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Why we can’t get enough of Katherine Ryan

Why we can’t get enough of Katherine Ryan

The Canadian comedian’s new show Parental Guidance is practical, thought-provoking and, of course, hilarious. Watch it on W and we guarantee you’ll want to see more of her

By Chris Miller, Feature Writer

At first glance, Katherine Ryan might appear to have it all. As well as a glittering career as a stand-up comedian, podcaster and all-round TV star, she’s got a beautiful family – husband Bobby, daughters Violet and Fenna, and son Fred. But what she also has, as is clear within the first few minutes of Katherine Ryan: Parental Guidance, starting at 9pm on Monday 5 February on W HD (CH 125), is a huge heap of mum guilt.


Should she be working so much? Should she have a nanny? Should she be co-sleeping with her youngest daughter? Should she be so dedicated to breast-feeding? Is she being too selfish  – or, indeed, not selfish enough and disregarding her own needs?


It’s a feeling that many mums, even if they’re not TV stars, will recognise. There’s constant pressure on mothers – fathers too, if not to the same extent – to be virtuous, exemplary, even perfect. So Ryan is embarking on a journey of parental discovery to find out what’s optimal for parents.


Over four episodes, she talks to a variety of people with and without children, including Dr Emma Svanberg (the psychologist known as “the Mumologist”), nannying expert Brenda Hart, entrepreneur Luisa Zissman, comedian London Hughes, YouTubers the Marshes, and an environmental activist who takes her and Violent along to a protest. The advice they have to offer varies wildly – including, er, not having children in the first place – and Ryan, like so many parents, has to sort the practical wheat from the well-meaning chaff and figure out what’s right for her.     


Bobby, with a straight-talking dry wit, is a great foil for his wife, and 14-year-old Violet is a delightful and insightful contributor. And there’s plenty of helpful, thought-provoking guidance for parents and potential parents along the way. But there’s no doubt who the real star of the show is. From pumping breast milk (in the first five minutes of episode 1!) to being eye-openingly candid about motherhood to performing her raucous stand-up material, Ryan’s an absolute riot and a joy to spend time with.


We certainly hope she can find a guilt-free balance between working and parenting, because we love seeing her on TV! The Canadian-born star has many strings to her bow and if Parental Guidance puts you in the mood for more of Ryan’s frank and funny screen appearances, we’ve rounded up the best of them.


When is Katherine Ryan: Parental Guidance on TV?

Katherine Ryan: Parental Guidance is on Mondays from 5 February at 9pm on W HD (CH 125). Episodes are also available in On Demand.


In Trouble

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Ryan’s first Netflix special leans heavily about the comic’s childhood in Ontario as well as her dating history, peppered with her trademark filthy jokes. Her confidence as a performer is clear as she riffs off the Hammersmith Apollo audience, firing off brilliant improvised zingers.


Glitter Room

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Although she’s spent most of her career in the UK, Glitter Room was filmed at Los Angeles’ Belasco Theatre, as Ryan took her superbly crafted material to a new audience. Balancing politics with pop culture references, it showcases Ryan’s ability to switch between subjects, and hide cutting satire in sequences about the Kardashians. Plus filthy jokes.  



Find it in On Demand

Ryan’s back in the UK for her most recent special, in which she explains to the Edinburgh Playhouse audience how she’s both delighted and horrified to find herself living in domestic bliss with husband and children… with plenty of room for filthy jokes. It’s the perfect companion for Parental Guidance, in fact.


The Duchess

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Ryan created, wrote and starred in this sitcom about an outspoken single parent named Katherine juggling work and parenthood in London. Sound familiar? The fictional Katherine’s solution, however, is not to seek advice but to make every problem worse through her ultra-bolshie approach.


Romantic Getaway

Find it in On Demand

Ryan co-stars with fellow standup Romesh Ranganathan in this caper about a couple who are struggling to conceive and decide to fund their IVF treatment with, er, crime. Hijinks very much ensue. 


Backstage With Katherine Ryan

Find it in Apps & Games > Prime Video

Ryan lifts the veil on the UK’s comedy scene, chatting to a veritable who’s who of British standup including Frankie Boyle, Sara Pascoe, Tom Allen, Nish Kumar and many more about their creative process and how they deal with the challenges of this unique industry.


Ready To Mingle

Find it in Apps & Games > ITVX

Twelve men compete to win the heart of one woman. The inevitable twist? Not all the men are single. With her disarming frankness and love of scandal, Ryan was the perfect choice to present this reality show.


The Lionesses: A League Of Their Own Special

Find it in On Demand

The sport-phobic Ryan proved competitive but hilariously useless at footy alongside football-savvy comic Maisie Adam as the pair trained with England players ahead of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Louis Theroux Interviews…

Find it in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Always an honest and engaging interviewee, Ryan pushed this episode to the forefront of the culture by discussing – although not naming – a comedian widely believed to be a sex offender. (Series 1, episode 5)


Who Do You Think You Are?

Find it in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

The genealogy series took Ryan around England and Canada and helped her find a poet, a Methodist minister and a Dorset publican in her ancestry. She also found a husband in the form of Bobby, who had been her teenage sweetheart. Aww! (Series 16, episode 5)


The Masked Singer

Find it in Apps & Games > ITVX

Ryan’s been a hugely entertaining guest on the likes of Travel Man, The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year, Have I Got News For You, The Wheel and countless chat and panel shows. But was she wearing a massive pigeon costume and a pink granny cardigan on any of them? While heavily pregnant? No she was not. (Series 4, episodes 2, 4 + 5)


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Image credit: Katherine Ryan: Parental Guidance © UKTV / Sarah Brick Photography

Who Do You Think You Are? © Wall To Wall Media Ltd / Stephen Perry