This year in Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine Shop, the boys find themselves stranded in Spookytown, where they encounter the ghost of the local fax machine shop man. In order to obtain the petrol needed to continue on their way to an all-important performance in Nar Nar Goon they must solve the mystery of his murder.
Made up of Mark Bonanno, Adrian Dean, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Duane this is the Donna’s second submission into the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, with their first in 2012 – Aunty Donna in Pantsuits – earning them a nomination for the festival’s Golden Gibbo Award.
Bannono explains that this kind of setup works because it doesn’t allow them to be passive.
“More than anything it’s a way to create your own work rather than waiting for someone to hand you work, which doesn’t exist. There’s very little acting work in this country and what you do get only comes around every now and then so it’s about creating your own opportunities,” he says.
Aunty Donna’s style of comedy has often been branded as crude or naughty. After watching a five and a half minute sketch dedication to all things semen, I would have to agree.
Unsurprisingly, the comedy troupe doesn’t mind the label, even poking fun at it in a promotional video for this year’s festival.
They only have one simple condition in their creative process; it has to be funny.
“We don’t purposely go out to push people. If someone comes up with something that makes us laugh, which makes us unable to breathe when we hear it because it’s so funny and even if it happens to be crossing some sort of line then, absolutely, we’ll do it. But doing it for the sake of doing it, that’s just stupid. It’s got to be funny first,” Bonanno says.
And for an impressive array of critics, funny is an understatement. Alongside glowing reviews from The Herald Sun and Squirrel Comedy, last year’s Fringe Festival saw, Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine Shop win the People’s Choice Award.
However, with greater achievement comes a greater expectation to succeed in the future. With the show already tagged as one to watch this season by The Age and artsHub, Bonanno admits to feeling some pressure.
“Yeah. We walked in [last year] expecting nothing; wanting to be successful and wanting people to like us but expecting nothing and then things started happening and we started selling out.
“Your ego is such a big thing and the most detrimental thing in existence for a comedian because you start thinking that you’re owed things but you quickly come to the realization that you’re not. You’re not owed a single goddamn thing,” he says.
This long weekend, the boys have also broadened their horizons internationally. Aunty Donna’s Rumpus Room!, a mini-series, which aired on Channel 31 as a part of Lost Dog TV, was chosen to air this long weekend at LAWEBFEST.
And as for the future?
“We have two plans. One, we will be planning more sketches online to kind of build that audience because we have a bit of an audience building now and we want to keep pushing it. That’s [YouTube] the new TV man, that’s a really important tool that you have to be able to take advantage of.
“And then we’re gonna write a new show, which we’re really excited about and hopefully we can do that for the first time outside of Victoria and take that, next year, to Adelaide or Sydney or wherever,” he says.
Wrapping up what was so close to being a standard interview, Bonanno left me with some love for the fans.
“We’ve been blessed and privileged to have people care about us. Melbourne’s is only the third biggest comedy festival. So to have people actually want to sit down and pay attention to what you’re doing is the hardest thing in the world and we’ve been lucky in that people have wanted to. We work and with hard work sometimes comes luck and hopefully, just hopefully people want to keep listening to us,” Bonanno says.
You can catch a performance of Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine Shop any Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Monday up until April 20. To book tickets click here.