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Andrew Ryan: Former PI turned stand-up

By | Published on Tuesday 28 July 2015

Andrew Ryan

Andrew Ryan maybe ‘Perfectly Inadequate’ at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, but in a previous life he worked as a private investigator for the insurance industry. Which might seem like an odd career from which to jump into comedy. But oh no, PI work is a great prep for the world of stand-up. Or so says Ryan himself.

Before I started performing stand-up comedy, I used to work as a private investigator, carrying out surveillance on people who had made suspected fraudulent insurance claims. That’s right, it was my job to try and catch the people that drive up your car insurance premiums. But I was sacked from the job. Why? Well, because while my then colleagues and I were busy following someone who had claimed for whiplash, our car crashed into the back of her’s at a junction. “You couldn’t make it up”, my boss said to me as he sent me on my way.

But despite no longer working as a private investigator, there are skills I acquired from that job that have helped me as a comedian. As a PI, I used to spend so much time just sitting in a car trying to catch someone who was, for example, picking up something heavy after they had claimed they were injured. As a comedian, I spend most of my day waiting for the show, travelling on my own around the country, constantly thinking about the fear of who might come and watch, the self-doubt in your material and wondering whether anyone will find it funny. “Are they my type of crowd? Will they like me?” I constantly ask myself. “Will I get a busload of tourists who are just looking to practice their English by listening to me?” Because this actually happened in 2010.

When you’re a PI, the first rule is to not get caught, obviously. Because if you are, the case you’re working on is ruined and you lose all confidence in yourself. As a comedian, you spend a lot of time working out and perfecting each joke. Then, when you try it on an audience and it doesn’t work, that can ruin the rest of the show. Whether as a PI or a stand-up, when it doesn’t work, you feel you’ve let so many people down, and you’re hard on yourself, thinking that you could have done better. As a comedian, if the joke fails, you’re the one that’s been caught, it’s as if the audience is saying “thanks, but we don’t need you to make us laugh anymore” and that’s it. But then you try the next joke and you try and win them back.

Though, as nervous as I might get, there’s nothing quite like the adrenaline and the excitement of bringing something to its resolution. Whether it’s in my set at a comedy club, or that moment when you spot the supposedly injured person you’re tracking lifting a barrel of Guinness. Problem solved, onto the next claim. And it’s the same feeling for me when I deliver a punchline, it lands and the audience laughs, it is wonderful. And at least then I know I’ve done something right.

Andrew Ryan: Perfectly Inadequate, Assembly George Square, from 5 to 30 Aug.

LINKS: andrewryancomedy.com

Photo: Steve Ullathorne