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Comedy couple keep coming back for a taste of paradise

Wednesday 1 February 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Art, Features


Comedy couple keep coming back for a taste of paradise
Kiwi comedians Michele A'Court and Jeremy Elwood come to Rarotonga for “proper relaxation”. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/ 23012920

Kiwi husband-and-wife comedians and writers Jeremy Elwood and Michele A'Court have lost count on the number of times they’ve been to the Cook Islands. They describe it as a destination where they can just “switch off”. The couple chat with deputy editor Al Williams.

January is traditionally a quiet time for Kiwi comedians as live music takes centre stage on the tour circuit.

It’s an opportunity for Elwood and A’Court to get away for quiet time before the cycle of writing and performing ramps up again.

The couple have decades of experience in the industry and have always made time to catch a break in the Cooks.

They flew out of Auckland just before its international airport flooded on Friday last week.

As far as they know, everything is OK back home.                 

A’Court says the thought of “switching off” here is appealing.

In fact, her automated email reply says “I have taken a break in the Cook Islands in a place where wifi is limited and, I'll be honest, I did that on purpose.”

When we meet, she reiterates.  

“One of the reasons we like coming here is because wifi is intermittent and expensive, we switch off.”

They’ve established friendships on Rarotonga during the years they’ve been coming here.

“Pre Covid-19, we were here at least once a year, we come in January, people at home say why on earth do you want to come here in January, we don’t have any work on at this time of the year,” Michelle says.

“It’s the perfect easy getaway for us, it’s not a long flight,” Jeremy says.

“I would love to do an islands getaway to Rarotonga once a year, it’s low maintenance, it’s the New Zealand dollar, and over the time we have been here we have got to know a few people here.”

“It’s a really familiar place to us now, it’s not an adventure holiday, it’s a proper relaxation holiday.”  

“I came her for the first time in 90s, the money you spend in the Cook Islands stays in the Cook Islands,“ Michelle says.

“We are not spending money on internationally owned hotels, and so the tourist dollar does something good for the local economy, and I care about that.”

“We have always found Cooks a welcoming place, knowing people here, we have seen a little behind the scenes,” Jeremy says.

“I’ve played guitar at jam nights, I play guitar and harmonica, blues and blues covers.”

The couple were there through New Zealand’s burgeoning stand-up comedy scene in the 90s and early this century.

They are up front about New Zealand’s changing relationship with laughter. 

“I don’t know if comedy has changed or we have got used to hearing our own voices,” Michelle says.  

“I don’t know the answer to that.

“You get good at it by doing it.”  

“People starting now are going into much more of an industry now,” Jeremy says.

“There is a lot more than doing stand-up now, there are opportunities in radio, in TV, in print, and online, a big part of it is technology, people have so much stuff online which is high quality.

“Back when I started, trying to do a live recording was a real business, you had to hire a sound engineer and bring gear in.

“Now you can do it on your phone.”

Michelle says the comedy scene is looking healthy in 2023.

“There is a huge contingent of voices coming through, they are not just arriving, they are staying.”

Jeremy agrees.

“The industry has accepted it (Kiwi comedy), they have seen it being a success in New Zealand and overseas, it is an industry.

“People don’t’ just see it as one or two people, it is a movement, there is enough of us making a success of it, both at home and overseas, and people can see the whole thing is successful, rather than one person doing well.”    

Jeremy says there is no real secret to stand-up.

“For myself, I do about 90 per cent of my writing on stage, we have both been doing this a long time so, I sort of got into by accident really, I trained as an actor and sort of doing stand- up as a bit of a bat, I grew up in Dunedin, when I moved to Auckland, it just started sort of paying the bills, that was 20-something years ago,” he says.

Michelle, also shares a love of live theatre, studied journalism before writing satire, moving into television, then eventually stand-up.

“The writing has always gone side by side, writing is a big part of stand up, both of us came from theatre and sketches, particularly me, I was always working off someone else’s script whether it be Shakespeare or a play in Otago,” Jeremy says.

“With stand up you are writing your own stuff, my strengths were always in English and history.”

Covid-19 hit the comedy industry hard, but the recovery has been quick, the couple says.      

“I have some projects in next couple of months I’m excited about,” Michelle says.

“I do a lot of corporate events; people have gone crazy with it.

“People are so excited about getting people in a room together, the last six months of 2022 have been really busy.”

Jeremy says he has spent the past couple of years “rebuilding”.

“Comedy got back into it really quickly, we were very much the first live entertainment to get back up and running, all you need is a microphone.”

Rarotonga was the first place the couple came back to.

They “slipped in” into Rarotonga in July 2021 before Auckland was hit with more lockdowns and the border closure in August of the same year.  

Michelle says they plan to return to Rarotonga with extended family in April.