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Katherine Ryan on dream dinner guests, cancel culture, and not staying silent

作者:admin 2020-05-22

Katherine Ryan isn't up for small talk.

Having moved to the UK from Canada several years ago, she is very much settled and loves it here, she says. But British people can be too polite.

Table For 1 Million - David Haye, Paloma Faith, Nick Grimshaw, Katherine RyanImage: Ryan is taking part in the Table For 1 Million virtual dinner party with David Haye, Paloma Faith and host Nick Grimshaw

"I'm very inquisitive," she says, her daughter Violet trying unsuccessfully to blend into the background during a morning Skype interview.

"I don't like small talk. Moving to Britain - I mean, I love the people here, but some are a little too polite for me.

"I want to go straight in. I want to know, what's the biggest trauma in your life? What are you excited about? What's going on with your brother-in-law cheating on his wife? I just want to know the deep issues. And I think that's what makes me a provocative dinner party guest.

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"I'm ready to answer anything. There's no question, you know, that I'm uncomfortable answering in front of a large group of people."

We are chatting about the banalities of small talk as Ryan gets ready to open up her home to one million people - virtually, of course - to share dinner online during the coronavirus lockdown.

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    The comedian is joining radio presenter Nick Grimshaw, the host for the evening, plus singer Paloma Faith and boxing star David Haye, for Table For 1 Million, which is free to attend and open to anyone who fancies good food and good company, as well as a nose inside some celebrity homes and the chance to ask questions in a live Q&A.

    Launched by recipe box brand Gousto, it is described as the largest ever virtual dinner table, raising money for The Trussell Trust foodbank charity.

    Comedian Katherine RyanImage: The comedian says she wants to discuss the 'deep issues', not small talk, at the dinner table

    Is Ryan a good host? "I prefer the virtual dinner party, actually, because though I consider myself a good host, washing up is the least enjoyable part of a big evening.

    "So in this case, I get to have that connection with everyone and the fun, but I only have to wash my own dishes."

    As anyone can get a seat at the table, who would her dream dinner party guests be?

    "Oh, I have so many," says Ryan. "I'm obsessed with Betty White from stage and screen, from decades of film and television, from the Golden Girls. She is in her late 90s and I feel like I celebrate Betty White every single day that she is still in this realm. I would love, love, love to have a dinner party with her. She is my favourite. She is my hero of comedy.

    "I love Cardi B, seeing Betty White in a room with Cardi B would be very exciting. I love Christine from Christine And The Queens. She's an amazing French artist and I've been brushing up on my French in lockdown.

    Betty White speaks onstage during the 70th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California on September 17, 2018.Image: Ryan is a big fan of Betty White

    "My parents sent me to all-French school in Canada. We're a bilingual country but I've lost a lot of it, so I've been trying to get that back. I know Paloma speaks French and I think if you don't come out of this learning a new language, what have you really done?"

    So that's Ryan, plus three guests. There's room for a few more.

    "Dead or alive? I'd like Marilyn Monroe to be there. She's fun. I'm choosing a lot of women, but, I mean, those are my heroes. We could invite Beyonce, Michelle Obama. Just so many... How big is this dinner party? I can't name one million. We'll have a million on Friday night, but in my home I think I could stretch to six."

    Virtually, though, Ryan wants to talk to as many people as possible.

    "I always feel like comedy is a conversation and I'm excited that people can just watch along at Table For 1 Million or they can really get involved.

    "I have found that through social media and through my podcast, the real-life people who aren't professional comedians - they have important jobs, they're firefighters, they're working for the NHS - those are some of the funniest people that I get to chat to."

    Michelle ObamaImage: Michelle Obama and Beyonce (below) would be on the comedian's dream dinner date line-up LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Singer, Beyonce performs during the Kobe Bryant Memorial Service on February 24, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

    I want to hear Ryan's best dinner party stories. Her Your Face Or Mine co-host and fellow comedian Jimmy Carr hosts "wonderful" dinner parties, she says.

    "I've had many dinner parties with him, I hope to have dinner parties with him again.

    "I had a dinner party with him that Stephen Hawking was invited to so I got to meet Professor Hawking. Jimmy is just a great host. So I've been lucky enough that a lot of my dream dinner party guests I've already met at his."

    Hawking was, unsurprisingly, in demand, she says.

    "I mean, what a thrill to meet such a brilliant man. He didn't have too much time for me, he was a very popular dinner guest. I did try to to charm Stephen Hawking, but he kept it moving. We had a short chat."

    Stephen HawkingImage: Ryan says she once dinner-partied with Stephen Hawking

    Ryan's party trick is sideways tongue, she says, when I ask, presenting her sideways tongue between her teeth to the camera on Skype.

    "I mean, that's not a great party trick... My mother used to sing in the 'Ubba' language."

    I have no idea what this is.

    "She would add the syllable 'buh' to everything. So her dinner party trick... I don't know if Take Me Out To The Ballgame is a copywritten song, but she'd be like…"

    It's hard to explain in words, but Ryan demonstrates singing the 'Ubba' language perfectly. It's impressive.

    "That was her party trick, that was pretty cool. I can play piano, that's about it. Quite a few [party tricks] that no one wants to see."

    Ryan launched her podcast, Telling Everybody Everything, in April. Billed as "candid chat, pettiness, phone calls, and some serious stuff too - straight from the nation's sweetheart", she discusses openly everything from her feelings on Tiger King to the deeply personal experience of going through a miscarriage.

    Earlier this month, she appeared on Love Island presenter Laura Whitmore's podcast, Castaway, and told how she wanted to talk about an issue that isn't often spoken about, with Whitmore herself having experienced pregnancy loss.

    Ryan says sharing her story has made her feel "vulnerable" but she is happy to discuss it and hopes it might help others.

    Laura WhitmoreImage: Ryan says she hopes speaking openly about miscarriage with Laura Whitmore (pictured) will help others

    "I think there is harm in silence, there can be danger in taking on too much and being silent, for some people," she says. "When it happened to me I felt so lonely, like I was experiencing that all by myself [even though] I know the figures, I know that it can happen, I am aware that it's a reality.

    "Putting a face to that experience really helped me feel like it wasn't my fault. I think Laura's a very aspirational, strong, very accomplished young woman. And I thought, okay, well, if something like that can touch her family, then I can deal with it.

    "I didn't take any personal joy from sharing it. I mean, now I feel very vulnerable and I've taken on, I think, a lot of collective grief as people reach out with their stories. But I felt I don't want an experience just to happen with no resolution. I think we always have to move the conversation forward.

    "And I wanted to share that experience, because if I can be a Laura Whitmore, even for one person, because her experience helped me... so I owe it to other women and other families to share that experience, if it's going to help them."

    Ryan says lots of people have been in touch since.

    "My heart goes out to professional therapists because they must just take on so much emotional energy," she says. "Because hearing those stories, having empathy for those stories, can be quite heavy.

    "But I think that the more we can talk about it, the more we can come together, the more we can collectively heal as well.

    "I'm not ashamed anymore. I felt an initial reflex of shame, but I also wasn't really prepared for some of the details of how it happened. So I think that needs to be spoken about more because it can be silent. So we should not stay silent about that."

    In another episode of her podcast, Ryan addresses the NME Awards, when she was heckled by rapper Slowthai in an incident that quickly went viral earlier this year.

    Slowthai at The NME Awards 2020 at the O2 Academy Brixton on February 12, 2020Image: Rapper Slowthai heckled Ryan at the NME Awards, which she hosted, earlier this year

    The 25-year-old was accused of making "lewd comments" to the comedian, who was hosting the ceremony, after he won the Hero of the Year prize.

    His name quickly started trending on Twitter and he was heavily criticised; Ryan was quick to respond to congratulate him on his win and make it clear she knew he was joking.

    "I admire the culture that is always moving forward and trying to be as socially conscious as it can be and trying to be progressive and do the right thing," she says.

    "I admire that, but I do think that sometimes, with the best intentions, we can see things on the internet as being black or white. And that's very dangerous, especially when there's a pile-on.

    "I'm learning all the time. It's all right to be critical or to have your say when a public situation arises, but when you can clearly see that it's a cancel-culture situation, I think that's really wrong.

    "Some live events are meant to stay in the room and it's all right for them to be dealt with in that moment. They don't then need to be rehashed on the internet because it can be a very context-free, nuance-free, dangerous place."

    Ryan says she hopes discussing the issue will cause people to think more about trial by internet.

    "I hope that that's one of the things that we're learning," she says. "I think empathy and nuance are so important. So, yeah, I did have people reach out [after the episode] and say, oh, I am going to consider next time how heavily I weigh into a situation with very few facts."

    :: Listen to the Backstage podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

    In her podcast, Ryan tells listeners she is no "damsel in distress", and tells me that she and Slowthai now follow each other on social media and have "a great relationship".

    "I'm used to provocative comedy club situations all the time," she says. "I can handle myself. I think that incident was handled on the night.

    "I think that if I were a male comedian - a male comedienne, as we're calling them - then fewer people would have leapt to my rescue. I'm a 36-year-old woman. I've been a professional comedian for over a decade, I can certainly handle myself.

    "I believe women when they say they've got [control of ] it. Equally, I believe women when they say they need help. I believe women."

    Anyone who wants to have dinner with Katherine Ryan, or ask her question, can take part in the Gousto Table For 1 Million virtual dinner party, starting at 8pm on Friday

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