Deeply silly and irrepressibly brilliant, the Australian trio bring the house down with their biggest live show to date
One of life’s greatest fallacies is that it’s easy to be silly. Utter rubbish. All it takes is 90 minutes in the company of Australia’s Aunty Donna to realise that silliness is an artform. Actually, forget that. Ninety seconds will do the trick.
Here in the UK, we tend to think we own the rights to silliness. After all, this is the home of Monty Python, French & Saunders and The Office, institutions that Broden Kelly, Mark Bonanno and Zach Ruane delight in informing their Hammersmith audience happened over two decades ago. What have you done for me lately?
In the meantime, silliness has found new, fertile ground in which to take root. For all its faults, Netflix has amplified some of the greatest artists of the absurd in recent years, from the volatile lunacy of Tim Robinson to the terrifically purile American Vandal. But none come close to the Aunty Donna boys.
Broden, Zach and Mark are untouchable when it comes to comedy that starts off in a place of heightened ridiculousness and accelerates towards the horizon. They’re on stage for less than a minute when a disembodied voice keeps demanding that Mark do more and more high kicks, the physical strain requiring less and less method acting as the routine persists.
Where most comedy sketches require a straight man, Aunty Donna regularly insert Broden Kelly. At first glance, he seems every bit the terse, deep-voiced serious presence, but that in itself only becomes another potent weapon in their arsenal, as he reveals himself to be the least responsible ceramics teacher, the least effective noughts and crosses player and maybe the most inspirational pope in history.
The structure of the evening is something of a greatest hits, playing to the audience who’ve been drawn in by the Netflix series Aunty Donna’s Big Old House Of Fun and viral sketches such as ‘Always More Room For Pud’ and ‘Cowdoy In The City!’ The inspired ‘Everything’s A Drum’ gets an airing, complete with awkward audience participation, while a throwaway joke about doing an Al Yankovic-esque take on their Christmas Pud routine delivers a crowd-pleasing finale.
The undisputed highlight, however, is an aborted routine set in “pooland” which winds up with Broden, Mark and Zach attempting to remain stoney faced while an elaborate assortment of poo and fart sounds play over the PA. It’s as base as the evening gets (and that includes an extended bit about f*cking) yet the unforced hilarity is close to unbearable. At one point, medical emergencies seem a genuine prospect.
For a comedy entity that started on YouTube and progressed to Netflix without skipping a beat, it’s impressive how easily Aunty Donna have adapted their silliness to the live arena. The seams are undetectable, the lines between improvisation and routine blurred beyond recognition. You can try and intellectualise it all you want, it all boils down to one thing: there simply isn’t anything else out there that’s even close to being this joyously funny.
On the way out, a fan passes in full Cowdoy regalia. That says it all. The UK may have founded the silliness with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and its followers, but laurels are not made for resting on. While we content ourselves with half-baked observational comedy, the rest of the world has stolen a march. Aunty Donna are racing ahead of everyone, ridden hard into the sunset by a full-grown man in a Woody t-shirt.