RYAN Hand is a lesson in determination. Ignoring the sensible career advice to ‘find a trade’, he has refused to take no for an answer in a bid to break into the fiercely competitive entertainment industry.
The Newcastle man has been making waves on the local comedy scene in recent years, awaiting the big break that seems to have finally come. This week Ryan announced that he is set to help host new ITV primetime show Cannonball, alongside Freddie Flintoff and Frankie Bridge.
Freddie will act as the programme’s main host while Ryan will be one of the ‘poolside reporters’ in what has been described as a water-based obstacle game show. Expect gallons of water, giant inflatable slides and some very wet contestants.
Filming of the new show begins in Malta later this month where Ryan is currently taking a well-earned break. It’s been a holiday pleasantly interrupted, however, with a stream of well-wishers.
“It is amazing,” he said. “I have been inundated. My phone hasn’t stopped beeping.
“I’m sure there will be a few nerves when filming gets underway but I am mostly just really excited.”
The 29 year-old moved to London a year ago to pursue his showbiz dreams, where amongst other gigs he has served as the warm-up act to the excitable Loose Women crowd. As luck would have it, a Downpatrick connection would lead ultimately to his latest gig.
“It all comes about because of Downpatrick,” he said. “My friend, Ross Mount, from Downpatrick, his uncle is a senior producer in Potato [who are behind Cannonball]. They are actually a Derry based company, they make The Chase. He put me in touch with the producer who gave me a screen test.
“I haven’t yet met Freddie but I have met all the others, we got on really well and we’re starting later this month.”
Before the biggest gig of his television career so far, Ryan worked for BBC Northern Ireland behind the camera. Local comedy gigs also included the LOL Comedy Club in Newcastle and the famed Empire Comedy Club in Belfast.
“I always thought if you can work with the BBC that’s a pretty big thing,” he said. “My first live gig was with the BBC Red Button, so looking back that was a pivotal moment. Comedy goes hand in hand with presenting to a live audience.
“I have been waiting for the break for a while. I was doing Loose Women on and off for six months. I had 100 middle aged women to get up and running. But I have three sisters and my mum worked in school kitchens. I have hung about kitchens listening to women.”
Ryan lost mum Pauline to cancer when he was just 20. Describing her as a “real joker” it is clear her energy continues to inspire him.
“She would have been very proud,” he said. “I remember when I was applying to the BBC she insisted on hand delivering the form to the right person.
“You never really stop missing them but you do carry on with life.”
Pauline’s faith in her son also clearly played a role in developing Ryan’s own sense of self-belief.
“I left St Malachy’s in Castlewellan with three GCSEs,” he said. “I remember going into a job centre in Newcastle and saying to them that I wanted to work in the media. They just said to go and get a trade. Joinery lasted two weeks. It obviously didn’t work out.
“I think I’ve kept going because I’m quite energetic, personable, do have a bit of charm. I had a determination, I knew this is what I wanted to do. That was seven or eight years ago.
“I did a lot of interviews.”
Developing a thick skin in the process, he admits to occasional nerves and the odd off-day on the nerve-wracking comedy circuit when he felt the audience wasn’t with him.
“Oh yeah, it literally does happen,” he said. “There have been two or three times.”
It’s not something Ryan dwells on, however, as ITV primetime beckons.
“I am 29 now,” he said. “At some point in future I would love to have my own chat show like Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton.”
Cannonball is due to be screened on ITV in the autumn.