So you’ve checked out Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun on Netflix just to see what all the fuss is about, and you’ve become hopelessly, inescapably hooked on Aunty Donna. You’re certainly not the first, and you definitely won’t be the last.
Big Ol’ House of Fun represents the culmination of years of prolific output from one of, if not, hardest working and most respected young comedy groups in Australia. Aunty Donna have been cutting their teeth in pubs, clubs, theatres and festivals both home and abroad since forming in Melbourne in 2011, while simultaneously amassing a formidable online following thanks to their YouTube output.
The group – consisting of writer/performers Mark Samuel Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Ruane, along with director/writer Sam Lingham, filmmaker Max Miller, and musical composer Tom Armstrong – has a massive back catalogue of content to wade through, and for those of you only getting on board now thanks to Netflix, approaching it might be somewhat intimidating at first.
So here, for your viewing pleasure, are 12 of the best Aunty Donna sketches, songs, and performances from their YouTube channel, which should serve as a gateway to years of absolute batshit insanity, and should tide you over until you’re rested and ready to give Big Ol’ House of Fun another watch through.
Which you should do.
Because it’s so bloody good.
DON’T GET IN THE KILN
On a long enough timeline, the probability of some form of the phrase “get/do not get in the kiln” appearing in the comments section of every Aunty Donna-related social media post approaches 1. The entire Glennridge Secondary College series is a truly wonderful take on public high school life – Broden’s Fed Up Teacher character holding everyone back at lunch is so accurate it almost physically hurts – but Get In The Kiln is the stand-out. It’s a classic example of one simple joke being spun out far beyond its logical shelf-life yet still being so incredibly funny, and it is a magical, unexplainable gift that only Aunty Donna possesses.
HAVEN’T YOU DONE WELL #4
The Haven’t You Done Well series became that much of an Aunty Donna trademark that they named their production company after it. You can see that logo at the end of every episode of Big Ol’ House of Fun on Netflix. And you can see where it came from on YouTube. Number 4, the un-subtly subtitled Bevvies With The Boys, is the loosest of an extremely unhinged lot. Probably not recommended if the idea of three boys baby-birding each other a full jug of beer makes the stomach turn.
BIKIE WARS: THE MUSICAL
Back when the ABC had money to fund such frivolous fancies as “young performers in the industry” or “comedy not made by Working Dog,” the network embarked on its Fresh Blood initiative aimed at giving emerging comedy creators a national platform via ABC iView. Aunty Donna took some of that money and made a jaunty musical number in which Mark Bonanno slaughters beloved actor and 2006 Gold Logie winner John Wood with an assault rifle. With 2.8 million views on YouTube, it is – to this day – the group’s most-viewed video.
TWO PEOPLE WEAR THE SAME TIE TO WORK
Up there among the absolute funniest things I’ve ever seen, Two People Wear The Same Tie To Work is, for my money, the crown jewel of the absurdly good 1999 web series. The sounds I made upon viewing this for the first time were borderline illegal. Real horrible, ugly, guttural stuff, absolutely heaving itself out of my terrible mouth. I had no control over it; it was a series of hee’s that demanded to be hee’d, and the subsequent haw’s that followed.
It’s truly unfair that Aunty Donna is as good at musical comedy as they are at everything else. That Chuffed didn’t register on the Triple J Hottest 100 is an absolute miscarriage of justice. Chuffed, from the self-titled musical album the group released in early 2018, slaps. It goes incredibly hard. It combines two things that sit very close to the crux of the Aunty Donna oeuvre: a ridiculously well-structured musical core, and listing things that Dads like. Kelly Cuocoocoo? Big fan of her.
FILLED UP ON CHEESE BEFORE DINNER
Without the context of Aunty Donna informing the sketch, this would be one of the most sinister pieces of footage ever produced in Australia. It’s diabolically intense, but because I know it’s supposed to be funny, I laugh. Because if I weren’t laughing it would probably scare the absolute piss out of me. Not even Snowtown managed to attain this level of psychological unease. And yet, it’s so deeply funny. It has to be. Otherwise I’ll never be able to fill up on cheese ever again.
Though represented on-screen by the three regulars, Aunty Donna also includes several key behind-the-scenes personnel, as well as an incredibly deep bench of ably hilarious supporting players. Chief among those? Mark’s Dad Charlie Bonanno, and his (reportedly) Olympic-class chode.
ALWAYS ROOM FOR CHRISTMAS PUD
Three minutes. One joke. Rammed so enthusiastically into the ground that it bursts through the other side to grow anew. As far as “taking one extremely silly gag and pushing it so far beyond its own limitations that the deliberate excess of it all becomes an entirely new joke by itself” goes, Aunty Donna is peerless. Not just in Australia either. There is always room for a little Christmas pud.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS?
Conceivably, this article could’ve just been every episode of 1999 listed in order. And while there are other sketches in the series that gained more popularity, one I personally feel garners a second run is What Do You Think Of This?, which is about as beautifully simple and silly as it gets. There’s nothing over-worked or overwrought about it. It arrives, it hits its mark, it leaves. Perfect sketch comedy.
MAN GRIEVES OVER DEAD WIFE
Do you like really, really terrible puns about Indian food? Then boy, is this one gonna be a good time for you. From the bowels of Aunty Donna’s earlier work, Man Grieves Over Dead Wife stands head and shoulders as an exercise in pure silliness. Taking a serious premise (man who wife be dead) and tackling an even darker theme (grief) but flipping that completely on its head (he can only process said grief through shitty Indian food puns while winking at the camera), the laughs-per-minute ratio in this one is sky high. “My wife died of curry, you fuck” is that good of a punchline that I’m ruining the sketch by printing it here.
ITALIAN MAN (+ AUNTY DONNA DEAL WITH A HECKLER)
Before the world ate a big shit, people used to do things such as “go out” and “see a live show” and it’s on the back of some pretty relentless touring that Aunty Donna made their initial name. Their incredibly good Live at the Enmore special is available in full on YouTube, but one particularly choice cut features each of the Aunty Donna three at their top-flight best: Mark as the entirely questionable but extremely funny “Italian Man” character, Broden as the self-aware straight-laced foil, and Zach as the mother of all wild cards that bails the sketch out well before it even approaches a point of overstaying. Live, they’re a mad cap force of constant motion and non-stop energy. Everything moves at a thousand miles an hour, but everything still has its place. Controlled chaos. It’s beautiful to behold.
TRENDY CAFE/THE MEN WHO FIGHT LIKE KANGAROOS
Though their audience is loyal, vocal, and makes every one of their headline shows a party, it’s just as fun to watch them win over an unfamiliar crowd in a short span of time. This clip, from one of their earlier Comedy Festival Gala spots, takes all of two minutes for the entire crowd to morph from unsure to unabashed. Plus the Men Who Fight Like Kangaroos bit is *so* dumb and *so* silly and I love it *so bloody much*.