While the national media oft references a mix of Corner Gas and the Trailer Park Boys when explaining the wildly popular Letterkenny series, the edgy and cerebral diaglogue driven comedy starkly contrasts the more profanity peppered humour that spawns from the problems of the 5,000 people in Letterkenny. While you may first think it’s a show about rubes, you’ll find these people a little more clever than expected. It’s a modern take on Seinfeld albeit rather than being too New York, Letterkenny is a little Listowel heavy since show creator Jared Keeso grew up in the rural locale just 119 km north west of Hamilton.
Developed and primarily written by Keeso and Jacob Tierney, with Tierney as director, Letterkenny Problems began as a YouTube web series but in March 2015, Crave commissioned it as a television series and since it debuted in February 2016, the show has become a cult favourite that’s wildly surpassing anyone’s original expectations. After eight seasons with streaming on Hulu in the US adding to the success, the cast of Letterkenny ventures from your HD screen to your 3D local stage. The all new 90–minute live Letterkenny comedy experience will feature never–before– seen sketches and more from Jared Keeso (Wayne), Nathan Dales (Daryl), Michelle Mylett (Katy), K. Trevor Wilson (Dan), Dylan Playfair (Reilly), Andrew Herr (Jonesy), Evan Stern (Roald), Mark Forward (Coach), and Tyler Johnston (Stewart).
You may know Tyler Johnston from his roles as Danny Lubbe in Less Than Kind or from his TV appearances on series like The Killing and Supernatural or the films The Odds or The Phantoms but these days Tyler Johnston is the leader of the skids — the underdogs in a show about underdogs. Letterkenny hosts a bizarre cast of quirky characters where the hick farmers and jock hockey players try to get along with the skids — with the latter representing cyber goth, drug selling, artsy, freak outsiders. Things are always ripe for a fist fight to erupt from a cerebral debate on a litany of off colour topics but romance, political commentary and pure satire fuel the basis of this rural comedy with universal urban appeal.
“When we read the first few episodes, I had a conversation with the director and it felt like Stewart felt like he was the evil genius of this small town and that made it in the first six episodes but it’s sort of evolved to Stewart being a jack of all trades,” says Johnston. “But Stewart definitely started off more of an outsider, and I can say in my youth, I didn’t always feel like I fit in but I think the skids have found a space where the outsiders can feel like insiders. Through the show’s development there are now five, we call them cyber goths, and it’s kind of nice that fans have gotten behind these once underdogs.”
As Stewart, Johnston is almost unrecognizable under a black wig, makeup and garb and the frantic and at time surreal perspective offers a contrast to the more identifiable jocks and regular residents of this rural locale. Big city folk may not identify immediately with small town produce stands, bush league hockey obsessions or general lifestyle of these residents but the quirky and clever dialogue oft betrays more urbane thinking. If a rube suddenly prompts one of his friends to tell him about a local news event by drawling, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”, even the most casual viewer can get inadvertently wrapped up in this whirlwind of delightful diction. It’s an ensemble comedy with peculiar set ups but if you like the aforementioned Seinfeld or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, anyone can find a home in Letterkenny.
“While it’s not political, it’s kind of like South Park in the sense that we we can go past the circus of the fart jokes and silly humour and talk about some of the important things going on in Canada for Canadians but also Americans,” says Johnston. “I grew up outside of Vancouver so I didn’t identify with Listowel or Sudbury, where we film the show, but It’s a slightly exaggerated version of Canada and offers a little bit of a window into that world. Comparisons to shows like ...Phildelphia and Trailer Park Boys are awesome but I think Letterkenny has developed a brand of its own and something we’re all really proud of.”
With eight seasons and a developing cult following, Letterkenny is decidedly different and as such, the ensemble cast takes the show on the road to get more intimate with fans.
“I was fortunate enough to see some of the shows that my cast mates have done in the past and I think the show brings the same kind of infectious, fast paced energy that our fans have come to enjoy and we’re adding some more content,” says Johnston. “Two cast members will be doing some stand up comedy, there’ll be some digital content, and this is a big production stage performance. This will be a really cool experience for any Letterkenny fan. There will be more interaction with fans with a Q and A and a meet and greet. It gives us all the opportunity to meet the folks that have been so supportive of us through this whole journey. We started off doing six episodes on a brand new Canadian streaming service and now we’re on episode sixty something and about to go on this North American tour. Getting the opportunity to meet the people that actually made it happen is pretty special and that’s not lost on us.
“It’s been cool with this recent tour selling as well as it has and that’s showing us and hopefully the networks that this show is not even close to being done,” adds Johnston. “We want to keep this going as long as we can as long as the quality is up there and the fans are showing up — we love doing it. For these shows, we hope the diehards show up and they bring their friends and any passerbys are welcome. This is a special opportunity and we want to bring the fans an evening of pure entertainment and goes home with a smile on their face. This up and coming actor named Brad Pitt gave us a shout out at the Oscars a week or two ago if you saw it. Ben Mulroney was on the red carpet and shouted out, ‘Brad, Brad, do you have a moment for Canada?’ and you could see Brad’s wheels turning and he could have said anything but he gave a shout out to our show and I don’t think there’s been a cooler moment in my life when Brad Pitt gave Letterkenny a shout out. So a lot of unexpected people are showing up for these shows and it’d be great if Brad showed up in Los Angeles and our people are reaching out to his people to offer as many tickets as he might need but I’d probably try recruiting him into the skids. My TV and film career kind of took off right after high school so I haven’t been on a live stage like this since then but it’s a comfortable amount of nerves for me. We’re all just so excited about putting on another amazing performance with the fans that mean so much to us.” V
LIVE ON TOUR
March 3, 2020 - 8:00 PM
Recommended age: 16+
FirstOntario Concert Hall
1 Summers Lane, Hamilton