By Christian Soza
Ottawa has been known to have a world class water system which helps produce talented comedic acts at an incomparable rate in Canada (see Norm McDonald, Jon Dore, Tom Green, Mike MacDonald, etc.). When I grew up, there was a stigma that female comedians were not funny despite the Rosanne Barrs, Margerat Chos & Lily Tomlins of the world. These days, this stereotype can not be heard without wondering if the speaker still litters and believes that the earth is flat.
Over the past few years, Ottawa has seen a surge in female comedians in a previously male dominated scene, producing winners at both the local comedy club competitions and at the Ottawa Comedy Awards, a community based comedy award ceremony that only comedians can only vote on. There’s an ever growing list of all genders hitting the stage.
One such comic is recent winner of the Ottawa Comedy Awards best Pro-Am, Kennedy Ryan who has been an integral part of the growing inclusion of the Ottawa Comedy Community and even raised $1400 for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) via comedy alone!
We caught up with Kennedy to discuss comedy, community and whether or not it is true that women who are funny cannot open coconuts on their own.
Apt613: Hey Ken(nedy), what got you into performing on stage?
Kennedy Ryan: I was held at gunpoint.
Was it difficult to insert yourself in at the time a male dominated scene?
As difficult as inserting yourself into any male dominated scene probably! A handful of really cool ladies started around the same time—we bonded a lot as we came up together and ate a bunch of guys so that helped.
What stereotype do you hear most about women comics that is not true?
That we can’t open our own coconuts, that’s slanderous and a lie.
How do you feel a space can increase its inclusivity?
Same as anywhere I think. Tangible stuff like accessible venues, LGBTQ+ friendly spaces (in Ottawa you can check out a registry like Dapper and Daring to see what venues make the cut!), not hiring/booking/working with people who are known to be bigoted or violent. That means you attract more people in general. Not every show can be everything and no one is demanding that from anyone, but I think it’s inherently good any time you can make a space safer and give more people access to a show, whether that means as audiences or as comedians. I don’t call my shows “safe spaces” because no one is perfect and it’s not fair to claim that kind of guarantee, but we’re aiming for safer spaces. There’s a difference between needing to have thick skin about your jokes as a comedian and feeling like a venue or show might actually be a shitty, scary, and unsafe place for you to be. Some people try and conflate the two, but I think that’s silly.
I don’t call my shows “safe spaces” because no one is perfect and it’s not fair to claim that kind of guarantee, but we’re aiming for safer spaces.
Your comedy is heavily “feminist” oriented: do you notice a trend in when an audience will be receptive versus when they wont be?
Depends! I like progressive audiences and people in general and I think feminism is funny. I find it very sarcastic. But sometimes the guys at the Legion don’t get the nuance of a rape culture joke, so I maybe skip it.
Comics complain about how PC culture is killing comedy but then do the same dated, offensive jokes for years and then try to put the blame on the audience when they don’t do well. However, I can’t go to a show at a small town sports bar, tell only radical feminist period jokes and then blame the audience for not getting my brilliance. I have to find a way to make it work. I would be a snowflake if I were to think sexism was a factor in an audience disliking me, but the audience is a snowflake if they don’t like the lazy material of a middle aged white man. It’s a huge cop out, in my opinion. Grow up, right!
Last year you raised money for ORCC. How did you get involved with them?
The ORCC is a great resource and a fantastic team to work with. I knew about them before I started comedy and they seemed like a natural fit for a charity feminist comedy show. We need organizations like the ORCC to give compassionate, informed support to survivors, especially when our legal system is stacked against them. They have a really informative website that’s helpful and interesting to read and has a lot of great resources for if you want to learn more, get involved, or if you need support. I don’t have enough time in a day to hype up the ORCC, they’re wonderful.
Coconuts or Mangos?
Depends on the type of bird I have as a courier. The real question is European or African swallow?
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Kennedy!
Thanks Christian, looking forward to Friday! Shanghai is one of the best shows in the city and it’s 100% the most fun. I’ll start brainstorming karaoke choices now.
You can catch Kennedy host an all female edition of Shanghai Nights Quality Comedy & Karaoke with 50% of proceeds going directly to Amethyst Ottawa Women’s Centre for Addiction. The show starts at 8:30pm Friday March 9, with karaoke at 10:45pm at Shanghai Restaurant (651 Somerset Street West). The venue is wheelchair accessible, courtesy of stopthegap.ca.