When Broden Kelly, Mark Bonanno and Zach Ruane step onto the stage, only two things are safe: nothing and no-one. The Melbourne troupe known as Aunty Donna have quickly elevated themselves to one of the country’s most in-demand comedy acts, both through their sell-out festival shows and their cult favourite YouTube videos. 2017 sees the trio touring the world in support of their brand new show, Big Boys, in which they’re both strengthening their foundations and experimenting with new formats.
“We’ve done six festival shows now, and I feel like we’ve gotten to a pretty good place,” explains Kelly – the tall, bald one with the deep voice, for reference. “We have a pretty clear idea of how to make comedy work in an hour-long live show. Around the time we started writing Big Boys, however, we got commissioned to write a pilot for a TV series called Chaperones. We’re used to writing in short-form – two- or three-minute ideas – but we’d never done a full script for a 24-minute sitcom episode. We learned all these new things about character and scripting, and how to structure a story. It was really heavy in our head, so it led us to ask how you could go about structuring an hour-long comedy show the same way you would a TV episode or even a movie. That was the fun part of it.”
We’ve done six festival shows now, and I feel like we’ve gotten to a pretty good place.
Big Boys – and, by extension, Chaperones – comes in what’s already been a massive year for Aunty Donna. Recently, they got to fulfil a lifelong dream of starring in a music video, when they were asked by Sydney hip hop duo Horrorshow to appear in a clip for their single ‘Eat The Cake’. For Kelly, who’s been a Horrorshow fan for nearly ten years, it was an absolute no-brainer.
“I was 19 when I heard their music for the first time,” he says. “I sent them a message on MySpace and told them how much ‘No Rides Left’ spoke to me. They ended up writing back to say thanks, and they had me for life after that. They came to see us when we performed at Giant Dwarf, and we went out for a few beers together when they were in Melbourne. Nick [Bryant-Smith, AKA Solo] told me there was a song on their new record that was a bit fun and upbeat, so he wanted us to make a video for it. I’m so chuffed with how well the whole thing turned out. The guys who directed it did such a good job – I was really rapt.”
On top of all that, Aunty Donna recently finished their latest web series. Entitled Ripper Aussie Summer, it’s a series of absurd and remarkably entertaining sketches set entirely within a backyard on a lazy afternoon.
“We really liked the idea that we got from [previous series] 1999 of setting a series of sketches in the same place,” says Kelly. “It allows you to contextualise certain ideas that you have, and it’s also a great place to write from.
“We shot the whole of Ripper in our costume designer’s backyard in the suburbs of Melbourne. It was supposed to be sunny all week, but the first day of shooting was just pissing down rain. There’s a lot of grading on a few of the sketches to make them look bright and warm, even though it was fucking freezing.”
Kelly also notes the series made a minor celebrity out of Bonanno’s father, Charlie. “He’s come to a few shows now, and he gets recognised every time like a celebrity,” he says, before adding with a laugh: “It’s bullshit!” ■