Comedian Katherine Ryan: ‘Men on Twitter treat me like a dominatrix’

Katherine Ryan

Katherine Ryan - Credit: Archant

Initially, at least, when speaking to Katherine Ryan, you would be forgiven for thinking her qualities lay particularly in motherhood. Sat in her Edinburgh hotel room doting on her five-year-old daughter, Violet, the pair are playing a made-up game called “bank”, according to the rising Canadian-born star, a Crouch End resident for seven years.

Katherine Ryan

Katherine Ryan - Credit: Archant

“Every day we get up, have breakfast and then we walk around and see some big shows and do some fun things,” says 31-year-old Ryan.

“Now we have got some coins out on the carpet and we’re playing “bank” – I am trying to teach Violet about the evils of banking.”

In addition, though, Ryan is taking some well-earned rest from her sold out 11-date Edinburgh Fringe show Glam Role Model.

Although she had been a Fringe regular well before she truly burst onto the scene in May 2012 with her debut appearance on Mock The Week, it is only in the last two years that she has allowed herself a period of reflection and a chance to celebrate.

“It is [the] small victories all along the way,” she says, as Violet’s coins jangle across the floor.

“It is difficult to look back and think, ‘This is when my career changed’, but I did my first 8 Out of 10 Cats two years ago – that is when it really got the ball rolling and opened up a new audience.”

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Ryan was consequently invited onto other panel shows and soon played a landmark show at the London Palladium – but not before she aired Glam Role Model at the Soho Theatre in April.

Her progression, though, has not been without its hitches.

One Mock The Week appearance threatened to derail Ryan before her career had even got going, when a gag aimed at cosmetic commercials during the “Things You’d Never Hear” round on the BBC programme was disastrously misinterpreted across the world.

Ryan, like other panellists on the show, was invited onto the podium during the quick fire round.

Once there, she announced her effort: “We don’t test any of our products on animals. We use Filipino children.”

Despite her honest intentions, the joke backfired and “hundreds” of death threats ensued. There was even talk of a demonstration outside BBC Broadcasting House.

“That was trouble but it did not bother me,” recalls Ryan. “I was getting hundreds of death threats every day online. It was just relentless.

“Now I did feel sad and awful that there were people in the world that were confused and hurt, but I stand by what I said and I know the way I meant it.”

Ryan says people threatened to kill her if she “did not shut down her cosmetic company”.

“They did not even understand that I was a comedian,” she laments.

Despite the furore, most of which was played out on Twitter, Ryan dismisses the idea of deleting her account.

She is happy to admit celebrity gossip has sustained many of her comic sets.

Twitter allows her almost immediate access to not only the latest celebrity hearsay, but the public’s perceptions of the latest fall from grace in the tabloids.

Take Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (formerly Cheryl Cole), for instance: “[She] embodies the thing that I found so hilarious about UK tabloid culture,” Ryan explains.

“Tabloids love it when terrible things happen to beautiful people. She was a no-one, a pop star, and then Ashley Cole allegedly cheated on her and the entire UK – everyone – swept her up in their arms and made her the nation’s sweetheart.

“You elevated her to this status, it is amazing, she goes quiet for a while and then, ‘Oh, she’s married again’. I love that.

“I know that Cheryl Cole is a human being, but I look at her for the machine of celebrity.”

Twitter also throws up another, once again, rather unusual feature for Ryan: the lurid male fan.

Asked if she has received any death threats on Twitter today, she replies in rather shocking terms.

“I have not had any death threats on there today, but the day is young.

“[Yet] there is a certain type of man on there, which is very funny to me but might be disturbing to anyone else.

“There are men who put comedians in the same category as a dominatrix. I get these men who say “please madam, please humiliate me. Do this to me, do that to me, mistress.

“I get these photos of them in uncompromising positions and they will say “please retweet this to all your followers”.

“There’s a darkness in that. I think it is so funny that they come to absolutely the wrong place. I am a very nice girl. I have no intentions of being a dominatrix.”

With her biggest UK tour looming large on the horizon, it would seem strange, to say the least, if Ryan were to swap her microphone for a leather whip.


Next month, she will spend more than four months on the road driving around the country on tour with three comic support acts: Sean McCloughlin, Dane Baptiste and Harriet Kemsley.

A clearly enthused Ryan explains she would not have it any other way but to be joined by her “friends”.

“I have chosen them because they are really funny, I believe in what they are doing and they are my friends.

“I am half for their ability and half for who you want to spend time with in the car.

“I think it is obnoxious to do it on your own, so why not have support acts because then the audience gets a better show?”

As Violet calls for her mother’s attention once more, it becomes apparent that maybe we can also attribute the quality of modesty to this compelling and utterly captivating comedian.

Katherine Ryan will tour the UK from September 25 to December 13. The tour includes a London date at Artsdepot, Nether Street, North Finchley. Details at