Comedian Courtney Dawson has charmed Celebrity Treasure Island viewers ever since she arrived on the show with her hilarious one-liners and eight fabulous hats.
As it turns out, being charismatic and funny is in Courtney's genes. The rising star of Aotearoa's comedy scene started doing stand-up after watching her dad Heta leave an audience in stitches.
"My dad started doing comedy about a year before me and he encouraged me to do it," says Courtney. "I was like, 'No, I'm not doing that.'
I watched him perform and I was so scared of watching him, but he's funny.
"Then he was doing a fundraiser gig and he was like, 'You should do it – it's just our friends and family.' So I did it and I kept on doing it."
Courtney, who is of Ngāti Kurī and Waikato-Tainui descent, went on to win the NZ Raw Comedy Quest and Best Newcomer Award in 2019, before doing sold-out father-daughter show Half And Hāwhe with Heta in 2021.
She admits the rest of their whānau tire of them trading jokes at the dinner table – "they absolutely hate it!" – but Courtney loves that she and Heta both work in comedy.
"It's great," she enthuses. "Sometimes the green room can be a bit of a weird space because people are really nervous, but when my dad is there, it's like we're at home and we just bro down. Although sometimes he'll be complaining about stuff at home or my siblings and then we'll be like, 'Oh s**t, We've got to go on stage!'
"But it's nice. I love my family, so it's cool to be able to go on that ride with him."
Heta and Courtney – who's also had stints on television, earning laughs on Have You Been Paying Attention? and Paddy Gower Has Issues – aren't the only performers in her family. Her sibling Samuel is also getting their fair share of the limelight.
"Samuel got a dance scholarship in Sydney for two years," tells Courtney."I had one line on Shortland Street and four weeks later, they had an actual part on the show. I was like, 'Why are you stealing my dream?!'"
At this stage, Courtney doesn't know whether her 14-year-old son Arie has any ambition to follow in her and Heta's footsteps.
"He doesn't think my stand-up is cool," she admits. "He doesn't think it's bad – I think it's the live performance aspect of it. I did a gig recently and while I was talking into the microphone, he was on his phone. He doesn't really like stand-up, but I'll bring him around."
Fortunately, Arie doesn't play favourites with his comic relatives. "He thinks we're both equally lame. It would be pretty dark if he was like, 'I hate your jokes, but Poppa is funny!"
Arie was happy she landed the Celebrity Treasure Island gig, though. "He was stoked. He said, 'You manifested this, Mum.'
That's because we watched the Chris Parker season together and I told him, 'I want to be on this show. It looks so fun.'"
Courtney's delighted she's still in the running at this stage in the competition and that she's already bagged $5000 for her charity, Middlemore Foundation.
"I'm a proud South Aucklander. I was born at Middlemore Hospital, my son was born at Middlemore and my nan was a nurse there for 30 years, so I'm really happy to be able to support them and the work they do."
She's also managed to keep the "Sagittarius alliance" of fellow comedians James Mustapic, Laura Daniel and Eli Matthewson a secret, which is a miracle given her track record.
"I've ruined three pregnancy announcements!" she confesses. "One time I let it slip that someone in my friend group was pregnant. I said to a friend, 'I can't believe three people in our group are pregnant.' And they didn't know about the third one and I tried to cover it, but they sleuthed and found out."
Courtney says things on CTI were "really intense" after Jordan Vandermade was sent home last week. Eli wanted to use his advantage to save the Lotto presenter, but Blair Strang trumped him.
"Blair pulls this mercy card and he looks at me. He's like, 'Do I use it?' and I was just like, 'Yeah, you do.'
"Blair's great. He is giving the same energy as my dad."
Asked whether Heta or Samuel would have a go at the reality show, Courtney laughs, "They would be fantastic because they are so dramatic and annoying. I don't know if they'd be keen on the physical stuff, though!"
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