘otherness’ as a Canadian living in the UK provides a fruitful detachment from both North America (which she can mock with the benefit of having left) and from Britain (where she’s still slightly alien). Her impressions of her six-year old Londoner daughter (who probably doesn’t sound quite so much like an extra in Oliver as Ryan makes out) are just a reminder of that difference.
It’s fun to see an hour of such confident, kick-ass comedy from a comedian at the top of her game. In fact, it’s over before you know it and you’re left wanting more.
Reviewed on 11 March 2016