In just two years, "Letterkenny" has become CraveTV"s hottest item, taking on cult status among millennials coast-to-coast. It was nominated for nine Canadian Screen Awards, including best comedy series and best lead actor, comedy, for Keeso. And an upcoming "Letterkenny Live" tour has pretty...
In just two years, “Letterkenny” has become CraveTV’s hottest item, taking on cult status among millennials coast-to-coast. It was nominated for nine Canadian Screen Awards, including best comedy series and best lead actor, comedy, for Keeso.
And an upcoming “Letterkenny Live” tour has pretty much sold out in 30 venues across Canada, including Hamilton’s FirstOntario Concert Hall on March 13.
Focused on the fictional Ontario town of Letterkenny, the show combines the rural quaintness of “Corner Gas” with the off-colour edginess of “Trailer Park Boys.”
So far, Keeso and crew have made 24, 30-minute episodes available on CraveTV and they’ve been commissioned to do another 40 over the next three years.
The show’s marketing potential appears limitless. “Puppers,” which started out as fictional beer brand in the show, is now being made by Sudbury-based Stack brewery. The label features a picture of Keeso’s dog Gus, who is also a regular on the show.
“I never saw that one coming,” Keeso, 33, says about the new beer line. “To be honest, I didn’t see any of it coming. I thought we’d be lucky to go past season 1. The critics were lukewarm to it off the hop and I didn’t really know where we’d end up. To be greenlit for the next three years, for 40-plus episodes is a lot to wrap my head around.”
Despite the fact that it is currently only available for legal streaming in Canada, “Letterkenny” has picked up an avid following in the United States and as far away as Australia.
“People have their ways through (pirate) sites and other avenues to get access to it,” Keeso says about the show’s U.S. popularity. “We’ve sold merchandise to all 50 states. We’ve got some reach there. We’re thrilled to have it, and hope to get it down there legally as soon as possible.”
Each episode starts off with the words “There are 5,000 people in Letterkenny. These are their problems.”
Their problems are plenty, and often hilarious. The town is divided between three rival groups — hicks (farmers), skids (druggies) and hockey players (hockey players). There are fist fights, political struggles (at the co-op), romantic intrigues, and even the odd hot tub party.
Keeso — the show’s star, creator and head writer — admits “Letterkenny” is loosely based on his hometown of Listowel where his family owns a sawmill. It’s not always a flattering depiction, but Keeso says it has been well-received in his hometown.
“I’d like to say that the biggest ‘Letterkenny’ fans on the planet earth are in Listowel,” says Keeso, who now lives with his fiancé, a Quebec-based lawyer, north of Montreal.
To show his appreciation, Keeso is bringing the ‘Letterkenny Live’ tour to Listowel for two special shows to raise funds for the town’s new hockey arena.
“I’ve got a ton of friends back home in Listowel and get back often as I can. You know, sometimes when other towns play the Jr. B Team, they’ll say they’re playing Letterkenny. That’s pretty cool.”
In Sudbury, Letterkenny fans (nobody seems to call them ‘Letterheads’ yet) have also started to make their presence felt.
“We have people tweet at us, saying that they’ve driven to Sudbury and stopped by all the locations,” Keeso says. “Of course, the farm that we shoot at, they’ll get the occasional knock on the door, just from complete strangers who want to see the place and walk around the property. That’s pretty cool too.”
Keeso had a fairly successful career as an actor before he came up with “Letterkenny.” He won a Gemini Award for his portrayal of Don Cherry in two TV miniseries and had the lead role of Ben Chartier in the police series “19-2.”
The success of “Letterkenny,” however, has forced him to focus all his energies on Wayne, Daryl, Squirrely Dan and the rest of the hicks, skids and hockey players.
So much so, that you can’t help wondering just how similar Jared, the award-winning actor, and Wayne, a guy who doesn’t need to wear belts because his pants stay up just fine, are in reality.
“That’s a good question and I’m hesitant to answer it,” Keeso says. “But a lot of my core values and my upbringing in Listowel are reflected in Wayne’s character.
“The good-old-boyhood would be the word or the term that I’d use. Yeah, there’s certainly similarities.”
“I guess the thing that sticks out the most is that Wayne is a thousand times more violent than me. I had my day when I was a little more like Wayne there, but I’m 33 now and I’ve grown up significantly …
“And, yes, I wear belts.”
905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec
905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec
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