You know an autobiography is especially good when you can’t stop quoting it. I received my review copy of Katherine Ryan’s book The Audacity on Friday and over the weekend I think I said “Well, Katherine says…” about 500 times. There was not a conversation I couldn’t shoehorn a bit from The Audacity into and when you read this book (or listen to the audiobook) I guarantee you will find yourself doing the same.
Katherine Ryan is a comedian known for her ‘audacity’ but this book, and for that matter, Ryan’s body of work, make it clear that you cannot boil this woman down to one word. Set out in a series of ‘how-to’ chapters this autobiography takes an instructive and chronological approach that details how Ryan’s fearlessness has matured over time.
It’s not just the fact that Ryan is, as you would expect, a sharp and funny writer that makes this book so fascinating but also it’s one of the first autobiographies from a millennial who came of age in the Noughties. And we need to talk about this weird era because low-riding micro-skirts are coming back and I want young people today to have the tools to deal with that.
Ryan is refreshingly unashamed of the teenager and 20-something she was, obsessed with fake tan, fake boobs, and reality TV. Why should she be? She was the precise marketing target. Young women of the noughties were and are often dismissed as frivolous and trashy. It was an odd time before we’d learned about intersectional feminism and slutwalks. We were being encouraged to learn to pole dance but only if it were for fitness purposes. It was during this time Ryan started working at famous restaurant chain Hooters, where she found a supportive matriarchy that appreciated her humour and gave Ryan her first hosting gig.
It is clear that Ryan is all about taking chances, from auditioning as a dancer for a Sean Paul video to entering comedy competitions such as the Funny Women Awards which she won in 2008. The thread that runs through this book is Ryan’s incredible work ethic, whether it’s comedy, mothering or waitressing at Hooters she puts her all into it.
Unsurprisingly Ryan does not gloss over the many issues she faces that her male co-workers in comedy don’t. While some may take the time to rest on their laurels at this point in their career, Ryan continues to work incredibly hard, even when suffering from a miscarriage – an event she writes beautifully about – she is determined not to miss a work engagement later that day.
Ryan’s audacity to refuse to fit in, to go her own way and to speak up has made for an autobiography that is funny, frank and fabulous.
Katherine Ryan: The Audacity is available now published by Bonnier Books