Image: Michèle A'Court / Kate Little
This month we are celebrating feminist comedy with our ‘April Fools’ series, featuring kickass Kiwi comedians. Taking us out with a bang is the legendary Michèle A'Court, stand up comedian, writer, social commentator and mama.
At a party, are you the person dancing on the table tops or the one sitting in the corner wishing you were at home watching Netflix?
I have been known to dance on the bar at the San Francisco Bath House on a particularly good night. If you see the photos taken near the end of the night, you can see a look in my eyes that suggests I’d quite like to be at home watching Designated Survivor.
In your opinion, what makes a great comedian?
The ability to distil big ideas down to small ones that feel universally true. Also, easy access to your own feelings of anger, bewilderment and joy.
What’s your favourite joke? Could you tell it for us?
It’s rude to have favourites, but I like this one from American comedian Maria Bamford: “If I was going to have plastic surgery, I’d like to have the part of my brain removed that cares about what other people think.”
What does ‘feminist comedy’ look like to you?
It looks like comedy. Specifically, comedy that doesn’t dismiss and diminish women for being women.
What would you say to a comedian who had just made a rape joke?
It depends if the joke was at the expense of the victim, or the perpetrator. If it was at the expense of the victim, I’d ask the comedian to explain in detail why they thought it was funny. (Explaining a joke is generally humiliating for a comedian.) If it was at the expense of the rapist, and also funny, I’d probably buy them a drink.
Is it ever OK to make a sexist or racist joke?
All kinds of things fall out of your mouth when you are under a spotlight holding a microphone with a room full of people staring at you. Part of being a comedian requires you to drop self-censorship and let all the ideas through, and most of us are capable of sexist or racist (or homophobic or transphobic) half-arsed thoughts.
What really matters is fixing it when you know you’ve f*cked up. But someone who deliberately crafts a sexist or racist joke? Meh. The comedy I love makes fun of the powerful, not the vulnerable. What’s that lovely quote? It “afflicts the comfortable, and comforts the afflicted”. That.
What do you say to people who say women aren’t funny?
I either say, “Crikey, then I’ve been making a pretty decent living out of doing something I can’t do for 25 years,” or (more likely) point to another part of the room and say, “I have to go over there, now.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in comedy?
Get on stage and do it. Also, use deodorant and be nice in the Green Room.