Aussie Sketch Group Aunty Donna Tell Us What They Think of American Audiences


Sketch Group Raves About American Audiences…And the Feeling is Mutual

Australian sketch group Aunty Donna embarked on their very first U.S. tour last month, and they were a smash hit everywhere they went. In fact, the tour was so successful, that they were asked to return to New York City- where the tour kicked off- to add a few dates. They’re absurd, they’re ridiculous, their energy is off the charts, they’re incredibly smart and funny, and they’re guys you would want to hang out with. Aunty Donna began their careers not even realizing that there was a career in sketch to be had in Australia, and they’ve taken off ever since. I spoke to the boys by phone in Australia, where they were enjoying a much-needed rest before heading back stateside to hit up New York City back by popular demand. I spoke with two of the three member group- Mark Bonanno and Zach Ruane about their U.S. Tour and the exciting things ahead of them.

Aunty Donna returns to New York City, July 18th through 22nd, and you can catch them in Montreal at the Just for Laughs festival on July 24-26, at Edinburgh Fringe from August 2nd through the 14th, and then in Leicester Square Theatre in London from August 16th to 19th.

 

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The Interrobang: So, tell me a little bit about your U.S. Tour.  This was your first time touring the U.S.?

Mark Bonanno: Yes, it was. It was long and touring is always quite hard and taxing on the body and the mind. But man, we played– I would easily say, the best shows of our careers in this leg. American audiences, we found … well, our American audiences, anyway, were just so up for it and so much fun. We had so many standing ovations. The vast majority of the shows were standing ovations. People were just so keen and so wonderful. I’ll always remember that. The crowds were just phenomenal.

Zach Ruane: American audiences have this wonderful thing where they know they’re a part of the show. In live theater, an audience is just as much a part of the show as the performers and American audiences give as much as they’re given. It is really such a joy.

The Interrobang: Did you find, Mark, that there were differences in maybe where the laughs were? Did you have to adjust timing at all for the American audiences?

Mark Bonanno: No. We’ve been touring internationally for probably the last four years and mostly to New Zealand and the U.K. and very early on when we started touring we were like we should change things and we should make it a bit more colloquial for the audiences that we’re going to. We realized that things didn’t just … As much as they understood the references, it still didn’t resonate in the same way that it usually does. So, we decided to not change things anymore and just be like, “we’re Australian. We say Australian things and use Australian idioms and all of that. That’s what we found that people tend to like about us is that point of difference. We come in and our accents sound a bit weird and a bit funny and we’re saying very Australian things.

So, sort of through a process of trying and failing we kind of came to the conclusion that no, we’re not gonna change things for anyone anymore. We think people really took to it. Americans laughed at all the points that we wanted them to. They laughed more, if anything. They kind of laughed at everything. It was amazing.

The Interrobang: Do you get a chance to meet your fans after the show at all? 

Zach Ruane: Yeah, we do. So when we were in smaller venues, we’d just hang out with fans after the show. It was always this thing where we’d go to the bar nearest to the show and just hang out with them. That was always a big fun part of the show. Yeah, that was always a really fun part of the show. Then when we got into bigger venues, it was just like… actually I’d hate to lose that. I’d hate to lose that part of the show where we hang out, where we get to find out how people got into it. We get to tell people a little bit about our story. So, it’s much more formal now. We do it sort of as a meet-and-greet, but after every show we like to meet our fans and we like to give them an opportunity to talk to us and it’s really fun. It’s a really fun way to top off the show.

The Interrobang: You hit up really great cities: New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Austin, L.A. … Did you guys have a chance to do anything local in any of those places? Try any local foods?

Mark Bonanno: The best thing … I mean, I don’t know if it’s the same for you Zach, but the barbecue in Austin really was quite a revelation. It was like my god. I’ve never had a sausage that soft. In barbecue, that’s a good thing. That’s not gonna leave me for awhile. Austin’s not gonna leave me for awhile. It was a really gorgeous town or city to be in. Very lucky.

Zach Ruane: It was right near the hotel and it was just fantastic. I know Broden had a really great time with the deep dish pizza in Chicago.

This really funny thing happens when you come into every city. That moment when you come into a city from an airport, it’s such a special moment when you first see the skylines. This was our first tour where I started to get sick of that skyline, that moment I was like, “alright, another city, another skyline.” We loved every city and we had this great tour manager who was taking us to the best food places in each city. So, we were getting very used to these cities. Everything has a mall in the middle. Like, every theater is wonderful, but everything looks somewhat the same. Then we get to Austin and we’re like it was a lot less of that here. Right now it feels like it’s a small town and I know that’s saying a lot but it really has this feeling of a small town. Like having this joke, it’s almost like liberals were like, we want some of that Texas charm, so you just took one city. So, you just took one city ’cause it’s just so cool and I think it was over a hundred degrees when we were there. It was so hot and it was just perfect, ya know, the food trucks … We went to a … Where did we go on Friday night? We went to a dance hall that night. We fully did the full Austin experience. I’ve never been to a city in the whole world, I’ve never been to a city quite like it. So, hopefully, we get to do a little bit more Texas and obviously the East Coast and the West Coast. The whole thing was incredible. Like, I know I’m meant to say that, but it really was. It was just amazing.

The Interrobang: Is there something you guys each have, like “I can’t go on tour without packing”? Is there something that keeps you grounded or that you just can’t live without?

Mark Bonanno: Yeah, I don’t travel, now, without my Nintendo Switch. The best damn thing that’s ever happened to me in my goddamned life. I just love it. I love it so much. It’s changed flying. It’s just the best. So, I don’t ever leave home without that thing. I also buy, when we’re on the road … One of my favorite things to do is go to comic book shops and different comic book shops all the time. So, every time I’m in New York, for example, I always try to venture out to new comic book shops and I buy a shit load of comic books while I’m on tour ’cause they just make me feel great and give me something fun to do.

Zach Ruane: For me, I would say it’s a Netflix subscription. Yeah, absolutely. Anywhere you go, you’ve got your Netflix originals, that’s consistent.  Have you seen The Crown? Have you seen Orange is the New Black?

The Interrobang: So, you guys are coming back to New York City, and that wasn’t part of the original tour plan. How did that come about? That you would return?

Zach Ruane: We sold out. We sold out our New York show and we’re at the start of the tour and it looked like the numbers were gonna be good for the rest of the tour and we just thought, “well let’s do it,” ya know. We knew we were coming back to Montreal Just For Laughs and it just seemed like the right thing to do. We were gonna be in North America and we just sold out shows. So, it just seems like well woe as you, we might as well just stop by. Get some New York theaters and do a couple of shows.

The Interrobang: So, you’re coming back to New York City, then you’re going to Just For Laughs, which is the biggest all comedy festival in the world. Then, after that, you’re going to what is probably the biggest arts festival in the world, Edinburgh. What are you most excited about?

Zach Ruane: The sleep at the end of it all.

Mark Bonanno: Montreal is such an unknown and it’s always really exciting doing a new festival for the first time. You just don’t know the city, you don’t know the crowd, you don’t know anything and we’ve done like six Melbourne comedy festivals. We’ve done all of the comedy festivals all over Australia, now. We’ve now recently done America and a whole bunch of shows there. It’s not often we get to do something really brand new and Montreal is something, in every single way, so completely foreign to us and that’s gonna be super, super exciting. And after Edinburgh, we’re doing our own run in London as well. Which is gonna be great ’cause we were doing two shows and they sold out like in two days. So, we’ve announced extra shows and they’re filling up and that’s gonna be super fun too.

Zach Ruane: I would say that I would absolutely agree with Mark on the new aspects of Just for Laughs. There’s the other element that Edinburgh feels like home now. So, that’s equally as exciting. It’s exciting to go back. When you travel as much as we do, you kind of get little homes all over across the world. I remember when we were touring, because we had been to L.A. the most, when we reached L.A. there was a little sense of home there. I think New York is gonna become a home for us, so it’s exciting to go to Edinburgh and have that as well.

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