Hilarious sketch comedy trio Aunty Donna are back after sellout seasons in Edinburgh and London with a totally new project on their hands. After receiving funding for their newest web series ‘Y2k’ and the possibility of an ABC show ‘Fresh Blood’ in the mix, we had a chat to Mark from the trio about his comedic influences, their best audience reactions and their new ventures.
Where did the name ‘Aunty Donna’ come from?
We all studied together at Uni, and one of our old teachers who we studied with and respected, her name was Donna, and when we told her we wanted to do a sketch comedy group she said it was the ‘stoopidest’ thing ever as no body likes sketch comedy or listens to it anymore, so we kind of did it to stick it to her!
A lot of your work reminds me a bit of The Mighty Boosh – What are your comedic inspirations?
All three of us like very different things, not all of us are fans of Mighty Boosh. Myself personally; I’m a very big fan, so they influence kind of my side of things but that’s whats so great about us, we all come from different comedic tastes. I think the thing that we all universally agree on is that the greatest thing to ever happen in the world is Monty Python; because they’re fantastic; but other than that, I’m a very big Tim and Eric fan. I saw Kevin Smith last night who I absolutely adore, and he influenced me in a big way comedically, so it’s a kaleidoscope of comedic influences. I know that Zac is a huge Sean Micallef fan, and Broden grew up watching Conan O’Brien and was obsessed with him, so that’s a big influence to him comedically.
How is Fresh Blood different to your youtube shows?
With YouTube, we’ve primarily been focused on the shorter form, as we find that’s what works best for YouTube, or what has worked best for us anyway. We try to focus on 2-3min videos, and so this is the first time stretching ourselves and giving ourselves a narrative; and working with narrative, which has been really silly and really fun, and so far people have taken to it quite well – Which is good. We’ve tried to keep that essence of what people know us for; which are those short, sharp type of sketch comedy videos, which are also in there, but this is the first time we’ve stretched ourselves, arguable too thin, and tried to do something out of our comfort zone which is playing characters. We wanted to basically trick people out of knowing that they’re watching a sketch show, because as soon as someone knows that they’re watching a sketch show, they automatically go, oh that’s it, and it’s hard to keep people’s concentration with just straight sketches, so we wanted to keep people’s attention by breaking that mould and decided to rip off Flight of the Conchords and mix in a lot of sketches and songs.
Out of all of your sketches, which as been your favourite?
My favourite so far have been the ‘haven’t you done well’ series. I’m a big fan of them because they’re sketches where more than others; for me personally; I don’t care too much about how people will take to them. It’s really great that people have had a fairly warm reception to the majority of them. But for us; for me, it’s the most fun for me as it’s usually not scripted, we have a basic idea of how we want it to play out, and then on the day we just play, and it’s usually completely improvised and then written in the editing room. Out incredible editor Max Miller takes all the stupid stuff we do and creates these wonderful sketches that are full of spontaneity, and you never know what’ll happen next. Even as a performer in them, I never really know what to expect next as it’s not a thoroughly thought-out sketch like most of our other stuff is, it’s just on the fly. And as a performer they’re the most exciting. We’re hoping to do about 50 of them and just keep doing them – it doesn’t matter if people like them or not, we have a good time doing them and that’s all that matters!
You’ve just come back form a sellout season overseas, Where was your favourite place to perform?
A little town called Dartmouth was absolutely amazing. We had the warmest reception there. It was just a little boating town and we drove about 4 and a half hours out of London, and we went on a beautiful drive to the English country side to a sold out show and it was one of the most memorable, heartwarming experiences of my life, and all of the guys would agree.
What was the best audience reaction you had?
Dartmouth undoubtedly. Dartmouth was just an absolute riot. People were just clamouring to get to us and talk to us at the end of the show, and I’ve never heard laughter that loud, which was incredible.
What was it like working with Nel Minchin?
Nel Minchin is a phenomenal producer; really, really amazing, we’ve enjoyed working with her. We’ve done TV and all of our things with ABC, so the last two rounds of Fresh blood were with her. We’ve developed a very close and exciting working relationship together. She’s an amazing producer, and this is really exciting artistically as she’s really on the same page as us, which is really unusual for a producer – to be able to find someone who’s comedically on the same page as you and incredibly supportive. I’ve got nothing but glowing things to say about Nel Minchin, and she was also able to put us in touch with Tim Minchin which has been phenomenal, [I’m not sure if they’re related or not,] as he’s the best at what he does, and is an incredible comic talent and has been able to help us with advice through the whole fresh blood process form the first web series through to the pilot – it’s been awesome.
You recently received funding to create a new web-series called 1999, what did you do on NYE for Y2K?
I’m trying to remember – I think I was 12! I was just chillin’ out in bed, I wasn’t even aware it was happening, I was just a stupid little kid who didn’t know what the hell was going on in his life- he was just an idiot! Just a moron – just a dumb little kid with nothing to say sleeping like a loser alone.
What can your fans expect from your upcoming shows?
1999 is the next big project we’re unsure if we’ll get it though. There were four other incredible pilots made, the quality was just outstanding across the board; and we’re friends with the other people who made pilots as it’s a very small industry, so we are very aware of the work they’ve done before this, and everyone just worked their arses off to get to this point and everyone deserves this. If that goes ahead for us, we might have a TV, but we’re not holding our breath because we know so many other people deserve it. The next big thing is the web series that we’re really excited about. For the first time ever we’ve had the money to be able to focus on the writing – so we’re just sitting down and writing as much as we can to get this thing up which we’ve never done before, and personally I feel like it’s some of the best stuff for film that we’ve ever done. And you can expect it to be really big, really stupid and heaps of stupid 90s references, which we think are just the funniest things in the world!
Check out the preview for Fresh Blood here:
Check out our review of Aunty Donna’s gig earlier this year: