It’s hard to describe Aunty Donna to someone who has never seen them — they are an absurdist Australian comedy group hailing from Melbourne with an incredibly unique style of humour that has won them fans all of the world.
Photography by Ali Hassanein
The troupe have been going strong for the past 13 years, but having met at University they are old hands at a time when some of their contemporaries of the same are just breaking through, which has meant their fans genuinely do range from 8-80.
Ever since their 2011 debut show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival ‘Aunty Donna in Pantsuits’ which was nominated for the illustrious Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Golden Gibbo Award, the team have gone from strength to strength – and they are exceptionally prolific, churning out delicious YouTube sketches at a rate of knots.
Famous for their unique brand of surreal, fast paced, alternative sketch, the group are composed of performers Broden Kelly, Zachary Ruane and Mark Bonnano. Director Max Miller, head writer Sam Lingham and composer Tom Armstrong are also core members of the Aunty Donna team. And sometimes Michelle Brasier is The Girl One in the sketches.
Their award winning YouTube channel is a firm fan favourite with over half a million subscribers and 84 million views. They host a hugely popular podcast and whilst the rest of the world was falling to pieces in 2020, Aunty Donna had their biggest moment with the worldwide release of Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun on Netflix and back
Earlier this year they wrote and they starred in a 6-part series called Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe, for ABC in Australia and now they are in the middle of a world tour, suitably absurdly named The Magical Dead Cat Tour and have been selling out massive venues everywhere from Australia to the UK to America.
We sat down with core cast member Zachary Ruane. We’d love to tell you more about him, but according to the Aunty Donna fandom pages, Zach grew up in post-war Italy and moved to Australia at 17 years old in 1976 to raise four babies, leaving his husband behind … which we suspect may not be fully true. Unperturbed we endeavoured to conduct a sensible interview with one third (or one sixth, or one seventh, depending on how you cut it) of one of the most surreal sketch groups the world currently has to offer… it went as you might expect it to…
Photography by Ali Hassanein
Read the interview…
Great to meet you Zachary. You’ve just landed in the UK. Why are you here and how do you feel?
Zach: I’m sorry, is this an interview? Pushing a voice recorded in my face isn’t really an answer but… anyway I’ve literally just stepped off the plane I haven’t cleared customs yet. How did you get here? Couldn’t you just send us a bunch of questions to answer like the other publications? Stop pushing that in my face. Ok… What was it? Why are you here and how do you feel? Ah we are here to tour the UK with our live show Aunty Donna and the Magical Dead Cat. Right now, I feel dehydrated, smelly, tired, disorientated, constipated and a little accosted by this interview. Vulnerable? Yeah I feel vulnerable.
We’re heard all sorts of rumours – from the improbable to the fantastical – so please settle things us once and for all and tell us: why are you called Aunty Donna?
Zach: Oh… yeah… we’re called Aunty Donna because we’re all fans of Aunty Mac’s fried chicken which is an obscure Australian brand you could get in some random food courts and the lady, Donna, who worked at the Wendouree food court… I’m sorry that’s not very funny… Usually when people ask us why we’re called Aunty Donna we riff some bullsh*t but I’m not feeling very funny right now. Can you cut this question?
One of your most popular videos was a sketch about Christmas pudding and how “there’s always room for pud”. Why is there always room for Christmas pudding?
Zach: I don’t know. I think if you actually want to know you’d need to ask like a scientist. We just took the observation and ran with it. Do you want me to say “pud” or something? Will that be funny?
A lot of live comedy doesn’t translate to TV, but you’ve managed to make the journey from stage to screen, via YouTube. How was that as a journey, and which do you prefer?
Zach: Good? All of it? How many questions do you have? Uh yeah I guess Aunty Donna is like a voice and a style and we like applying it to different contexts. We say internally that we’re medium agnostic and each new medium opens up new ways to explore that voice- is this boring? This feels very boring.
You’re currently on a world tour with The Magical Dead Cat tour. Who is the magical cat and who killed him?
Oh the Magical Dead Cat, yeah.. Um… I think you put more effort into this question than we put into the show. No, we put lots of effort into the show just not that bit, it’ll make sense when you watch it. Or not? I dunno.
As well as Zach, Broden and Zachary, who else exists in the Aunty Donna creative universe – both on and off screen?
Well there’s Max who directs the film stuff, Sam who writes with us and Tom- Tom who is just there leaving the bathroom.
Tom: What’s that?
I was just saying your name as I’m doing an interview.
Tom: Who for?
I don’t know, they haven’t said.
Tom: Couldn’t they just send through a list of questions to answer?
I guess not.
Tom: Well we’ve gotta go.
I’m in an interview.
Tom: I wanna get in line for customs, it’s huge.
You go I’ll catch up to you at baggage, It’ll be a while getting all the bags and Lach’s oversize anyway.
Tom: Yeah true.
Is everything indeed a drum?
Zach: Yep. Yeah. Sure is.
[Editor’s note – this question doesn’t make much sense out of context, but it’s hard to explain the context – it’s probably best if you just watch the video]
What kind of stuff can we expect for the tour? And dare we dream of a rendition from your 2014 viral hit (close to 4m views) Bikie Wars: The Musical?
Sketches, songs. It’s a brand new show with some classics in there for the fans. We got a new backdrop which looks cool. There’s merch for sale if you’d like some of that. We don’t really do Bikie Wars anymore as it’s a little crook. So probably not. Also it’s like a minute long song. How would you get a full musical out of it? Logistically?
Aunty Donna will be performing in London on 30th September at the London Appollo. Tickets still available for the 30th Matinee. More informations here.