Posted in Podcasts

Katherine Ryan’s Ice-Cold Take on MLMs

Katherine Ryan is best known as a comedian and actress, for her work with Netflix and appearances on British panel shows. Since April, Ryan has been releasing a podcast called Telling Everybody Everything, which is basically what it sounds like. She shares her life with her fans, in a slightly more vulnerable and real tone than she typically uses for her public persona and on stage. She has had several moving episodes, including one on pregnancy loss, but this week she really stepped in it, and seemed conscious of doing so.

Ryan begins by saying that she got some flack for saying something positive about an MLM on social media, and that she doesn’t understand the hate for MLMs online. She then begins by calling her younger sister Carrie, who has had experiences with MLMs. “I’m not a fan,” Carrie says, saying that she likes the products but doesn’t like MLM culture. “They- it’s a group of like really super positive people, and they’re like ‘slide into people’s DMs’.” She doesn’t love the hard sell. Carrie doesn’t sell, she just uses the products, and she says that it is expensive to try.

Katherine shares some warnings against MLMs that she has found, to be balanced. 1) Social relationships can be ruined by MLM recruitment drive 2) the market can be oversaturated 3) MLMs use feminist language to push a #girlboss narrative. She then goes on to talk about the many Latine families who have lost their savings to Herbalife, including selling their businesses to invest. Ryan essentially victim-blames these families, saying “I don’t think anyone’s asking you to sell your construction business.”

Then, Katherine rings up a friend in an MLM, Amy, a friend who is an MLM-made millionaire. Amy is basically exactly the MLM demographic- she’s a mom, who started in MLMs young, and then found one she could get in on early enough to actually make money. She is also charismatic and friendly enough to get people to join her downline and buy products from her. She admits that she did fail, over and over, in various MLMs. She and her husband agreed she would stop, because she kept losing money, and then she decided to get into another MLM as a distributor anyway. She claims that she was successful because she worked when no one else would have- when she was on bedrest while pregnant (should anyone have to work on bedrest while pregnant just to be successful? Because civilized countries have maternity leave). Amy provides the usual MLM platitudes, saying that the “the difference is the mindset.” She claims that other people aren’t successful in their MLMs because they don’t think big enough. Amy basically uses all of the MLM party lines, and even reiterates the MLM-is-a-business-model-not-a-scam shtick. She even compares her experience to Ryan’s stand up career, which Ryan agrees with. Amy says that her success doesn’t come from getting in early, but from being ready for the opportunity, more MLM language. When asked, Amy confirms, “I 100% believe that this could be for anyone- there’s no requirement for getting into network marketing.” Except to shell out money for the products and starter kits. I’m not going to keep transcribing all of what Amy says, rest assured that she’s exactly who you think she is, albeit very friendly-sounding. At the end, Ryan offers Amy some time to promote the business book she has coming out? Seems like all of this was to help a friend promote her scam business, but okay, go off.

Ryan purchasing or supporting a friend in an MLM doesn’t make her a bad person, but promoting MLMs to her audience is harmful. Ryan does compare her work to MLMs, even though selling items through a pyramid scheme is very different than developing a talent. Basically, this is a bad take, and I really hope that no one is going to join an MLM based on her recommendation. I normally am a big fan of her work, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t do her research in-depth and relied on anecdotal evidence.

If you’re interested in further information about MLM scams, YouTuber Savy Writes Books has a great anti-MLM playlist.

Posted in TV

Katherine Ryan’s “In Trouble”

I set low expectations when I sat down to watch Katherine Ryan’s In Trouble. I am a student of the genre and I like to think I’m open minded, but there’s a quiet sexism that’s embedded in us all. Still, I like to give everyone a chance, and especially the few women who find success in such a male dominated industry. The thing is, In Trouble doesn’t need my condescension. It’s brilliant, maybe the best performance I’ve seen out this year.

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There isn’t a flat moment in the whole special, but Ryan’s clear strength is in story -telling, and form. She connects all of the threads of her story, working her jokes in with grace and dexterity. Her delivery is spot on, and her crowd work is the best I’ve seen in years. I saw a similar attempt in Michael Che’s Michael Che Matters last year, but like a lot of comics, Che used the audience to bounce jokes off of. That’s fine, and it works. But Ryan, ahhh. Her crowd work is a conversation, with the audience and the viewer. It makes her stories more vibrant, she brings us into her vision of that moment. The moments when she talks to the audience, listens and then responds to them, are some of the best in the hour.

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Ryan doesn’t overshare, her personal details are relevant and funny, and her description of her family is a winning bit. Ryan describes her family with a degree of empathy, and manages to describe their peculiarities with a tone of semi-tolerance. She manages almost the impossible, acting authentic in some places and exaggerated in others. Her racial humor is hilarious, without offending this Jew, and her jokes about Canada and America were spot on. When Ryan talks about the women from her hometown who tormented her when they were young, you see them. You know these women, they’re from your hometown too. Her description of her relationship with her sister is sweet, and funny. Their closeness leaves plenty of room for comedy and jokes about the middle child, which were everything.

If you’re a fan of comedy, watch this. If you’re a fan of women, watch this. If you’re a fan of humans, watch this. Just watch this. It’s available on Netflix, and it’s worth your time.