There's an inherit neediness to standup comedy that even seasoned practitioners have difficulty shaking off. The sweaty "Have you seen this, did you hear about this?" set up or the "Did I just say that? Ain't I a stinker!" posturing that follows a punch line is easy to spot even in your Lenos and your Schumers. But Katherine Ryan really doesn't care if you like her, which makes In Trouble immensely likeable.
Ryan may seem like a newcomer to North American audiences (In Trouble is her first special, or at least the first one available internationally), but the Sarnia, ON native is a famous face in the UK, where she has lived and worked for nearly ten years. A frequent presenter and panelist on British television, Ryan has the confident delivery of an American, the dry reserve of a Brit, and the likability of all things Canadian.
Ryan mixes astute observations about pop culture with anecdotes about her personal life and is in turn cutting and self-deprecating. "I knew Taylor Swift would mess up if I watched her," she begins, strolling languidly across the stage. "So I watched her." She muses about Swift's travails with Nicki Minaj, not in a dishy, Kathy Griffin way, but with an air of ironic detachment. She opines on Bill Cosby by identifying with his actress and model accusers. "He was a powerful person in the entertainment industry," she says, positing that his influence could compound their reasons not to come forward. "Tina Fey could be raping me now, and I would tell no one," she says.
She is equally wry and honest about her personal life, including considering converting to Judaism for a man ("You think you got a dick better than Christmas?"), raising her daughter (the death of a pet rabbit is fodder for a great extended bit), and delivering a toast at her sister's wedding, back home in Sarnia (may we all bear witness to such a speech).
Again, it is worth emphasizing that Ryan succeeds here not just on the strength of her written material (which is stellar), but by her sheer magnetism in performance. Sshe shares that indefinable DNA with the likes of Teri Garr, Diane Keaton or Paul Rudd. You like her because you like her and that's enough. Whatever the people of the Philippines think about her (watch the special for that hilarious detour), it's an absolute joy to watch Katherine Ryan get in trouble, and hoist herself back out of it with aplomb.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.