Review: Aunty Donna’s Big Boys is “so good that it leaves comedy nerds speechless”

Out the front of Max Watt’s theatre on Swanston Street, a gang of hipster-looking dudes are smoking ciggies and talking about the show they’ve just seen.

“How about Broden?” one of them asks.

“Aw mate… Broden was so funny,” the dudes agree.

They take a drag, and reflect further.

“How about Mark though?” says another.

“So funny. Mark was bloody funny.”

A longer pause follows, as more reflection takes place. Time passes. And then:

“Zach!”

“Zach was so funny!”

The comedy of Aunty Donna is so good that it leaves comedy nerds speechless. The fervid shenanigans of Mark Bonanno, Broden Kelly and Zach Ruane have delighted Youtube audiences for years, and their live stage shows definitely live up to the hype. This year’s show, Big Boys, is a heady blend of bright lights, surreal riffs and sick beats – the latter provided by long-time collaborator Tom Armstrong – and showcases the troupe’s renowned ability to wring long-form weirdness from the simplest of premises. Big Boys is frenetic, abrupt and hysterical, and a must-see for fans of Australian sketch comedy.

The show moves at a breakneck pace, with abrupt (yet perfectly managed) transitions between each sketch. The narrative hook threading these scenes – Zach is at risk of being kicked out of the group for being bad at comedy – is loose as all hell, and functions more as a leitmotif for the energetic and musically-inflected scenes that follow. From Broden’s patented man-mumble, to the shrill antics of Mark, to Zach’s panicked and anxious whine about his status in the group, the show is like the Doug Anthony All Stars with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (i.e. DAAS with ADHD) – rampantly funny, and fuelled by an almost sinister chemistry between the three boys and their audience.

Meanwhile, Tom Armstrong proves to be a secret MVP, matching the rhythms of the troupe with his synth drums and guitar work throughout. On the night of this review, Tom secured a raucous standing ovation from the crowd, which almost worked out to be an en masse heckle for the show itself.

If you’re put off by loud noises, this may not be the show for you – for some reason, the hyperbole and noisy silliness of Aunty Donna does put some people on edge. But if you’re looking for adventurous and formally inventive sketch comedy, Big Boys is the ticket.

 

Big Boys is on at Max Watt’s Melbourne until the 23rd of April, every night, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available online, at the venue or at the festival box office.

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Mitch Cunningham

Mitch Cunningham is a Melbourne-based writer and academic, currently completing a PhD on the short fictions of David Foster Wallace. Mitch enjoys alt comedy, psychoanalysis and David Lynch, and also writes songs in the band Martians of Error.

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