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Aunty Donna Are Primed To Get Back On Stage: 'It's Something We Can Fully Control'

16 July 2021 | 1:30 pm | Tiana Speter

Aunty Donna's Mark Bonnano and Broden Kelly metaphorically get in the kiln today with 'The Green Room' host Tiana Speter for some beautiful mayhem and moments of insight ahead of the group's impending 'The Magical Dead Cat Tour'. (No cats were killed in the making of this episode).

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As their Netflix smash series Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House Of Fun will attest, everything's a drum and nothing is off-limits when the maniacal genius of Mark Bonnano, Broden Kelly and Zach Ruane get in the same room together to conjure supreme absurdity.

Forming back in 2011 after meeting in high school and solidifying their bond at the University of Ballarat Arts Academy, the Aunty Donna journey from obscurity to eye-catching tomfoolery on a global scale in a short space of time reads like a fever dream akin to one of their many colourful characters. 

But for the trio, alongside the formidable team of writer and director Sam Lingham, director and editor Max Miller and sound designer and composer Tom Armstrong, there's so much more than meets the eye to this kiln-lovin', drum banging lot. Beyond the Monty Python-esque folly and irreverent fun lies a deeply ingrained love and passion for their craft and live performance, and they are absolutely primed and ready to embark on their brand new live show The Magical Dead Cat Tour, as Bonnano and Kelly divulged (in and amongst a sea of mayhem) on today's episode of The Greem Room podcast. 

"We haven't performed in three years, pretty much," Kelly told host Tiana Speter, as Bonnano emphatically nodded in agreeance. 

In Kelly's opinion, Aunty Donna harnessed their 'best ever' live show back in 2018, with the trio touring their high-school based show Glennridge Secondary College in typical madcap (and acclaimed) fashion. 

"We'd been making live shows for eight years, and we'd kind of built how we made shows, and we got to a really good point with that show," Kelly mused.

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"And then, at the end of that year, the Netflix process kind of started, so we didn't have time to write another new live show. 

"We missed out on a year of making another show, then there was the COVID year. So it actually ended up being three years. We got to a point where we felt like we were in a really great position with our live stuff, which is where we come from, we come from live, we come from theatre, it's our favourite thing to do.

"[Then] we weren't able to do this medium. And at the first opportunity that we could - we started to get the wheels moving."

Earlier in the Green Room episode, Kelly and Bonnano put on an impromptu show-and-tell for Speter, highlighting various ideas and potential sketches the group are working on both in the lead up to the Magical Dead Cat tour and beyond. And, in true Aunty Donna fashion, the ideas ranged from the sublime (Country Cafe) to the ridiculous (Choo Choo...where Zach is literally a train) - and their brainstorming Post-It wall certainly has to be seen to be believed. But while Bonnano and Kelly excitedly rattled off sketch after sketch, a deep-seated passion also emerged, signalling at the ravenous hunger the group have to get back into a live setting. 

"The last few months have been the first time that we've been able to [plan] again," explained Kelly. "And it's super exciting because live, unlike all other elements of being an entertainer, like TV or podcasts or whatever, lots of different areas...it's something that we can fully control. 

"We can make a show that doesn't take network notes, and it doesn't take direction from anywhere else; it's just purely unbridled. Our group's creative 'id'. And we can just do what we want.

"And also, for our audience who like us - it really is just the best way to connect with people." 

While cultivating an army of devoted fans all around the globe may sound like a dream come true for most; the unique love affair the world has with Aunty Donna hasn't been without its own quirky challenges, with Bonnano touching on the group's introduction to the world of parasocial relationships, which often occur when audiences form a one-sided connection with celebrities, feeling they know them personally based on fleeting interaction and/or engagement with their material. 

But despite the realities of fame and comedic infamy: it's not all bad, as Bonnano explained on The Green Room

"I've had on two separate occasions...people pull their cars over onto the side of the road, like slam their brakes on, pull their cars, get out just to say hello, and wanting to get a photo, just to let me know how much the show has meant to them. Which has been incredible! 

"It's been really, really nice how often the ones who don't want to touch you, just want to come up and say: 'Hey - I really love that show, that meant a lot to me, and your work's meant a lot to me'."

The Aunty Donna cultural phenomenon certainly reached fever pitch late last year, with the Ed Helms-helmed Netflix series Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun arriving to critical acclaim, spreading joy and levity at a time when many were still suffering through lockdowns and uncertainty all over the world. 

For some, it was an entirely new breath of fresh air, with sketches like Morning Brown, Relatable and Egg Helms bringing the LOLs with fresh and vivacious gusto. But for others, the sly nods to the likes of comedy greats The Young Ones, Monty Python and (according to Kelly in today's podcast episode) Adventure Time are front and centre; and it's perhaps this colourful pastiche of old-school influences amid modern twists that has seen the trio transcend demographics and scoop up fans of all ages into the Aunty Donna fold. 

"People who were unaware of the lineage of the sort of things that we're inspired by, and that they see now and they think we're wholly original and they have no idea what we're ripping off...they really like us!" Bonnano laughed as he recalled a moment when a 60-year-old couple approached him after an Aunty Donna live show, showering nothing but praise for the group's performance.

"If the people who know what we're ripping off and have seen it...still think what we're doing is cool and original? That's awesome, we've really pulled the wool over everyone's eyes!

"It did have this resonating effect, kind of like multi-generational. And that was quite overwhelming. 

"I was like: 'I think we've done something a little bit special here.' It was the first time I really felt like: 'Oh, wow!! That's really, really cool,' you know?"

As for how Aunty Donna have ultimately transcended into the prime time with their offbeat brand of fun?

"It's like music as well, I think," Kelly explained.

"When something different, not mainstream, 'connects' with you...you connect in a very, very deep way.

"I've had that with different music, I think we all have. And when something strikes a chord with you, and connects with you: then it really endears you to them. 

"I think, when you're on our frequency, when we get you right in the frequency: people seem to really lock in. And there's no profile type that that fits. 

You can watch the full podcast video with host Tiana Speter and Aunty Donna below, or catch up here. Alternatively, you can also listen to the full The Green Room podcast episode on Spotify and Apple Podcasts (also below) - or wherever you usually grab your favourite podcasts!


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Tickets for Aunty Donna's upcoming The Magical Dead Cat tour are on-sale now, with some new dates popping up yesterday. Head to theGuide for more info.

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Need more music, film, TV and comedy in your life? Check out all previous episodes of The Green Room here - and did you know you can also watch episodes of The Green Room too? Head here to check out some of the recent videos, and if you're still hunting for content to feed your ears, be sure to check out the some of the other exciting Handshake Agency podcasts below!