Netflix has recently released a new original series, AUNTY DONNA’S BIG OL’ HOUSE OF FUN (2020), created by Australian musical/absurdist comedy group, Aunty Donna. The group has been active since 2011 and consists of six members: director/writer Sam Lingham; filmmaker Max Miller; and composer Tom Armstrong, while Mark Samual Bonanno; Broden Kelly; and Zachary Ruane serve as writers and performers. Ed Helms (THE OFFICE, THE HANGOVER) serves as producer to the series and even appears during a sketch, during which audiences learn his name is actually “Egg.” If that sounds absurd, well then, that’s exactly the point.
AUNTY DONNA’S BIG OL’ HOUSE OF FUN focuses on housemates Broden, Zach, and Mark and has absolutely no plot as it is a sketch comedy show. Their sketches themselves often have no plot, and what little there is usually takes a hard left-turn. The group’s zany absurdism demands suspension of belief and a willingness to explore the bizarre; those who dare to venture, though, are greatly rewarded. Guest appearances aside from “Egg” Helms include Kristen Schaal (BOB’S BURGERS, FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS), wrestler Awesome Kong, and Paul F. Tompkins (BOJACK HORSEMAN, BOB’S BURGERS), among others.
What may be most rewarding to North American fans is the series’ reminiscence of PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE (1986- 1991), touting living appliances, musical numbers, and a ‘Word of the Day’ in each episode. While it’s doubtful the troupe took any cues from the classic, many have commented on the similarities between the two. However, like anything else with this group, expectations of any discernible format are quickly expunged. While they have seen some success in Australia, Netflix has allowed them their largest budget to date and their largest opportunity to explore their comedic potential, with Broden Kelly of the group stating for nme.com this November,
“We got to build a f—ing studio house and do whatever we wanted with it, and that was just mind-blowing. Our experience up until this point has been shooting in rented houses without permission – that was who we are. And they built this house for us, so we could do whatever we wanted in there – smash through walls, reveal an audience.”
While fans are still waiting to hear if AUNTY DONNA’S BIG OL’ HOUSE OF FUN will be greenlit for a second season, the show has seen tremendous positive reviews, and sits at an impressive 8/10 on Imdb.com. Kelly also notes in the interview,
“Australia is a small place. The bigger networks, they’re in the old structure of making their money by ad space. And it doesn’t make sense to have a show that is so weird and alternative… It feels like it’s a bit hard to do that at the moment because the audiences are shrinking and they’re so judgmental. But Australia has such an awesome comedic voice and there are so many great comedians here. We need to figure out a way to keep our weird sense of humour being heard.”
With luck and gaining viewership, hopefully Aunty Donna has found a home in North America as the group sees the rise of its fanbase and the support they have gained within L.A. ‘s comedy industry. In the meantime, if fans are in need of more Aunty Donna content, the group has a robust collection of sketches on YouTube and comedic tracks on Spotify.