Stand-up comedian, writer, social commentator and mama, Michèle A’Court faces the prospect of public failure on a regular basis and embraces it for what it is; one of life’s most potent forms of feedback and learning.
Describe your biggest failure
The big failures are much less interesting to me than the constant, small failures.
As a stand-up comedian, every gig involves failure – jokes that don’t fly on a particular night. Every set, every time, will include some gags that don’t hit the mark at one time or another. This always fascinates me and I take a moment afterwards (and while I’m still on stage!) to consider why. If it’s a gag that usually works, but hasn’t in that particular moment, I’m always keen to understand it. Was my timing off? Were the words I used that night not the best ones? Are there reasons it didn’t connect with that audience? Did I not sell it the right way? So you unpack the words, and the intent, and think about your relationship with the audience, and how you’ve presented yourself and your ideas this time that might be different from other times when the gag has flown like a bird.
Describe what you learn from these failures?
You learn that every night is its own night – you can never recreate the success of another time, you have to make it work this time. You can’t fly on autopilot. You remind yourself to be conscious of all the factors that contribute to a good gig – who they are, who they think you are, what they’ve brought into the room with them (their mood, their expectations), and the physical things that help and hinder a good show – sound, lighting, staging – and try to ensure you have the best possible chance of making it work.
Most of all, when a joke fails, you take a breath, and move on to the next one. And move on to it with the hope that the next one will fly. There’s always another gag, and another chance to win them back.
What’s your best advice for embracing failure?
Be entirely present and take nothing for granted. And remember that failure is ok – a gag that suddenly stops working is an opportunity to turn it into a better gag, and a terrific reason to look forward to the next gig, when you can try different timing, better phrasing, and write a better joke.
What’s your definition of success?
What I most want is for a room full of people to feel better at the end of my show than they did at the beginning. I want them to feel better about themselves, to feel connected to the other people in the room, and to feel less alone inside their own heads.
What’s your definition of failure?
To find about more about Michèle A’Court visit – http://micheleacourt.com/
You can read more about Michèle, and others like her, in Annah’s latest book – Flourish – available NOW at https://www.annahstretton.co.nz/products/flourish