01 Jan New Year Honour 2023 – Michele A’Court ONZM
“Award-winning comedian Michèle A’Court has been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. A’Court has been a trailblazer for women while performing for 30 years in radio, theatre and TV. She also set up the New Zealand Comedy Guild…” New Zealanders Recognised…
New Year Honours: Michele A’Court says stand-up comedy a terrific vehicle for flying feminism flag
The fight to ensure women can tell their own funny stories rather than just be the butt of jokes goes on, Michele A’Court says.
A’Court has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her work in the entertainment and comedy industries.
When she saw the invitation from the Governor-General’s office, she thought it was a scam, but once it sank in, she was delighted.
“You don’t realise it would mean something to you until it happens.”
While it was exciting for her, it was also special for the comedy industry because not many have received recognition, she said.
A’Court has worked as a comedian for 30 years, a both around Aotearoa and overseas, in radio, theatre and television. She established the New Zealand Comedy Guild, still the only industry body globally solely representing comedians, serving as its inaugural chair from 1999 to 2006.
She said her career as a stand-up comic was “a brand new thing in New Zealand” when she started and it coincided with finding out she was pregnant with her daughter.
She was inspired by US comedians Danny Kaye and Carol Burnett when she was growing up and the idea of performing on a stage and making people laugh and feel better about life appealed to her.
It was also the ideal format for a feminist, she said.
“I love the idea that you can take some challenging ideas and some social activism and put it into some comedy and reach the people who otherwise you wouldn’t be able to reach, and maybe make them think differently about a couple of things.”
When she started, it was an unwritten rule that only one woman could be on the billing for a stand-up show. Now it was not unusual for there to be a 50-50 split.
“So we’re not as lonely as we were … There’s a great network and a lot of support for each other.”
This was needed, she said, because there were still times when women were resented for not being male performers.
A’Court said the fight for women to get a fairer representation as performers was continuing. It “made her heart sing” that so many women were keen to be involved in the industry, and she believed her honour was recognition for the role she had played in advancing their cause.
She was nervous about the first Feminists are Funny show she hosted in 2016 as a fundraiser for the Auckland Women’s Centre but it sold out “in 30 seconds flat” and has continued to thrive.
“There’s an appetite for women’s voices – women and non-binary people – telling our stories and making ourselves the centre of the jokes that are told rather than the butt of the joke.”
A’Court said she felt like the luckiest person alive and it was overwhelming to receive the same honour as her hero, fellow comic Ginette McDonald.
– and from the NZ Herald: Herald: This Honour Represents Trailblazers
Michele A’Court has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognising her trailblazing work and advocacy in comedy.
The multi-award-winning comedian established the New Zealand Comedy Guild. She has also advocated for access and safety within the comedy community and provided practical assistance to many New Zealand comedians building their careers.