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Aunty Donna’s Broden Kelly on making comedy that kicks people in the face

Australian troupe Aunty Donna have been taking the internet world by storm with their insanely hilarious sketch comedy. Natasha Hoyland talks to member Broden Kelly about how Aunty Donna came to be and their plans for their upcoming New Zealand shows.

 

I’m so excited to talk to you because I really love Aunty Donna.

Broden Kelly: Oh, great, great! Are you in Auckland?

Yeah!

Oh, that’s the best. I’m so excited to go there.

I saw you guys last year, and I went to your show on a whim. Because I’m a stand up comedian and I wanted to learn more about sketch comedy so went out seeking all the sketch comedy and character comedy that I could find. I didn’t know who Aunty Donna were, but had heard lots of great things. The night I tried to go it was sold out, but they told me to wait by the door incase anyone didn’t show up. And someone didn’t, so I got their ticket and got to see the show! It was really awesome and I loved it.

That’s good man, that’s great! So that was at Q Theatre right?

Yeah, I think it was in Loft at Q.

Yeah, that was awesome. We had a really bizarre time in New Zealand last time, because it was the first time we’d been there and we didn’t know how it was going to go or if anyone would know who we were. Legitimately, we went to like America and England, and toured Australia, and by far and away, I had the most fun in New Zealand. It was absolutely the best. I’m glad you got to see it as well, that sounds great, it sounds like we had a good night then.

It was amazing. Very crazy and I didn’t really understand what was happening in front of me, but I still loved it! How would you describe Aunty Donna? Because when people ask me, I never know what to say. I don’t really know how to describe what you guys are.

Someone asked me something like this the other day, and it’s very normal to me now because I’ve been doing it for like six years. I’ve been to every show that we’ve done, funnily enough, so we’re just doing us. But a lot of people describe us as a very heightened, bold night of comedy. We try to make a good show that sort of kicks people in the face as soon as they sit down.

There are shows that you can go to that are eloquent, and subtle, and nuanced, and you can have a really nice night out, but sometimes you feel like a night out where you just want bold – bold statements and loud music and bold characters, you know? Sometimes you want to listen to classical music, sometimes you want to listen to jazz, and sometimes you want to listen to, I don’t know, Skrillex, or White Snake like a big ’80s glam rock band. We’re here if you want to do that one night, that’s kind of what we like to think of ourselves as. We get very sweaty, very rowdy, and very shouty. It’s a lot of fun.

Aunty Donna. From left: Zachary Ruane, Mark Bonanno, and Broden Kelly.

How long have you been working together as a group?

We started working together in 2012, we were all early 20s actors trying to find ways to make our own work. And we grew up in Melbourne which has one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world so we thought we might as well do that, drink from the stream that’s directly next to our house. We started writing a show without ever having written anything together before, and it was really hard, because we’d come in together and have absolutely have no ideas, and leave after six hours with no ideas.

And we just sort of kept working on it and we finally got together to do the show, and we did it and it was doing okay and then later we found out we got nominated for an award for being one of the weirdest ‘other’ acts, and we had a really great run so we thought it was something that we should maybe keep doing.

We didn’t know if we were ever going to be good enough to do it for a living but we thought we’d keep giving it a go. We kept doing it and eventually gained momentum and we started to put a few things on YouTube because that’s what you do, and eventually they picked up momentum and now we have a pretty strong following online. It was all about just giving things a go, and something’s worked!

Another thing I wanted to ask about is, why do you guys always wear suits? Is this a thing you’ve always done?

The first time we ever did a show as Aunty Donna was the first time we’d ever worked together as a group. It was in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival which we’re currently doing. The comedy fest offered us a venue, but the times they offered us were either 6pm, so just after everyone finishes work, or 11pm when everyone’s gone to bed.

We thought, far out, what are we gonna do? We thought, well, 6pm people are just going to be finishing work so it’s going to be harder to sell tickets, whereas at 11pm there might be drunk people out. So we chose 11pm, and we thought, well if we’re going to be doing a show that ends at midnight, let’s try and build a show that’s around that. So we went with the idea of making a show that was a bit late night, a bit naughty, and a bit Hugh Hefner-esque, like you had to have a glass of whiskey in your hand and cigar smoke in the air.

We thought we’d all dress up all classy with suits on and do a really juvenile show, so there’s a contrast from the what we’re doing in the show and the way we’re dressed. We did that in our first show, before we’d really decided what our voice was, and we get so friggin’ sweaty and we jump around. I’ve been wearing a bloody suit for six years now and it sucks, it just sucks. It was a really dumb decision to make.

It’s really gross, and sometimes I come in and my suit pants have sweat stains on them from the night before, it’s so fucking gross. I just wish we’d been known as ‘the tracksuit guys’ or like ‘the comfortable shorts dudes’. But that’s okay, it sort of tricks people into thinking we’re a lot more classier than we are at the start of the show, so I kind of like that.

What is your favourite sketch? I think mine are a tie between Haven’t You Done Well: Cocaine from the 1999 series, and Cocktail from the Trendy series.

When you first said that, I thought you meant favourite sketch in the whole world and I thought it was weird that your two favourites were both our sketches.

It’s hard for me to say what my favourite sketch is, because of that old cliche, you know, they’re all your babies. The sketches are your babies. But it’s more like they’re all your babies and you’re a bad father or mother who’s just sick of them and wants them out of the house. They remind you of their father who’s a bastard.

But let me think. I think there’s certain things about 1999 that were really really great, and I think maybe Bigoted Bill is my favourite. It started out as an idea that was a bit daggy, and I kept trying to write it and nothing really was working, so we tried it as a song and it’s now become something that people really like. It was one of those things that you just had to keep hacking away at and eventually something really cool came out of it. So I’d say that one.

Awesome! What can people expect from the show?

The unexpected, firstly. As I said earlier, the main thing we want people to take away from our shows is an hour of just bold brash fun. We want you to not have to worry about anything else for an hour, just forget about your day and just come and have fun with us. That’s our main thing, it’s a bit of escapism and a bit of coming home from school and chucking on the kids shows and just enjoying that, but for adults.

Are you planning on seeing any comedy in New Zealand while you’re over here?

Absolutely! I’m so excited, we’re going to Christchurch, I’ve never been to Christchurch before, and Wellington which is one of my favourite places in the world, and Auckland which is one of my favourites as well. I’m most looking forward to seeing Rose Matafeo and Guy Montgomery. Also, we don’t have Carl’s Jr here in Australia so I’m definitely gonna go to the Queen Street one while we’re there.

You can book tickets to see Aunty Donna’s show Big Boys in Wellington and Auckland here, and tickets to see them at the Flick Electric Co. Comedy Gala in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch here.

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