Episode 27: Visiting with Kelly Ryan and her story, “Off To A Rocky Start”
Get ready to laugh with Kelly Ryan as she reveals the details of an awkward first date that changed her life forever. In this week's episode, our hosts Kerry and Jenette ask her about the surprise that caught everyone off guard when she was on stage during the live "That's What She Said" show in February 2020.
The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at shesaidproject.com.
ANNOUNCER: Raising women’s voices—one story at a time. Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.
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JENETTE JURCZYK: Hey friends, you are listening to another fun episode of The She Said Project Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us. We’re in the Zoom Studio—under COVID restrictions—but nothing’s going to stop us. So this is your host, Jenette Jurczyk, National Director of The She Said Project and…
KERRY ROSSOW: Kerry Rossow, Founder. Number one shenanigan-gan-gan-gan-ator!
JENETTE: Kerry, we continue to find ways to launch new shenanigans, to connect with women and share their stories, to quote, is it Jefferson Starship? “Nothing’s going to stop us now?”
There’s no better time to connect with some of the women who got in right under the wire of our last live performance in Champaign, Illinois. We had a show—it was February 22nd, 2020 and every single one of our listeners can remember where they were at the end of February/beginning of March because that was before the **bleep** hit the fan. (I bleeped for you, friend.) [Kerry laughs] So who’s with us today, Kerry?
KERRY: Oh my gosh: Kelly Ryan. Let me just start at the end and go backwards. So Kelly Ryan is here, who I have loved and stalked from afar forever and we had her on a few little things and then I just kept getting closer and closer until I was basically smelling her hair and like, please come be on the show. Please come be on this show.
JENETTE: Kerry, you’d better be careful. They’re going to come and take you away if you confess something…
KERRY: No they aren’t. No they aren’t… I just won’t wear a mask. Nobody’s coming up to my door. They aren’t. That is.. there are silver linings to this shit show. Anyway, Kelly Ryan and she sort of embodied everything that we want to be in the show. She was all the things: she was funny. She had those awe moments and she was such a force in The Sisterhood of her cast. She made everybody laugh, you know, I always love somebody who can throw inappropriate humor in when it gets a little too serious and that was Kelly—I was like, my job here is done.
JENETTE: Let’s see if she can bring some of that fun for us today. Kelly? Are you with us in the Zoom Studio?
KELLY RYAN: I am, and for the record, this is the first time I’ve worn Mascara and it’s like the nine-month old Mascara that was in my bathroom in March. So if you start seeing like pus or ooze or something come at …just make a little gesture and I’ll turn the video off, it’ll be fine, but I’m here.
JENETTE: So you got to go through the journey of writing a story, sharing something from your life’s experience and working with the other women in your show. And you know, you got the live experience of being on stage in front of, you know, eleven hundred of your closest friends. What was that like for you?
KELLY: I only peed a little bit—but only for the first couple of minutes, and then it was okay. And Michelle went first—and I adore her. Like to this day, I adore her. So she sat down and she looked at me and she’s like, “It is not that bad. Once you get started, you’ll be okay.” I’m like – ok, I’m ready. I can do this. But it was actually really fun. It was a lot less intimidating once you get started—because there’s a big difference between saying it in front of the same ten women all the time who have heard it—who I love them all—but they’re like we know what happens, we’ve heard this, we’ve practiced a million times… so for people to hear it with fresh ears and to laugh at the parts you’re supposed to be laughing at… it was fun—it was a lot of fun.
JENETTE: And I remember specifically during rehearsals funny things would go down or or someone would talk about something inside their story and you would be the first to go, “Save it for the podcast.” This is it! This is your podcast, so…
KELLY: I know, but this is all I had. Like, I gave it all on stage … I got nothing left.
JENETTE: You’ve got nothing left..
KELLY: Y’all are gonna have to edit some jokes or a laugh track or something in here because I have nothing left to give you. [awkward laugh track and silly sound effect inserted]
JENETTE: Well, that’s a perfect opportunity. Why don’t we go ahead and edit in your story from that night so that our awesome audience can join in the fun with us?
This is from That’s What She Said, live on stage, February 2020—Kelly Ryan and her story, “Off To A Rocky Start.”
KELLY: It was 1998. I was home for a few weeks during the summer before my junior year of college. I can see some of you already – like, 1998? Junior year? Noooo! I know – thank you.
So, Katie, my best friend, had come over to hang out and we were going to do whatever it is that we did back then. And she walked in and she said ‘Brian and Neil are going to come over and swim.’ Cool. Brian was her boyfriend at the time and Neil was a friend of his. I had met Neil a couple of weeks before at a diner. And our first encounter involved us sitting on the same side of the booth where he quickly learned that (1) I hit people when I get excited and (2) I hate same siders. Like the people that sit on the same side of the booth and leave a totally empty bench on the other side. I don’t get it. Like..do you turn and eat while you’re talking? It just.. It makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, we had met.
So the guys got to my house and were swimming in the pool, while Katie and I were super cool and sitting on the deck. I’m pretty sure I used baby oil as a tanning lotion that day—we were most definitely smoking cigarettes though. Because we were into all the cancers.
My parents were out of town and Brian asked if we had plans that night. So I said that my neighbor across the street was was working at the beer tent of a local church picnic and he said that if I didn’t drive, he would serve me. So they agreed they would come with. The guys were twenty-one. (I still see some of you out there doing some math on your fingers. And I really want to give you a hint but I’m just gonna let you figure it out on your own.)
So we go to the church picnic.. No, we don’t. First, Neil says, “After that you’re going to Rocky Horror Picture Show with me.”
Right. Does everybody know Rocky Horror? Okay, so old people know Rocky Horror. Do young people know Rocky Horror? No.
So it’s this cult classic from the 70s. It’s a comedy, it’s a horror, it’s a musical. It’s a comedy horror musical but it becomes this big performance and people dress up, and they throw things at the screen and there’s props—it’s interactive…it’s a thing.. it’s an experience.
So at this point, I was like, wait, am I going on a date with Neil? Because that was a weird way to ask. And he didn’t really ask…he just kind of told me. And I’m the one who does the telling. So I get nervous.
Then we go to the church picnic, have a couple of beers, nothing crazy, at all. And then we decide to go to a bowling alley restaurant called Giorgio’s. It’s a restaurant in a bowling alley. I know… super classy. (But to be fair, Old Orchard has good pizza. Spicy Sleeper, am I right?)
But I’m still super nervous. And I couldn’t eat my dinner. And then Katie and Brian tell us that they’re not coming with us. Hello? I know. So I’m still freaking out about whether this is a date with this guy, and then I find out we’re going by ourselves. And the show is in Chicago. And we’re in Joliet. So that’s like forty-five minutes. That’s serious car conversation.
So we leave Giorgio’s and Neil says we need to go back to my house to get some ‘props.’ This show is interactive, right? So we get some playing cards, toast (like bread that we put in the toaster,) a newspaper…and then he asked if we had rubber gloves, and I was like, we’re good, we have enough. We’re okay. We could stop here. But there are scenes in the movie where audience members throw things at the screen. You’d probably get kicked out of the Savoy 16 for that now, but, I’ll play along.
So we drive up to Chicago – we’re having a great time. I’m funny, he’s funny, it’s going really well. So I look over at this blue-eyed guy with his mullet, with his Hawaiian shirt, and he smells like Marlboro Lights and Old Spice (but the stick deodorant, not the aftershave) and I straight up ask him, because this is how I do, is this a date or what? And he says that it is.
So we park and we walk to the theater and we’re standing in line outside.
Let’s just recap real quick though:
• So we’re outside, in the sun, by the pool, all afternoon.
• We had a couple of beers at the church picnic.
• I was too nervous to eat anything.
Y’all with me so far? K.
So we’re standing in line, outside the theater, and I’m trying really hard to listen to Neil talk, but I’m feeling a little woozy. So the next thing you know, I’m on my back – on the ground – and Neil is standing over me, with this panicked look on his face.
Holy shit, I just passed out.
I get up, and I am BEYOND mortified. I was like ‘No, oh my gosh, isn’t that weird? I’m so fine – it’s totally fine. I’m good. I’m good.’
But then I wake up to blackness. Because I passed out AGAIN. But this time, I LANDED ON MY FACE. Yeah.
So now I get up and I have scrapes on my forehead, on my knees, and Neil is like ‘WHAT is happening with this girl right now?!’ And a really nice guy had run to the liquor store down the street and he brings back a Gatorade, talking about my electrolytes and it’s going to make everything better. And it was the 90s so we took things from strangers back then.
So we sit down on a bench and I’m sipping my Gatorade, replenishing my electrolytes, and there it is. A big ol’ ambulance pulls up in front of the theater. Paramedics jump out, ‘We heard there’s a girl who passed out and wouldn’t get up.’
Okay, first of all, clearly I got up—I’m drinking my Gatorade. Second of all, MY PARENTS ARE OUT OF TOWN – I’M IN CHICAGO WITH A GUY THEY DON’T KNOW – AND IF I GET INTO THAT AMBULANCE THEY’RE GONNA FIND OUT AND KILL ME! So I order this guy that I’m on a first date with to go send the paramedics away. I know. It’s going so well.
We still go in to the theater. You guys. We brought toast. And it can’t get any worse, right? Right?
So we walk in and there’s my cousin, Lauren. And I haven’t seen her in years. So we freak out and we’re hugging and like, ‘It’s so good to see you…’
‘Were you the girl that passed out that they called an ambulance on?’
‘Yeah, that was me.’
‘Have you ever been here before?’
‘No, this is my first time.’
‘You’re a virgin?’
‘I’m really good friends with the MC! I’m going to tell him.’ And she runs away.
‘Wait! What? What are you telling him?’
So the show is starting, and I’m picking gravel out of my forehead, and the MC comes on stage. He asks if this is anyone’s first time at the show so Neil starts hooting and hollering and pointing at me picking gravel out of my forehead. And the MC says ‘all the virgins to the stage!’ Ohhhh. Then yes, tonight I am a virgin. Yes, tonight I am.
My cousin drags me to the stage and I’m up there with a few other people. And the MC walks to each one of us and draws a big V on our foreheads with a black marker. Right over the scrapes and blood and gravel. And then he has us do The Pelvic Thrust on stage. Does everybody know The Pelvic Thrust? Yeah? Should we just show you The Pelvic Thrust. Get up. No, everybody. Get up. Get up! We’ve done this. We’ve practiced this. Y’all ready?
So, you put your hands on your hips. You pull your knees in tight. Look at Barbara sitting over there not doing The Pelvic Thrust! And then you do The Pelvic Thrust.
And then we were sent offstage to enjoy the rest of the film. And during the movie, Neil pulled this classic Yawning Stretch move—so I snuggle in. And he looks at me and I’m not even making this up, he looks at me and he says, ‘We’re tell our grandkids about this someday,’ and I’ve been Mrs. Neil Ryan for the past eighteen years.
KERRY: Killed it. Oh my gosh. That is like my absolute favorite when somebody can be making you laugh and then all of a sudden you’re like Aaaaaaaahh … it was so great. It was all the things. Kelly!
KELLY: So I should probably let the three listeners that are here right now know, Neil and I didn’t make it. We got a divorce in 2020. [goofy sound effect.] Oh, I’m just kidding. No, I’m kidding. Wait… Wrong podcast. I’m kidding. We’re fine. We’re great. We’re good.
KERRY: Awkwardly silent. Ooooh.
KELLY: I know, I’m like…
JENETTE: Holding my breath, waiting for the punchline.
KERRY: No, I laughed. And then midway through my laugh, I was like, oh no, I’m the asshole that’s laughing about her divorce…like haha.. wait? what?
KELLY: Too soon? No?
JENETTE: You’re not one of the casualties of 2020?
KELLY: You know what? And I feel horrible, because 2020 has been like a complete like absolutely shitastic year for so many people – but we are so lucky, we’re so grateful. Everybody is healthy. We both have jobs we can work from home. The kids are home with us, and the kids still like us so that, I mean two teenagers being stuck in a house like 24/7. That’s a lot.
Did I ever tell you that the night of She Said we built this house because we lost the house that we had an offer on? Kevin was like, ‘Everybody turn your cell phones off because you’re jacking with the wireless mics so everybody get off their cell phones.’ And that when my realtor was texting me that we lost the house. Yeah, cuz then I had my makeup done and I ran over to Hank’s Table because that’s where Kerry had my sister and my best friend from high school and Neil and everybody and I was like Neil Ryan and I’m like my mascara start… He’s like stop it – we’re not talking about the house now. He’s like, ‘Just finish today. We’ll talk about it tomorrow,’ and then we ended up building this amazing house that we literally yeah, honestly, we’re just ..
JENNETE: That’s perfect…
KELLY: We’re okay. We’re okay this year. So we are trying really hard to focus on the positive stuff and like we’re seeing our friends in twenty degree weather outside with blankets and hats and gloves because that’s what we have to do. But, so we’re making do with what we have and we’re grateful for what we have. It’s been okay for us. So we know that and we know a lot of people don’t have that so we are really lucky cuz Neil still likes me.
JENETTE: Congratulations. You certainly were off to a rocky start.
KERRY: Well, I sat in front of your family at the show and it was one of the highlights of the night for me. And I remember and I don’t think I’d ever met your husband—so he had to be a little alarmed because I kept turning around and nodding at him like ‘right?’ ‘right?’—a little overzealous, you’ve got your own fanclub in the front… but it was so great to see your family’s reaction. Had they heard it before or was it all fresh for them that night?
KELLY: Neil had heard it one time before and he was the most god-awful audience ever in the entire world—because I read it to him. He didn’t laugh at anything. He didn’t like react to anything. I’m like ‘Buh-bah’ and I give him like this whole like gift of this talk with like bow and wrapped and he’s just staring at me. That was like seriously. Nothing? He was like, ‘I lived it. That wasn’t a surprise. I knew it was going to happen.’
So I’m like, ‘You’re the worst—you’re the worst audience ever,’ and then I never practiced with him again. I’m like, ‘Thanks for your support – you suck.’
JENETTE: Well, we found some fans for you! I mean, did you hear the applause at the end of that number—hundreds of people like laughing and cheering and clapping? Could you have expected something like that from, you know, that moment of your life?
KELLY: Well, I did pay the first three rows—so they were told to cheer extra loud, but part of it too, I don’t know if you guys are aware, but I’m really uncomfortable with attention and being the center of attention makes me uncomfortable and I get a little nervous. So I didn’t like stay on stage for an extra long time while the clapping was happening—clearly I just went back to my seat and sat down. I didn’t stay up there and like ‘bask in the glow‘ or anything. At one point somebody was you stopped talking and started talking to people in the audience that were responding to you because I forgot I just forgot what was happening and I was just talking to whoever was laughing and I was so excited that someone was laughing at me.
KERRY: I’m so glad that we have so many photos of during your piece but also afterward in the dancing and the walking off stage like .. it was so great.
KELLY: Like, who else is going to gyrate off stage?
JENETTE: Kelly you turned around and informed the women who were on stage with you to stand up cuz they were going to do the time warp with you right then and there, and we, you and I had planned this, but nobody knew that was coming.
KELLY: So I did tell Catie and that was it. Cate knew. Yes, I needed one person that would do it and for sure and everybody else at me like I had three horns on stage and Barbara cracked me up because she just looked right at me and she’s like ‘no, I’m far too sophisticated for your shenanigans, and this is not my time. So no, I’m staying right here.’ But it was so fun. I loved it.
JENETTE: It was just one of those iconic, classic moments that we couldn’t have planned for it just played out perfectly. So thank you for taking that chance cuz that you know, that’s a scary moment to improvise and get a bunch of women to join you in something that bold.
KELLY: Dry humping on stage in front of a 1100 people? I mean who doesn’t want to do that?
KERRY: Who hasn’t?
KERRY: Hello, right? It’s like a rite of passage. Haven’t we all?
JENETTE: I just feel so bad that right after that show and, and COVID hit and everything shut down and you really lost out on your opportunity to be famous and have people stop you in the streets cuz I am convinced that’s what would have happened if life had remained normal and…
KELLY: I was waiting for Comedy Central to call me and they never did. I know. I was a little disappointed in this whole She Said thing .. like I was expecting offers and deals coming from everywhere. And I got nothing.
JENETTE: Well COVID. So anyway, Kelly you are a celebrity here in Champaign and in our hearts and we are so grateful that you are in the She Said family forever because you do bring such light and such joy to everything you do and make people laugh and we do appreciate you cuz this has been a hard year for so many people and I’m trying to be serious which is really hard to do with the two of you in front of me, but we do, we appreciate you taking the time to join us today and reminisce about that amazing fun night. I’m so glad to hear you guys are doing well cuz it is a hard year for everybody and we’re trying to keep the mission going strong of connecting with women and sharing women stories and, like you said, whenever we connect with women, there’s a story but then there’s the story behind the story and that’s why we launched the podcast.
KELLY: This is what I’m saying – shit starts off bad, you get a rocky start, but then, everything happens for a reason. We’re where we’re supposed to be.
JENETTE: Save it for the podcast, we do. We love hearing from the women because there’s always another side to the story that we get to explore.
So thanks to our friends and fans for joining us and listening—all three of you, we’ll catch you next time on The She Said Project Podcast.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast, in partnership with Illinois Public Media.
All materials contained in the podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to shesaidproject (dot) com.
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management. Empowering women to live their best lives.
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