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Aunty Donna On Comedy At Music Festivals & Being “Read For Filth” On ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

After what feels like the world’s longest gig drought, Brisbane’s Super Fun Day festival is quenching our thirst with a damn tasty cocktail of comedy and music. At Eatons Hill Outdoors & Ballroom on 26 March 2022, tunes will be brought to you by the likes of Hockey Dad, Middle Kids and Concrete Surfers, while local legends including Aaron Chen, Becky Lucas and Aunty Donna will supply the LOLs.

With an unparalleled talent for crafting sketches that combine wit, theatre and song, the Aunty Donna lads were made for this festival. Hot off the success of their Netflix series Big Ol House Of Fun and in the midst of their The Magical Dead Cat Tour, the trio will treat festival-goers to an exclusive and apparently batshit wild set.

It’s their first live show in three years and promises to leave long-time fans and novices alike in equal measure of stitches and bewilderment. We caught up with one-third of Aunty Donna, Broden Kelly, to chat about the Super Fun Day festival, sliding into RuPaul’s DMs and their big plans for 2022.

MF: Have you ever played a show that’s a music festival and a comedy festival in one day?

BK: The Aunty Donna story is lined with disaster versions of this. So we performed at a music festival in London called Latitude. We’ve performed at the Falls Festival and we’ve performed at Splendor. We’ve done all these music festivals all over the world and they go differently every time. Sometimes they’re an absolute disaster and sometimes they’re just what the doctor ordered for a bunch of kids who’ve been standing in the sun dehydrated, having too many corn dogs.

So we often find that we’re a nice relief and a bit of a change of pace from that. But I think what’s exciting about this show is that every time we do it, it always feels like music and comedy is the perfect pairing because they indulge different parts of the brain. So pairing them is often a really cool thing to do.

MF: Oh, it’s bound to be a helluva time. But tell me about some of the disasters?

BK: It reminds me a bit of Big Day Out. I went there in 2005 when I was just a little boy. I wanted to see John Butler Trio and the next act on the stage was a band called Slipknot. So we’ve had that cadence sometimes where people are there to see the really exciting band on after us and we’re doing silly songs about sausage rolls or something stupid. But also, to be honest, most people tend to be on board with it. We’ve done festivals in Edinburgh, which is the big grand final for comedy, where you go to really try and see if you’re any good.

And sometimes when people are there to see music or something else it can be an absolute disaster. And there have been moments where I’ve been standing on stage, doing a little play, where I’m playing a doctor in a sketch or something stupid and people are going, “Where’s the fucking music, man? I’m going to find out where you live and kill you once you get offstage”. So that has been fun. But yeah, often it goes well because people are on the right frequency to take in lots of stuff at music festivals.

MF: Yeah, I think even bands at a music festival feel that way because you’re playing for a broader audience. It’s an interesting challenge that has its pros and cons, right?

BK: Absolutely. And music festivals, I think people are the most open to everything at a good music festival. People there are more open-minded than they ever will be before [of what’s] around them. And it also reminds me of, you know the Umbilical Brothers? So they’ve been around forever, and they’re awesome. In 1998, I think it was, they were touring America, and the wrong person came and saw their show, and said, “I love that so much.” It might have even been Kid Rock or someone, but they said, “I want you to open for me at Woodstock 99”. So there’s footage if you Google “Umbilical Brothers at Woodstock performing” and the crowd is not having a bar of it. They’ve said it was one of the most intense experiences of their life because they were between Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock and whoever else. So the Umbilical Brothers are part of history. So we’re expecting something similar for Super Fun Day (laughs).

MF: Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock? That’s a sandwich you don’t ever want to be between but you’ve set the bar pretty high. You’re performing a festival exclusive set on the day. What can fans expect from the show?

BK: We’ve been working away over Zoom, creating something that we’ve never done before. We didn’t want to just do what we would do in a normal theatre where people are sitting down and paying attention. So we’ve made this hour-long ridiculousness. It’s gonna be like an hour-long fever dream of comedy. If you don’t know who we are, and you come and stand in front of the stage, we want you to, at the end of the hour, go, “What the fuck did I just watch?” and not be able to put into words what you’ve just seen. So we really want to just blow people’s minds a little bit and laugh? There’s definitely…hopefully going to be laughter (laughs).

MF: What has it been like preparing the show over Zoom? Has it been hard?

BK: Oh, yeah, it’s a disaster (laughs). At the same time, we’re writing our brand new live show, which we haven’t done since we made our Netflix show. And when we wrote it, we were testing it in front of audiences, and then having to shut down and then get it all back up. And it’s not the traditional way we’ve done it. It has also been kind of cool because we’ve been able to focus on particular things. But we’re very excited now that we’re back in a room together.

I think next year is going to be the most ridiculous year of creativity for everyone that you love. There have been almost two years now, for Melbourne and Sydney particularly, of just sitting still thinking of cool new things, and our show is probably going to be broken. All of our new comedy is going to be reflective of being stuck in your own house for two years.

MF: For people who have already got tickets to the Magical Dead Cat tour, can they expect a completely different show at the festival?

BK: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it’s actually almost the perfect pairing funnily enough. It’s like The Matrix Revolutions to The Animatrix, for any nerds from 2002 enjoying our chat. They’re going to be kind of the polar opposites. We’re trying to make two different kinds of shows, as when we tour around one is a seated focused show and we end up at the other end. We’ve done tours where we have standing room theatres and they both require different things. They’re both rewarding and fun in different ways. They indulge different parts of your creativity. What’s most exciting is we’re going to be able to do the full spectrum in the next year of big all-out both the world fun. Music festival energy and then also theatre energy at the same time.

MF: You have a big touring schedule for 2022 already. Are you excited or nervous to get back in front of large crowds again?

BK: Yeah, we’ve put the pressure on. I’m actually very excited but also scared. We were in the process of making a new live show every year and getting better and better for about eight consecutive years. We spent six to seven months of every year being on stage and getting better and better at that and learning. There’s this art form that you can never perfect and now we actually haven’t done a live show together properly for like three years now, because we were in America making this TV show for upwards of nine months almost. And then that went straight into two years of something…I forget.

So I’m actually horrified to see if I can still do it. There’s also three years worth of comedy that we’re ready to show to people. It might be messy, and might be a messy fuckfest. But I think what we’ve discovered over the years is people like to see things fall apart and explode in front of them so that I can also guarantee (laughs).

MF: Oh, yeah, Australians love a little bit of tall poppy syndrome. So they’ll enjoy that.

BK: Yeah, exactly. You’re gonna see me have a nervous breakdown on stage. That is a Broden Kelly guarantee. We have a breakdown in the middle of Brisbane.

MF: Can we expect any cheeky collabs with the other artists on the lineup?

BK: I promise you that we will be collaborating with every music act on that day. So we’re gonna come on and join every act for a song. I haven’t checked in with anyone about this yet. But I promise you today, this is another Broden Kelly guarantee. At some point, I’m gonna walk on, do the ol’ wave and then walk up to a mic and go, “Hey, you mind if I join in?” And they’ll say, “No, please”. Then I’ll pull out the Matan chuck a bow on and bloody get into it. So I’m going to do that for every act. And I’ve not spoken to anyone about this.

MF: Well, they’ll read this and find out. Potential collabs aside, are there any acts you’re excited to catch on the day?

BK: I’m so excited about everyone. Just excited about The Vanns and Tia Costello or Shag Rock. I’m obviously excited for the Hockey Mums and.. the Oldest Kids (laughs). I had to go on national breakfast Youth Radio recently and talk about all the acts and I’m at that age now where I don’t have the fervent love for music. I’m 32, I’m in my twilight years. But I realised that I actually listen to these guys on Spotify. Hockey Dad and Middle Kids are two bands that I actually quite regularly listen to.

But then the other thing is that comedians that are actually on this show are awesome, awesome, awesome. And whether they’re household names or not, they are actually better than us. Becky Lucas and Aaron Chen are ridiculously funny. Michelle Brasier who works with us is super, super funny and will hold a music venue by herself.

It’s the best part of every music festival we’ve ever done. The best part is seeing the acts that go on to be huge things. We started a working relationship with Montaigne purely by watching her perform one day and she’s incredible. She was holding these absurd notes just acapella in this massive place and Baker Boy, the first time we saw Baker Boy started a lifelong love of him. I think we’re going to become fans of Concrete Surfers and the Daily J. It’s gonna be good fun. Also, there’s nothing funnier than saying a list of bands names because they’re always like Concrete Surfers and Sweater Curse (laughs).

MF: Or “Aunty Donna”? (Laughs).

BK: Exactly, what a stupid name. Do you think in a list of bands do you reckon, Aunty Donna looks like a music act?

MF: Oh, absolutely.

BK: Before we had a little fan base, we’d go to comedy festivals to try and sell tickets and, guaranteed for the first four or so years, every show in the audience would be a middle-aged lady or couple holding a ticket looking at us going “This isn’t a lady doing cabaret”.

MF: I was gonna say that or maybe a fabulous drag queen whose character is everybody’s favourite drunk aunty.

BK: We’re obviously not drag performers but, because of the name, I feel in part, we did manage to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race. So in a way, we are drag performers.

MF: Oh my god. Iconic. Was that just the best experience ever?

BK: It was the first time that I’d really been read for filth (laughs). The most full-on thing was one day, I just woke up and checked Twitter and was like, “oh, some account that’s changed their name to RuPaul has retweeted all our stuff and followed us. So I was like, “Ah, let’s see who’s pretending to be RuPaul”. And then it was RuPaul and then and then I DMd RuPaul. And I said like, “Thank you for being nice RuPaul. Mama Ru. Thank you so much”. And then Ru wrote back and because Ru loves Australia. I think Ru’s partner is Australian and loves Australian stuff and Ru was like, “Oh, you guys are the bee’s knees and chicken drumsticks” and started saying all of this shit. So then we just shot that little thing and I was more afraid of feeling like we were invaders in a community that we’re not really a part of. But they were super warm and loving. And it was, it’s a cool thing to be able to say in interviews.

MF: What else can people expect from Auntie Donna in 2022?

BK: We’ve got a lot going on projects on the horizon. A lot of cool stuff. A lot of fun things. Things. Lots of cool brand alignments and lots of cool projects on the boil. Lots of non-descriptive exciting events (laughs). But we made a schedule the other day and it’s jam-packed. So it’s going to be the roaring ’20s for everyone. We’re going to be partyin’, and dancin’ and vaccinatin’.

Catch Aunty Donna at Brisbane’s Super Fun Day alongside, Hockey Dad, Middle Kids, Becky Lucas, The Vanns, Tia Gostelow & more next March. Details here.

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