Aunty Donna are the most mysterious, sketch-comedy group in Australia. Everything the boys do leaves fans asking questions: where is all their energy coming from; what’s with the suits; and, who is Aunty Donna?
The suits are one thing that has left Aunty Donna member Zach Ruane wondering. “That idea seemed like a good one five years ago,” Zach jokes.
“We’ve definitely regretted it on some of our tours. We did Falls Festival in Byron Bay and it was so humid and so hot. We could perform in togs here on out: Aunty Donna in togs. But then we’ll end up in England and have to do a show in togs there. We can never win!”
While a show based around swimwear may be out of the question, Aunty Donna will be too busy to think about it. The group have built a massive following online with their YouTube videos for sketches such as ‘Glassing’ and ‘Bikie Ways’. Now, the boys will once again take to the stage with their new show ‘Big Boys’.
Something most people don’t realise about Aunty Donna is that they are a six-member unit of twisted comedy minds. Zach, Mark and Broden are the faces of the group, writing and performing many of the sketches.
However, behind the scenes are director/ writer Sam, filmmaker Max and musician Tom, who all work together to help flesh out the comedic voice of Aunty Donna. “All of us, except Max, went to the Federation University Arts Academy, and we were all studying acting together.
“We were all doing the really dry, really boring serious theatre thing, but we all enjoyed the funny stuff more in our serious shows. We got to the end of drama school, and the one thing I knew for sure is that I didn’t want to be an actor. We were just playing around and decided to do a little comedy festival show.”
The group’s gamble paid off, with the boys going on to make a well-received pilot for ABC, videos for Comedy Central, and now developing a series for streaming service STAN. This year will also see Aunty Donna doing their biggest tour to date, including dates across the United States later this year.
All of this newfound fame has led to the boys being able to perform in bigger spaces, which they will take advantage of for ‘Big Boys’. “We’re going to have a much bigger, more epic, more party vibe. "We’re hoping to bring Tom with us this year, so the music is going to be a lot more live, which is going to be a really exciting layout. It’ll add to that vibe we’re going for: we want it to feel like a party.”
With our chat wrapping up, I decide to ask Zach the ultimate question: who is Aunty Donna? Every interview with them has given a different answer, but this one is the definitive (until the next one) response. “We were originally a food-based sketch troupe, and the group was originally called Donna Hay, after the celebrity chef.
"Because of copyright reasons, we had to change it. She hasn’t found out, but I live in fear that one day Donna Hay is going to hunt me down.”
Aunty Donna Shows3-4 Mar - Brisbane Comedy Festival
9-10 Mar - Adelaide Fringe Festival
30 Mar-23 Apr - Melbourne International Comedy Festival
11-14 May - Perth Comedy Festival
20 May - Sydney Comedy Festival