There’s a widely held view within the stand-up comedy world that it takes 10 years of performing to find your voice.
Without that knowledge it might have otherwise been confusing to hear that Chris Ryan, a Canberra comedian with seven years in the game, has just been awarded the prestigious Best Newcomer Award at this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival for her show Bogus.
“Stage time is everything, the more you do it the better you get,” Ryan told Canberra Weekly.
“It does sound funny to some of my friends that I’ve won a newcomer award… but that’s the game. That was my first solo show at the Sydney Comedy Festival.”
“Winning this award is a big deal within the industry, and feels like validation after seven years of doing comedy.”
Those seven years, clocking countless hours of stage time, has culminated in Ryan taking her comedy to the next level since pursuing it full time last year.
“When you go full time with something that was previously just a passion or a hobby, you tend to put more on the line,” Ryan said.
“I didn’t want to turn down gigs anymore, I wanted to always say yes to good gigs when I could.
“You reach an age as well, you reach middle life … it sounds like a Narnia thing or a Tolkien thing, middle life,” she smiled. “You start to re-assess and think ‘I’m not prepared to wait any longer’, and you have a crack if you’re lucky enough.”
Ryan said the opportunity to pursue comedy full time wouldn’t have been possible without her very supportive family.
“It takes a big toll, any artistic career is taxing on a family life, because you have to travel to get work, you can’t keep doing the same material in the same spot.”
Alongside the recognition she received at the Sydney Comedy Festival, 2019 has seen Ryan take her show to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the big dance in Australian stand-up, and launch a new local comedy room, Club Sandwich Comedy at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre.
“There’s a lot of great comedians here who are under the radar … we have incredible talented comedians in this town,” she said.
“We have smart people, with very interesting day jobs who do stand up at night, and that lends itself to some really interesting and intelligent comedy.
“However, if they get ambitious and get really good, they look at Sydney and Melbourne and see there’s a lot more opportunity there.
“Any Canberra comedian who gets some success interstate, it reflects well on our scene and shows outsiders there’s some depth here.”
The recent launch of Club Sandwich Comedy now has Ryan running two comedy rooms in Canberra. Her other, Beyond Comedy at Beyond Q Bookshop, will celebrate one year later this month.
“I had no idea it would be this welcomed … the comedians tell me regularly this is their favourite room to perform in,” Ryan said.
“Whenever I get on stage here I feel welcomed by the audience, they have very kind eyes,” she said.
“The room here is divine, getting surrounded by quirky old books you don’t see anywhere else is just interesting. You feel like you’re having an interesting night out.”
Ryan put the event’s sustained success down to a number of factors that come together to make Beyond Comedy a truly local event.
“People love a neighbourhood event, they don’t always want to drive to Civic or Braddon … doing something in your community locally feels easier and more accessible.”