The comedian Katherine Ryan has spoken on Desert Island Discs about the moment she decided to confront a male comedian over allegations of predatory behaviour.
Last month Deadline reported that Russell Brand, who is facing allegations of sexual assault and rape against him after an investigation by the Times, the Sunday Times and Channel 4 Dispatches first published on 16 September, was dropped from Comedy Central’s Roast Battle in 2018 after Brand was reluctant to be roasted when Ryan, repeatedly accused him of being a “sexual predator” in comments which were not broadcast.
Brand has said in a YouTube video that he “absolutely denies” the allegations and said all his relationships have been consensual.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 show, which was released on Sunday but was recorded on 6 September – 10 days before the Brand allegations were published – Ryan said she had “wrestled” with the decision about working with an unnamed comedian she believed “to be a perpetrator of sexual assault”.
Ryan made comments about a male comedian in an interview with broadcaster Louis Theroux last year but declined to name the person. Speaking to the Desert Island Discs presenter, Lauren Laverne, Ryan said she had received “a lot of pushback” for not naming the man at the time.
She said: “[I got] a lot of: ‘Why won’t you say who it is?’ It’s because everyone knows who it is, what they want is the women’s names, and that’s what I won’t give and that’s why I’m reluctant.”
Ryan added: “No one’s asking for his name. It’s funny how people go straight to accusing: ‘You’re the problem, you won’t give his name.’
“We’re not the problem. I had a choice – I could go to work with someone who I believe to be a perpetrator of sexual assault or I could turn down the job. Those were my options.”
Ryan said she believed at the time that the person “was or is dangerous”, but felt that she would have achieved nothing by turning down the programme.
“My compromise was: ‘I’m going to go and let him know under no uncertain terms what I think of him,’” she said.
“‘I’m not just going to allow this behaviour, I’m not going to let him think that I don’t know and that everybody he works with is just going to let him get away with it.’
“So that is the attitude I took into the show. And did I do the right thing or the wrong thing? I still don’t know. But I just felt why should I stay home? He should stay home, but if he’s going to be there, I’m going to be there to tell him what I think.”
Asked how the man had responded, she said there was “no obvious reaction”, but other comics had thought it was “funny and courageous”.
“I think it’s the nuance, did I mean it or was I joking? But certainly the people who know, know that I wasn’t joking.”
Ryan, who is Canadian, said the open style she deploys during her comedy routines came from a desire to be transparent and connect.
“I just try to share everything because I want to connect with people and be vulnerable. And that’s really just the language of love,” she said.