Catch up with all of Michèle A'Court's latest news - her twitter feed and other happenings in her life.
Tuesday night at 7pm Michele will be in conversation with Neil Thornton from the NZ Comedy School. Neil is running an excellent series with comedians about their life and work. Nip over to my “Dates” page for the link to join via Zoom.
It has been a long time since I tidied up around here – I managed to break my website some time ago so couldn’t update gigs and so forth. But (thanks to @vivster81) it is all functioning again. So no more tumbleweeds rolling through these pages, but also (hilariously and ironically) I now have no gigs to update.
As it is for many people in lots of industries, Covid-19 has meant that pretty much every job I had booked for what was looking like a very busy year has… vanished. Writers’ festivals, comedy festivals, fringe festivals, little trips to places like Dunedin, Wellington, Ashburton, filming the “On The Rag” web series, and guest spots on The Project NZ… All gone. Feel free to nip over to my “Dates” page but it won’t take you long to scroll through what is now mostly a bit of radio, broadcast from the comfort of my bubble at home.
I’ve been a very happy self-employed freelancer for the last 27 years, and I probably sounded a bit smug when I talked about my “portfolio career” – that I had a whole range of clients and revenue streams that ranged from comedy to writing to voice work to corporate events, plus radio and TV, the combination of which offered, in practice, “job security”. What this virus has taught me is that my work wasn’t really that varied – mostly it was me standing in a room filled with people, talking. And we’re not allowed to do that right now. The latest hit to our media industry has also swept away opportunities for freelance writing, so… Yeah, I’m still in my pyjamas. Those leggings I bought at a Farmers sale a couple of years ago on the off-chance they’d ever be back in fashion have really come into their own.
While other people are using Lockdown to get creative and be productive – write that novel, learn a new language, launch a blog, train for a marathon, script a show – I find I’m frozen in survival mode. There is grief (for the way my life used to be) and anxiety (about what happens next). So I’m sitting with both of those emotional states and working my way through them. Taking a pause, I guess.
There are delightful things about pausing, right? Small things, done slowly. I like not setting an alarm. I love watching the birds in our garden who seem to gather closer now, for longer, and in larger groups. I’m making discoveries about myself – I always said sure, I’d exercise if I had the time, and that I also might cook. I am massively surprised that this turns out to be true. I ride my bike, and I make paella now. I have tidied drawers and put things in alphabetical order. I make little goals each day and feel good about getting them done. Like, really little. One day last week my goal was to go through my pens to see which ones still worked. Achieved. Picture of pens above.
I won’t see my grandchildren till we get back to Level 1. That could be a very long time. So each day I am making a video for them of a bedtime story. If you fancy a low-to-no production value version of “My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes”, flick me an email.
Meantime, I’m going to catch up on posting some of my writing here – “Your Weekend” columns and the odd thing I’ve written recently for other publications. That’ll do until I feel like writing something new.
And a big shout out to anyone else who feels a bit stuck, or overwhelmed, or who feels like being very still because we’re not ready yet to reimagine who we are in this very different world. One of the things I learned when my mother died last June is that you can’t rush through the stages of grief – they take their own sweet time. I have a feeling that for lots of us, this is going to be the same.
Throughout July and August, Michele is a guest columnist for Woman’s Day. “Stuff To Tell Our Daughters” covers subjects like social media, sex & relationships, money & career, and modern household hints. Grab a copy at the supermarket checkout. And here’s a taste: “What is a Feminist?”
My second book, “How We Met – the ways great love begins” is in bookstores from Monday 26 March. It started as an idea in July 2015 when I was out for dinner with friends and asked them the question everyone gets around to asking eventually: “So how did you two meet?” Ian and Clare told a great story about falling down a hole in a kebab shop, and I said something like, “Someone should write a book full of those stories.” And they all looked at me, and I thought about it for a minute, and said, “Ok, I will.” And here we are.
Almost three years later (after interviewing 42 couples, a neuroscientist and a relationship expert) it is ready for you to stick in your eyes. Funny, sexy, rude, ellaborate, surprising, outrageous and simple tales – woven together around my theory that we need great yarns to weave our lives together, and also that when we go back and remember how we fell in love, we fall in love again.
I will be taking the book to writers’ festivals all over New Zealand this year: Auckland, Tauranga, Masterton, Christchurch and Nelson – keep an eye on my “Dates” page for details.
One of the most exciting and satisfying things I get to work on is a podcast for the Spinoff (a terrific news and social commentary website) called “On The Rag”. Hosted by Alex Casey, and with Leonie Hayden (Mana magazine) we chew over what the month has been like for women in NZ and the world. Expect hilarity, anger and Prosecco. Here’s a link to them all: https://thespinoff.co.nz/tag/on-the-rag/
One night back in March 2014, I sat up late with a bottle of wine and wrote a piece about being asked (over and over again) if women were funny. I put it up on my website. It was picked up by http://ruminator.co.nz/ the next day, and when the people at the Guardian in the UK read it, they asked if they could print it, too. Which was pretty cool. Then earlier this month (almost two years later) The Washington Post ran a story about women in comedy, and quoted my old Guardian piece. So that was fairly awesome.
Here’s the original piece as it was published in the the Guardian:
And here’s the piece from the Washington Post:
In December, Michele was presented with the “Funniest Column Award” by her peers in the NZ Comedy Guild. She made a terrible speech (she was mostly focused on presenting a couple of awards later in the evening, and was generally a bit overwhelmed) so here is what she wishes she had said on the night:
“I’ve been writing a weekly newspaper column since 2008 – first for Your Weekend magazine then, from 2010, for the Press. It has been a real gift – my first editor, Mark Wilson, gave me a very open brief. He said it didn’t have to be funny (which is a liberating thing for a comedian) but it did have to be about something people will talk about over morning tea at work. And it wasn’t allowed to be about my cat. I broke that rule once when I wrote about assisted dying, and related it to the kind and compassionate way we had been able to deal with the end of our cat’s life, but I think that was the only time. Sometimes it has been about some social nonsense that makes me angry, or sad, or bewilders me. Sometimes it has been my observations about the places I’ve travelled to in NZ or somewhere else in the world. Sometimes is has been some kind of nostalgia or whimsy. Always, it is fun, like taking your opinions for a short run. I am always hugely happy when I hear from people that it connected with them, or resonated, or gave them a voice. So thank you so much for recognising that tonight. I am very grateful, and a tiny bit proud.”
On 11 October, Michele was presented with the Reilly Comedy Award at the Variety Artists Club of NZ annual dinner. These are this country’s definitive variety entertainment awards. The comedy award is named after legendary New Zealand performers Sylvia and Jack Rielly, and it is presented to a performer who has achieved excellence in the field of comedy. It was a bloody lovely night.