Katherine Ryan: Glitter is my black tie

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It’s not often that an interviewee greets you with the offer of a glass of “day wine” or “night wine” but then it’s not every day you meet someone like Katherine Ryan.

The joke started when her nine-year-old daughter thought white wine and red wine were served according to the time of day, and it’s now become a part of her stand-up routine.

We meet the Canadian comedian as she is getting ready for her second show in London’s West End and she immediately makes a joke about how many layers of make-up she’s wearing.

This year has been a big one for the comic, who has signed with Netflix to put out her current tour, Glitter Room, as a comedy special and has also filmed a new panel show in the US for the streaming service with Jimmy Carr.

Whilst Ryan is known for her sharp commentary on social and political issues. she is equally recognised for her enviable collection of designer clothes, perfect hair and glossy make-up on stage.

She tells the BBC that when it comes to “being glamorous… there’s no right kind of woman or feminist”.

“The most rebellious thing you can be is whoever you want – I have a polarising image when I talk about feminism and being a strong, independent woman and then I like really glittery, shiny things,” she tells the BBC.

“And sometimes people who wouldn’t normally seek out comedy will tweet me and be like ‘Where’s your skirt from?’ and I don’t mind that either.”

Her outfit for the show, an embellished Gucci blouse and glittery midi skirt, is hung up beside her and Ryan says that’s her version of a formal outfit.

“When I see men doing a big Netflix special or a big BBC special, you’re invited into someone’s living room and they’re wearing black tie and look amazing and our version of that is whatever it is to us,” she says.

“So I just dress up for the people, it would be rude not to – I’m a bit of a drag queen but I like it, I think it’s fun and it’s a sign of respect from me for my audience.”

Ryan is currently the only UK-based female comedian to have a Netflix special (her first show on the streaming service came out last year) and she also hosted the first all female 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown on Channel 4 earlier this year to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage.

On the subject of more women being given a platform in comedy, she says: “It’s long overdue to me but I’m happy it’s happening.

“It’s exciting to be part of a small revolution – I’m seeing more women on comedy TV shows, more diversity in people’s backgrounds and that’s across the board, it’s not just a gender thing.

“I do want to hear lots of stories from mixed heritages – it’s important to be aware of it because it jumps out to me now.

“When I see a panel of all white people or all men and one woman it looks weird to me now so that first step is the unconscious bias of just ‘it looks normal’ and then one day it does not, so that balance is being re-addressed.”

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A big part of Ryan’s stand-up routine involves talking about being a single mum to her daughter Violet, who she gave birth to not long after moving to London 10 years ago.

“I cannot say enough how much I recommend being a single mum,” she jokes.

“She [Violet] is never interrupting an adult conversation, whereas sometimes my sisters and I would want to say something and my mum would be like ‘I’m talking to your father’ and she doesn’t have that.

“She is very different to me, she had a different upbringing and like every generation we make adjustments and we evolve.

She explains: “My mother grew up with a mother who would tie a string around her waist every day to remind her not to eat too much from being a child.

“I’m from a generation in the middle and Violet is hopefully from a generation of little girls and boys who play together and understand gender fluidity where girls can be superheroes and boys can wear dresses if they want.

“I don’t worry about her having the same types of damaging messages that I had. She sees her mum working all the time so I think she will be alright.”

Ryan chooses not to share her daughter’s image on social media, which means it’s a bit of a surprise for the audience on the first night of her tour when Violet comes on stage to introduce the show.

“I don’t share Violet’s image online, only because it’s weird – it’s not because I’m on television, I never shared her image even when I worked in an office in Holborn,” she says.

“But if Violet wants to go on stage and go out and say [imitating her daughter’s posh English accent]: ‘Hello everyone, welcome to the show, here’s what’s going to happen, no phones…’

“I just feel like she should have ownership of her own image, but I don’t want to discourage people from sharing images of their own kids as I really like looking at photos of people’s kids – it’s just a personal thing.”

Katherine Ryan is appearing at the Garrick Theatre in the West End until 20 October.

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