June 8, 2023
People & Places

Funny girl

Corinne Grant rose to national comedy fame alongside friends and comics such as Rove McManus, Wil Anderson and Dave Hughes. But the former TV celebrity has swapped comedy for the court room, now working as a lawyer in Adelaide, as well as relishing the joys of parenthood after many rounds of IVF.

Sitting in the garden of her Prospect home, Corinne Grant is playing with her gorgeous two-year-old daughter, Haroula, discussing holiday plans with her husband, Christos Bouras.

It looks like any other happy family scene except that what makes this working mum so different from others in her neighbourhood is the life she led before motherhood and domesticity came calling.

Corinne was one of Australia’s most recognisable comedy stars of the 1990s, rising to fame on television in popular shows such as Rove Live and The Glass House.

Back then, Corinne was part of a new breed of television comics, finding fame alongside other up-and-coming comedy friends such as Dave Hughes, Peter Helliar, Rove McManus and Wil Anderson.

They were hectic, exciting times where Corinne juggled multiple high-profile media roles including co-hosting a radio show called The Saturday Show, with comedian Tom Gleeson.

But fast forward 30 years and Corinne’s life couldn’t be further from the days of live TV and comedy tours.

Today, Corinne lives in suburban Adelaide. She’s a mum and has swapped the laughs for the law, working three days a week as a civil litigation and employment lawyer for Adelaide firm Camatta Lempens Lawyers.

“I don’t do things by halves,” she muses.

That attitude has been the case ever since Corinne was a child, growing up in Corryong in country Victoria.

Corinne relaxes at home in suburban Adelaide. Photograph by Weronika Mamot, styled by Emma Riemersma, hair and make up by Sarah Wake. Corinne wears Red crepe curved cape top, $799, Red crepe wide classic pant, $599, CZ logo earrings small, $229, from Carla Zampatti Rundle East and Suri nude leather heel, $189, from Luminous Assembly.
In a photo with Rove McManus and Peter Helliar taken at the Rove Live Christmas party in the early 2000s.

Her father, Don, was a boilermaker and had various jobs including working on the Snowy Mountain Scheme, managing petrol stations, driving a school bus and selling ice.

“Christos always laughs when I say my dad sold ice,” Corinne says. “Not the meth kind. I remember being about 10 years old – it was the early 1980s – and my sister Wendy and I would put on our ski gloves and help dad to bag up the ice and put it in the ice chest on the back of the Ford F100. Then we’d drive it around all of the regional areas to all of the pubs. So, I’ve seen the back of a lot of regional pubs.”

It was a childhood of freedom and fun. Corinne remembers playing outside and her mother, Elizabeth, would yell out: “Just be careful of snakes and make sure you stamp really loudly when you go through the paddock on the way to the creek”.

As a child Corinne dreamt of becoming a physiotherapist because she’d seen one regularly after hurting her back, but by the time she graduated from Corryong High School, she decided to study nursing in Wodonga.

That lasted a year, long enough for Corinne to know nursing was “the wrong fit”, so she transferred to an arts degree at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

“When I called dad to say I had left nursing and was doing an arts degree he thought that meant I’d be some kind of international financier. I did not disabuse him of that theory, then I majored in drama,” Corinne says.

Comedy still wasn’t on the horizon for the young performer who set her sights on becoming a serious actor. But when some of her university mates began doing stand-up comedy as a side hustle, Corinne could see the benefits.

“I thought it looked like a really good acting exercise because you have to deliver what is, for most comedians, a really tightly structured script as if it’s completely off the cuff,” she says.

“So, I started doing it just for that reason and then I started getting a little bit of cash-in-hand for it and, you know, 50 bucks when you’re 20 years old, that’s your night out.”

Corinne as a baby with her mum Elizabeth.
A shot with her dad taken at home in Corryong in the 1970s.

The aspiring young actor also thought stand-up would help her deal with stage fright, which she suffered on and off.

One of her first solo gigs was at the famed Esplanade “Espy”  Hotel in St Kilda and the show consisted of Corinne playing guitar and singing a song called “I’m in love with a monster truck driver”.

“So, I just got on stage and said , ‘Hello, my name is Corinne and this is my song’. I sang it, said, ‘thank you’, and got off the stage. I did that a number of times before I was game enough to do jokes as well. It took me years to let go of that guitar. It was my prop and it sort of formed a security barrier as well.”

As Corinne gradually began building her confidence and repertoire, more bookings followed, often supporting mates such as Merrick Watts. Her routine focused on the usual comedy fodder – relationships, current events and politics.

“During the 1990s in Victoria, political comedy was still really big,” she says. “That was the Jeff Kennett era and Jeff was a universal punchline for everybody; they just don’t make politicians like that anymore.”

Gradually, the tightly scripted routine gave way to more ad-libbing and connection with the audience. The venues broadened too, and pretty soon Corinne was a regular on the festivals circuit, including the Adelaide Fringe and, eventually, Scotland’s iconic Edinburgh Festival.

“The audience interaction, I mean, that’s why you do it,” she says. “I started really enjoying the freedom of it. I didn’t need a director or a writer. I didn’t need props. I didn’t need other actors. It was just me and I could perform whenever I could get a gig. That’s how it started with guys like Pete Helliar, Dave Hughes and Wil Anderson.

“It was a great time to be stepping into the industry and we were all great mates. It’s your job and your social circle. All of us were close friends and socialising together and working together, going on a comedy festival roadshow and that’s six weeks, all of you together.”

By 1999, Corinne was offered her first television gig at Channel Nine on a new show called Rove, starring its namesake, Rove McManus, and co-starring some of her comedy cohorts and friends.

Corinne in a tutu for one of her first-ever performances, “I loved that dress”.
As a high school student.

It was a golden era of comedy, when television executives were willing to take risks on this talented young bunch, and Corinne admits they were all like kids in a candy store who couldn’t believe their luck.

“They gave us a budget, (while) most comedians scrounged up props from the op shop” she says.

“So, we went, ‘Okay, we have a budget. We want this sketch to be in German, or we want this one to have explosions in it. They stopped us at an elephant, but they did give us the German interpreter and the explosions.

“I also remember sitting at my desk one day when we were doing Rove and someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around and (AFL legend) Lou Richards is right there. He said, ‘Where do I find Daryl Somers?’ and I said, ‘I think it’s the next office over, Mr Richards’.

“We just couldn’t believe where we were and what we were doing.”

Rove lasted 12 episodes on Nine before it was axed. It was then picked up by Network Ten where it was a ratings success, and enjoyed a nine-year stint on air.

The popular entertainment show turned Corinne into a household name, and while she often appeared in comedy sketches, she was also sent on international assignments, interviewing celebrities and movie stars. She interviewed the entire cast of Dawson’s Creek in the United States, and did a memorable interview with Jacqui Stallone, mother of actor Sylvester Stallone.

“The Jacqui Stallone interview was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done,” Corinne says. “She did psychic readings of people’s backsides and I took over a photocopy of Rove’s bum for her to read. I don’t know which was weirder – the actual bum reading by Jacqui, or having to stare at a photocopy of Rove’s arse.”

The success and popularity of Rove led to other television opportunities for Corinne, including The Glass House on the ABC and skitHOUSE on Ten. Corinne was also in-demand as a speaker and MC across the country.

Corinne, holding nephew Myles, with her parents and sister Wendy.
Corinne with singer Cyndi Lauper on Rove Live.

The former comedian says it wasn’t until she had reached this level of fame that her parents fully understood her unconventional career path.

“I think it took them a while to sort of understand that I could make a living from it,” she says. “They were very worried and, to be honest, I think they’re more relieved now that I’m a lawyer. Then again, I actually earn a lot less as a lawyer than I did as a comedian.”

At the height of her success, Corinne admits there were elements of the media and television industries that began to chip away at her confidence and sense of self. She cites sexism and bullying as commonplace during the 1990s and early 2000s.

“I would be called a princess a lot, and I’m not,” she says. “I have very firm views about not being treated like shit, but I don’t think that makes me a princess. I think it’s just the things that every woman experienced back then; the work that you did being ignored and then a man changes it by a couple of words and all of a sudden, it’s picked up and he gets the credit. All of that, it’s not unfamiliar to anyone who was in any kind of profession or industry in the ’90s and early 2000s. I wouldn’t say there was anything extraordinary about it.

“That may have all changed post #MeToo, but that’s just the way it was back then.”

One place that didn’t happen was on The Glass House, which Corinne co-hosted alongside Wil Anderson and Dave Hughes from 2001 until 2006. It was produced by Ted Robinson and Corinne says Ted had enormous respect for artists, allowing them to bring their voices to life on the show. All three of the show’s stars had grown up in the country and Corinne had known Wil since they were both 17 years old.

“So, I think just culturally we fitted together very well,” Corinne says. “The Glass House was by far the most wonderful creative experience of my career. I loved working on that show.”

But around 2012, Corinne began to feel restless and wasn’t “feeling it anymore” with comedy. Exhausted by years of high-octane and high-profile work, she packed it all in and headed  to Lyon in France, creating time for reflection and introspection.

“I was in a position where I had the money and the time to take a break,” she muses. “After four months in France, that’s when I realised that I did not miss comedy … I didn’t really check up on what was happening in the scene in Australia. So that started me thinking, ‘Maybe I should consider something else’. I do like feeling constantly challenged in life. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over.”

Corinne with good mates Wil Anderson and Dave Hughes on the set of The Glass House.
Corinne in the FOX FM and Rove Live days, with actor Jason Biggs, centre, and comedian Peter Helliar.

By this time, Corinne had been involved in refugee and asylum advocacy for many years and had always had what she describes as a “strong social conscience”.

So, when a lawyer friend suggested she study law, the then-39 year old thought it was a logical, albeit challenging, choice.

“I asked my friend if I could study and continue working as my mortgage wouldn’t pay itself and he said, ‘Of course, it’s easy’,” she says. “Well, maybe it was easy because he’s a genius. That was the hardest three years of my life. I still have nightmares about it.”

Being a mature-aged student also made for some funny and interesting moments. Corinne recalls an occasion when some of her 20-something university friends were talking about the band Grinspoon and they asked if she’d heard of them.

“I lost it and I said, ‘Have I heard of them? I’ve got drunk with Grinspoon, don’t talk to me about Grinspoon!’. But I think that just made me sound even older,” she laughs.

Corinne was 42 by the time she graduated from the University of Melbourne with her law degree, and was awarded the John Gibson Memorial prize for Refugee Law in her final year of studies.

“I was very proud of that because that was the subject I was most passionate about,” she says. “I did enjoy studying law, but I enjoy practising it far more.”

She soon had work with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in Melbourne before moving to the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions. She was by now well and truly ensconced in legal circles and this was how, five years ago, she met and fell in love with barrister Christos.

Two years ago, the couple decided to move to Adelaide to be closer to Christos’s son, Alex, 10 and escaping another Covid lockdown in Melbourne during the global pandemic was also appealing.

Corinne taking part in the Celebrity Grand Prix in 2005 with boxer Kostya Tszyu.
Corinne with partner Christos Bouras, a barrister whom she met through legal circles.

Corinne now works three days a week covering cases of unfair dismissal, bullying, harassment and discrimination – fitting, given her own experiences in the world of television all those years ago.

When clients recognise her from her TV days Corinne says, “I know it’s weird, there’s no point hiding it, it’s weird. You are allowed to think it’s weird. But I think being a performer does help you to be a lawyer in that it gives you the confidence to be able to speak publicly or speak in court without the nerves.”

Away from work, Corinne had always yearned to become a mum and when she and Christos knew they wanted to have a child, her age dictated that fertility treatment would be the best option for them to create their family.

The couple underwent 12 rounds of IVF and Corinne was 47 years old when she gave birth to baby Haroula, whose name means “little joy”.

The years of IVF were an emotional rollercoaster for the couple and Corinne says she held her breath throughout the entire pregnancy, nervous until she was holding her baby in her arms.

“We were very private about it because we’d had many stops and starts along the way,” she says. “I also didn’t want to become the couple who was the IVF couple. I didn’t want that to define me or our relationships, or define Haroula’s life either.

“But you can see when I say I start something and I stick at it. I was very determined, but it was really hard.”

Corinne says during her IVF treatment, she used to drive to Geelong for work and would have to pull over to the side of the road to inject hormones at a certain time of day.

“I’d pull into a service station car park and inject myself on the side of the road and I remember just laughing and going, ‘This is what my life has become’. If anyone happened to look through the window, they would have seen me in the car shooting up off the edge of the highway, injecting myself with hormones. It was pretty funny.”

The couple announced their joyous baby news to family and friends on social media with the precursor “This may come as a shock to a lot of people …”

Corinne, with stepson Alex, 10, partner Christos and daughter Haroula, says she has no interest in going back to the world of stand-up comedy. Photograph Sarah Long.
Corinne at home in Prospect. The comedian turned lawyer is enjoying the routine of domestic life. Photograph Sarah Long.

The now 49-year-old has cherished every moment and milestone of motherhood since Haroula – whom Corinne describes as “her own little person” and “a really funny little kid” – arrived in 2020.

“Having Haroula in my arms was just incredible,” Corinne says. “She was finally there. I don’t think I slept at all that first night because I just wanted to stare at her. I still feel like that.”

Christos’s parents live close by and help out with childcare when needed and Alex is a gentle and caring big brother Corinne says.

“He’s a great kid. And that was a big part of moving here too, to make sure that the kids got to grow up together.”

Living in Adelaide also means Corinne gets to catch up with all of her comedy mates who flock into town annually for the Adelaide Fringe. While she’s happy to be off the telly these days, Corinne does occasionally appear as a legal commentator on the ABC’s The Drum.

“But it’s just such a relief not having to tell gags,” she says. “I still do corporate MC work at awards nights, galas, panel discussions, that sort of thing, but I don’t do stand-up anymore, I have no interest, but never say never. It’s been 10 years and the bug has not bitten me yet.

“This normal life, whatever normal is, but this sort of more structured life where I know what’s happening each day is still a real novelty for me, and I’m still really enjoying the slower pace of it.”


This article first appeared in the March 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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