Comedy to lift spirits

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For more than 30 years, former Queenstowner Michele A’Court has been giving audiences around the world a reason to laugh by poking fun at everyday life.

A’Court is a pioneer of New Zealand’s stand-up comedy scene and was part of a group of performers who changed common misconceptions and cultural cringe that ‘Kiwis aren’t funny’ in the 1990s.

No topic is taboo — she packs a punch on stage.
It’s made her one of the most sought-after Kiwi comedians, landing her regular spots on Pulp Comedy, 7 Days and The Project, gigs at Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and working with comedy greats, such as the late Robin Williams.

“When someone laughs at a joke it’s usually because they are thinking the same thought that you are, so it’s a collective sense we are living in the same world and experiencing things in the same way,’’ A’Court tells Mountain Scene.

But her most treasured stand-up performance was on home soil at this year’s World of Music, Arts and Dance festival (Womad), held March 15-17, in New Plymouth.

The irony being, of course, it was during one of the saddest periods in NZ history.

The three-day festival, aimed at promoting love and diversity, launched just hours after a gunman opened fire on worshippers at two Christchurch mosques — Al Noor and Linwood — killing 51 people, on March 15.

Two days later, A’Court had a solo slot on stage at Womad.
Her prior feelings of excitement about attending the festival for the first time turned to confusion about whether doing a comedy set while the whole country mourned was appropriate.

She remembers: “It was the last show in the programme — I spent a couple of days questioning what’s the right thing to do.

“Then realising that is exactly what you are supposed to do; we are meant to bring levity in a time of gravity.

“Getting on stage and talking about how I was feeling and how they were feeling, then making them laugh for an hour, felt really special.’’

She’s no stranger to Queenstown, having performed here many times and lived here in the early 90s, a time when her comedy career just started taking off.

Long-time Queenstowners might remember hearing A’Court’s dulcet tones when she was a broadcaster on Resort Radio.

“It’s one of our favourite parts of the country — Queenstown and Wanaka — and we’ll jump at any chance to get along there.”

On what she’ll be taking a swipe at, she says: “Anything that makes you feel something — feeling bewildered, sad, angry, confused — just the world around us.’’

A’Court and her comedian husband Jeremy Elwood hit the stage at 8pm, at Queenstown’s SkyCity Casino, on Saturday night. – Miranda Cook

Tickets cost $30 pre-purchased via eventfinda.co.nz or $40 at the door.