Here is a show particularly befitting its year of release. The dialogue is simply an interlude for the screaming or the sociopathic faces trying to have fun with whatever is nearby (“Everything’s a drum!” the bizarre opening song goes, as they bang on everything in their candy-colored home), and no premise is as simple as it initially looks. Something unhinged is inevitably going to happen to break the very reality of the sketch; satire will collide with meta references and/or general freak outs; an existential crisis is nearby. Delivered with such forceful energy (this show is always “on”) and an incredible amount of creativity (it’s nearly always funny), “Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun” is the sketch series for this year, and its madness is a blissful escape from our current reality.
Each episode gets a premise from its “word of the day” (like “Treasure”) and that feels to be like a nod to “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” albeit from three comedians who could easily host their own off-kilter children’s show if they wanted. Working as a trio who can change their characters in an instant, they make for an encouraging bunch to follow around in plots the series only uses for some type of gravity. Satire becomes the single tether that keeps the humor just barely grounded (there’s even a bit about things that are “relatable,” as they very much are here in this show’s absurdist fashion), and the series has many recognizable jokes. If you squint extra hard, it’s still a show about simply having fun with your roommates, and that’s a mighty warming approach itself.
The series has been devised with a creative abandon like Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ “Mr. Show,” as one sketch is built from the previous under some semblance of a story. “Aunty Donna’s Big Ol House of Fun” relishes any time it can tear open the reality of its segment, and it creates an unpredictability that feels free from the stagnation of a simple premise you might see in a four-minute sketch video. Somehow an episode about a treasure map leads to executive producer Ed Helms having an identity crisis, to a special prize from Ellen Degeneres, to traveling through a vortex, to throwing around a red ball with Abraham Lincoln in the studio backlot. In the world of “Aunty Donna,” it makes sense.