Interview: Katherine Ryan on Comedy Central UK's Roast Battle

Not content with a huge UK tour (taking in February’s Leicester Comedy Festival), Katherine Ryan is about to appear on our screens in a hugely exciting new series from Comedy Central UK, Roast Battle.

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 The series will see ultimate showdowns between Joel Dommett and Iain Stirling, Elliot Steel and Mark Steel, Joe Lycett and Nick Helm, Alex Brooker and Matt Forde, Desiree Burch and Daniel Sloss, Dane Baptiste and Tez Ilyas, Ed Gamble and Phil Wang, Harriet Kemsley and Bobby Mair, Sofie Hagan and Larry Dean, Alex Edelman and Jayde Adams and Tom Allen takes on Suzi Ruffell.

Russell Brand, Jimmy Carr and Katherine Ryan make up the judging panel and we were lucky enough to have a chat with Katherine to find out more…

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Comedy Central’s Roast Battle Week, how exciting, sounds pretty ambitious – what were your thoughts on it when it was first pitched to you?

I’ve always been a fan of the language of a comedy roast, I definitely understand it. It may be because I’m north American, or because i’ve worked with Jimmy Carr a lot already - I’ve always loved watching the Comedy Central roasts in America, so when I heard it was coming to the UK I was so excited for it, because I think a British audience is ready for it!


How did you find holding your own against fellow panellists Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand?

One of my strengths in this industry has always been that, I’m really relaxed about everything, and I think when I first did 8 out of 10 cats with Jimmy in 2012, I was so intimidated and I thought “how am I going to be as funny as he is?” and then I decided I’m not am I? Let me just do it my way… Since then I just come at everything with an authentic voice, and I just go for it and I’m really good friends with a lot the comedians who participated, so I just felt very much at home, and I always feel very supported by Jimmy on all the projects we do together… It sounds cheesy but you can only do you!


To what extent do you prepare and rehearse for a show like Roast Battle? 

The comedians participating in the roast, have a certain amount of, I wouldn’t say rehearsal but there’s definitely a certain amount of preparation that goes into it… You cannot just go into a roast and wing it, you have to research the entire career of the celebrity or the comedian that you’re roasting, you have to craft jokes, it’s not just about flinging insult around… To me it’s about language, and it’s an art, all of them jokes have to be expertly crafted… I had the least work to do as I was judging, so I got roasted a little bit, and I got to roast a little bit but really I was just enjoying the show. The panel didn’t rehearse by hear any of the comedians roasts at all before the live show, so that’s all fresh for us guys. The live element of stand up comedy is so important, the set looks like some kind of MMA battle arena, and the crowd are all great, they’re all warmed up by the amazing Mark Olver, it was really like a gladiatorial atmosphere, it was all really fresh and i was so shocked and blown away by what i heard.



The lineup of comedians competing in the battles is huge – without giving too much away, what were your highlights?

I thought Desirée Burch, who is a lady from america, she did an incredible roast. There are a lot of women in this series, and annoyingly, sometimes, people might go easier on women, or go “oh you can’t say that to her because she’s a girl” and i was so impressed to see that this didn’t happen this series! People went hard on the girls, and the girls went even harder on the boys. Comedy is an equalitarian sport, and I believe going easy on someone in a roast is the biggest insult, you have to go as hard as you can and be as brutal as you can be.


Comedy Central are pioneers for fresh comedy formats in the UK, if you could host any kind of show for them, what would it be?

Well I think Roast Battle genuinely would be it, and I’m honestly not just saying that because we are promoting it and chatting about it today, I have wanted to do something to do with roasting forever and ever, it’s always been my favourite thing, even since before I got into comedy… I personally would love to have a chat show one day down the line, but right now I’m so thrilled that Comedy Central are taking big chances, and being forward thinking with shows like Your Face or Mine, and everything else that they’re doing right now!


Your Face Or Mine? Is back on our screens quite soon as well, what can we expect this time around?

The viewers really responded to the celebrity couples on Your Face or Mine, and it’s always amazing to have members of the public and I’m always amazed by how funny people with regular jobs are! So I think we are going to do plenty more with that, really wild and charming characters. We are going to do a lot more with celebrities as well.




How is your current tour going?

It’s great, I had a little break for the holidays, I’m back on tour jan 18th until the end of march, thats my favourite thing to do. You can pop up on the telly when they’ll have you and thats always fun, but for me the real craft stand up comedy is going to these cities and being on tour.


Does your daughter come on tour with you?

My daughter doesn’t come with me anymore! She did as a baby, but she’s 8 years old now so she has a very active social life, swimming lessons, horse riding and school of course, she’s got too much going on, herself! She’s a lot less available than she used to be. But I always come home, I never stay the night after a show, unless I’m in Belfast or somewhere where I have to. 


It’s good to see you’re doing Leicester Comedy Festival, how important is an event like that in the UK?

I think it’s great because there’s certain people who might not necessarily go to see stand up comedy or spoken word unless it’s accessible to them. So to have such a well rebound event like that in Leicester, I know all my comedian friends all love to go up there and have a great time, the audiences in Leicester are really warm and up for it, I wish I had something like that at my front door growing up, I mean, I didn’t even see stand up comedy until I was in my 20s so it’s really great! 

The launch of Roast Battle underlines Comedy Central UK’s ongoing push to diversify its British comedy offering and increase the volume of non-scripted comedy it broadcasts, all of which has helped to drive the channel to its current position of #3 entertainment channel. Roast Battle Week starts Monday 15th January at 10pm on Comedy Central UK. Viewers will be able to catch up on the series weekly on Comedy Central UK starting Wednesday 24th January at 10pm. 


Words: Sam Darlaston for Cel