Somewhat like their name, the meaning behind Aunty Donna’s Big Boys is a little bit of a mystery, at least until the end of the performance, when the true moral of the show is all wrapped up in a neat little bow. The bow might happen to be around a box filled with screaming millennial women, assorted stabbings, and a well-brushed bear, but hey, at least the bow is tied nicely.
Aunty Donna are born and bred Melbournians (well… they’re from Ballarat, which is close enough), so to see this pride of Melbourne yet again at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a breath of fresh air, with only the tiniest hint of a fart joke.
Big Boys opens with a spot of sexy dancing and the show really only improves from there, an expertly crafted series of skits and sketches (some fresh, some call-backs, and I’m sure there are some in-jokes in there as well) written especially to showcase the talents of each member of the troupe. Aunty Donna consists of the three main boys: Broden Kelly (the business boy), Mark Bonanno (the shoeless boy), Zachary Ruane (the mum boy), and additional boy Tom Armstrong (the drum boy, and piano boy, and guitar boy, and, as a final surprise, the rap boy), the DJ and sound engineer responsible for the backing tracks to the show.
Kelly, Bonanno, and Ruane have a strong energy when performing with each other, they know timing like the backs of their hands (which are, post-show, far sweatier than any other comedian I’ve ever seen) and know exactly how to bounce a joke so it lands perfectly. Their humour is rooted in millennial problems (giving one star ratings to Uber drivers, uncomfortably running into the same person multiple times in a supermarket) but to an insane degree – my personal favourite recurring character was a woman (Ruane) checking up on her breakfast order at a café, at first blowing off the delay and then, by the end of the show, screeching at the long-suffering barista.
This mix of absurdity and modern humour makes Aunty Donna supremely relatable, which explains the ease with which they lay into audience interaction (since they’re basically just talking to less talented versions of themselves). From a short sketch about a stolen handbag – a plant, of course, but that doesn’t take away from the joke at all – to a series of audience interviews about demonic possession, the boys are skilled at cutting off the interaction before it becomes too uncomfortable, which can be a difficult thing to learn.
While there were a couple of microphone issues, and one instance of a flubbed joke that led to an onstage giggle fit, Aunty Donna are pros at rolling with the punches. Perhaps due to their quick fire sense of humour, or simply the familiarity they have with each other and their content, the boys were able to move on quickly from anything unexpected – though I do think they were caught a bit by surprise when Armstrong’s single line garnered a full few minutes of applause from a hysterical audience.
All in all, Big Boys was a story with a moral, although it didn’t seem like it from the start. “Big boys step up” is the important phrase, and while it is (obviously) played as a joke, for Aunty Donna it’s definitely a metaphor for their success – the boys have stepped up and made a great thing of themselves. Everyone should see their show, watch their YouTube series’, and see what awesome things are coming up next for the Big Boys.