Katherine Ryan, Edinburgh Fringe review: a tight, flawless show of celebrity-bashing

The Canadian stand-up skewers everyone from Cheryl Cole to Cecil the Lion and her own family in her new show

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The Independent Culture

Katherine Ryan says that people tell her she looks like Joan Rivers, “but older.” And like the late comedian, the 32-year old Canadian stand-up begins her set with a sustained bout of celebrity-bashing.

Taylor Swift, Mo Farah, David Cameron, Bill Cosby all get it in the neck, mostly by means of neat, mean, bitchy one-liner. Although Cheryl Cole - whose Geordie singsong she imitates quite spookily well - comes in for a more sustained kicking. “She answers the question, 'Just how beautiful do you have to be to make a nation forget your racist assault charge?'” Even Cecil the Lion gets a shout-out, in a joke that ties together celebrity, race relations, gun laws and Beyonce with economical flair.

The writing is tight, the delivery flawless - she could dial up the energy a little but then laconic ice queen suits her well - and she looks like a star. Glamorous in a floral minidress, ankle socks and heels, full hair and make-up, she looks like she got lost on the way to The 02 and wound up in this small, dark room instead.

Of course, Ryan is a celebrity herself these days, thanks to her ubiquity on panel shows, variety bills, and a new job presenting BBC2's Hair. Her fame is the focus of much of the show, from dating an unnamed English actor who was fixated on them appearing together and one part of her anatomy, to - in the least successful section - asking the audience to read out nasty things that have been tweeted at her.

These tweets were largely the result of a joke she told on Mock the Week in 2013. Asked to suggest "Things You'd Never Hear in a cosmetics commercial", she said: “We don't test any of our products on animals. We use Filipino children”. Death threats followed but she is pretty unrepentant and goes on - channelling the spirit of Rivers - to tell an even more incendiary joke. It's one of only a few shock moments in the show - the mellowing effect of fame, perhaps.

Her material about being on television is less interesting than her withering assessment of her hometown and family, including her hippy sister Joanne (“like my Dad cheated on my Mum with a granola bar...”) A section towards the end on being a single mother - a condition akin to having a wooden leg on the dating scene, she confides - shows a warmer side.

The two strands of celebrity and family come together neatly at the end with an archly delivered speech she has written for her sister's wedding. A confident end to a show from a stand-up who is at the top of her game, and knows it.

To 22 August (0131 558 7272); extra shows at the Pleasance Courtyard on 13, 19, 20 August (0131 556 6550; www.edfringe.com)