REEL Review – Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun: Season 1 (2020)

Creator: Aunty Donna | Runtime: 20 mins (episode) | Comedy

A sketch show from the Australian comedy group Aunty Donna following a loose narrative around three housemates; Mark, Zach and Broden.

Netflix has created a substantial catalogue of original content in the last few years, with 2017 being a turning point for their comedy arm, creating the Netflix Is A Joke campaign. Stand up specials, scripted series and sketch shows – the latter of which has a new entry by absurdist Melbourne-based Aunty Donna, who have been taking their improvised and scripted sketch comedy around the globe since 2011.

Consisting of performers/writers Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Ruane, director/writer Sam Lingham and Max Miller, and composer Tom Armstrong, the group have made their presence known through festivals such as the Edinburgh & Melbourne Fringe, but reached a new audience through their YouTube content – more in tune with the 6 episode series released in November.

An aspect that audiences only familiar with their YouTube content will have missed out on is the musical element of their performance, something that you’re thrown head first into with the opening sequences of Everything’s A Drum. Though not the most bizarre segment the show has to offer, it certainly doesn’t ease you into absurdity either; punching holes in walls and family-leaving drama all fits into a few minutes at a lightning pace – an aspect that is both a highlight and a downfall of the Big Ol’ House. The quickfire pace allows for the absurdity to reach ridiculous heights but it also becomes quite exhausting. Even though it clocks in at around 2 hours in total, it’s not a series easily binged.

Does it make sense? Maybe sometimes, maybe never – but that’s undoubtedly missing the point.

Every episode starts with the word of the day – “Housemates”, “Treasure” or “Dating”, for example – and the narrative becomes based around that concept, each segment loosely advancing the story or roughly relating to the word or phrase. Some are more successful than others but they squeeze in as many interpretations of the word as possible; and even if you don’t enjoy the comedy, you have to appreciate the creativity. There’s literal reality tearing and vortex hopping, a SWAT Team musical, and the Queen comes for dinner and takes MDMA – nothing is off limits for the Aunty Donna team.

Like every comedy out there, not every joke will hit home but that’s where the speed of the show works best – if you’re not laughing at the current segment, you know it’ll be moving on soon to the next. There’s only a handful of times that the sketch runs on for more than a few minutes and these longer sections always push the joke further than you expect it to go, unpredictable at every turn.

It’s not a flawless show, but it’s incredible fun and easy going, the perfect kind of silliness that we needed to help round out 2020. Does it make sense? Maybe sometimes, maybe never – but that’s undoubtedly missing the point of what Aunty Donna wants you to get out of Big Ol’ House of Fun.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Author: Phil Wilson

I watch and make films.

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