On paper, Letterkenny seems like exactly the kind of show that pretty much no one would care about. It’s a very Canadian ensemble-based sitcom about the happenings of a rural town and its population — or as the show’s opening slide explains, “There are 5000 people in Letterkenny. These are their problems.” It’s full of ridiculous characters, bodily humor, a dictionary’s worth of slang (some real, some made-up), and running jokes that’ll appear several times in an episode or two, and then disappear for seasons at a time before a random callback. In other words, it’s a perfect storm to be an extremely niche thing that would get some attention on YouTube, garner comparisons to Trailer Park Boys, and then promptly be forgotten.
But that’s not what happened.
After debuting as “Letterkenny Problems” on YouTube in 2013, Letterkenny became the first original series commissioned by Canadian streaming service Crave in 2016. While the then-brand-new network boosted the show’s audience throughout Canada and earned it a few awards at the Canadian Screen Awards, it wasn’t until Hulu picked it up in 2018 that the series helmed by (and starring) Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney really started getting attention on a global scale.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic glued everyone to their favorite streaming services, it’s been almost impossible to miss Letterkenny in several pockets of the internet. YouTube is full of fan theories, compilations (both official and unofficial) and memorable scenes. Spend an hour on pretty much any social media platform and someone will make a Letterkenny reference, whether you understand it or not. And that’s not even including the 220,000 degens from upcountry who fill the show’s subreddit.
“I checked the Letterkenny Reddit recently and it’s fucking wild,” Andrew Herr, who plays hockey player Jonesy, told SPIN.
“Oh, I don’t check those…” Tyler Johnston (who portrays Stewart, leader of the drug-fueled “skids”) added.
“I can’t,” Michelle Mylett, whom fans know as Letterkenny’s queen bee, Katy, confirmed. “It’s too scary. I went on it once, and I was horrified.”
But even if avoiding Reddit is probably better for everyone’s sanity, the cast can’t deny what an insane boost their dedicated fan base has given the show in recent years. Hell, how many other low-budget web series turn into one of the most popular shows on Hulu and a touring live performance that sells out all across North America?
With Letterkenny’s 10th season premiering this past weekend on Christmas (and the day after on Hulu), SPIN sat down on a video call with Mylett, Johnston and Herr — along with some additional contributions from Herr’s real-life and TV partner in crime, Dylan Playfair (Reilly).
SPIN: With so many people discovering Letterkenny during the pandemic, have you noticed a boost in popularity in the last couple of years?
Michelle Mylett: I think being on Hulu, we got the American audience, and there are way more Americans than there are Canadians, so it changed the audience. It changed our internet presence and social media interactions. I think that really pushed us more into the mainstream. I know it’s still kind of a cult-y show, but at the same time, I’m surprised by a lot of the people who know it. I’ll be in New York or something and like a suit person [Johnston interjects “A shirt-tucker!”] will start talking about it and I’m like “Why are you watching Letterkenny?” It’s surprising, but it’s cool because it’s reached a lot of different people. When you’re making a rural show, you know it’ll hit small town people, but the fact that it’s extended much further past that is really cool.
Tyler Johnston: Like Michelle mentioned, the internet presence grows without us doing anything. You wake up every morning and you’re getting more followers even if you’re not posting. People are still tweeting and Instagram posting about the show telling us how they rewatch it with their uncle every time there’s a new season coming out. I think the pandemic certainly allowed people to just really lean into it and binge watch our show. Now we’ve got like 70 episodes, so there’s a lot to watch.
Dylan Playfair: We’ve all spent time living in the US and Canada, and we also come from relatively small towns, so we knew the humor would translate. Canadians and Americans have more in common than people think, especially when it comes to small town existence. Mix in the time we have all spent in big cities and Jared and Jacob’s incredible abilities as writers, and we all knew it was a matter of time before the rest of the world got in on the joke. That’s not to say we have not been deeply humbled by the reception. We’ve been consistently blown away by the support for the show our fans have shown. I think everyone was looking for some escapism during the last few years, and I think we have the best fans in the world. Without dedicated fans supporting Letterkenny, we wouldn’t be able to make the show. Ferda.
Pretty much every character on Letterkenny has really grown over the seasons, so how have your characters’ evolutions changed how you see them?
Mylett: Katy’s just more herself. She’s always known exactly who she is, and that’s only getting stronger in her. I don’t know if that’s true for Stewart, since he’s always trying on a different thing, but the Hicks are exactly who they are, and they’re just getting more and more confident.
Johnston: Life is all about evolution, right? If you’re not growing, you’re dying. With Stewart, you could only go up after those first couple of seasons. That was his rock bottom. It’s been nice to have a trajectory that goes up for a bit and then back down, and then up again and down again. I’d say Stewart was the underdog for the first couple of seasons, and he’s kind of found a home in Letterkenny where he’s accepted for being… I don’t even know what you want to call him. A clown? A vampire? The list goes on.
Andrew Herr: I think Reilly and I have kind of had a freefall, where each season we’ve had a new concussion. We started off on high ground where we thought we were king shit, and now we’re kind of like lap dogs that come to people’s beck and call. We have these not-so-great ideas on how to regain our glory, and we usually end up not getting it. But at the end of the day, it’s still gym, girls and hockey, and we never give up. We’ve had our moments where all of a sudden we’re goal-scorers. We had a moment where we were broken up for a little bit and we realized how much we need each other. I always joke that Reilly and Jonesy didn’t have fathers and that we were connected straight out of the womb, so we’ve just been each other’s role models.
Playfair: A huge part of Reilly’s growth lies in the development of his relationship with Jonesy. We have each other’s backs, and when things have gotten tough for us in the show — like when Katy chooses Reilly over Jonesy — there’s serious reflection on what’s important in life. We realize our family is one another, and no one can come between family — which I guess is a bit of a metaphor for the entire show. At its heart — regardless of the language, fart jokes, wheeling, sniping and cellying — we’re a family. This tone was set very early on in the series, and I think a great example of it pops up many times in one of my favorite episodes, “Supersoft Birthday.” That episode captures the love within the town of Letterkenny, and it’s one that always gives me the warm fuzzies.
What do you think it is about Letterkenny that makes it so relatable even for an audience well outside of Canada?
Johnston: I think one thing about Letterkenny is that they try to be inclusive of every person in every walk of life, and we make fun of everybody. There’s not really one person or one group of people who’s a punching bag because we punch at everybody. And I think people can relate to the characters, even if they just change them for their region — like a hockey player for a baseball player or a football player or a lacrosse player or a synchronized swimmer. It’s cool seeing Europe and different areas like that become attracted to the show. “Herrsy” and I were at a bar in Edinburgh like four years ago and some guys stopped us to ask if we were the guys from Letterkenny. It was one of those moments where you don’t think you’re going to be in Scotland and some guy’s going to know what we’re doing back in Sudbury, Ontario. I joke all the time about how we’re on this rocket ship and I’m just holding on as tight as I can for as long as I can. Maybe we’ll meet Elon Musk up there.
Mylett: I feel like people from other places look at it and they’re like “What are these weird Canadians up to?” I think not a lot of people really have an understanding of Canada. It sounds like this silly made-up place to a lot of people, and then they see Letterkenny and they’re just fascinated. Then they think that’s how we operate at all times, which is also really funny.
Herr: I think there’s a lot of clever little lessons in a lot of the episodes. Like usually if there’s a bully, the bully always gets beaten down by everyone teamed up together. At the end of the day, everyone loves each other in Letterkenny, and it’s really genuine. So I think people also really gravitate towards that as well. Also, it’s just a bunch of crazy kooky characters that keep coming in every season.
Playfair: Laughter is bilingual. Some humor is culturally specific, but I think there’s a common thread that connects anyone who has ever been to or lived in a small town. It’s for anyone who has a friend, or group of friends, where you feel comfortable being yourself and can discuss complex ideas, like scrap etiquette — a Donnybrook — flatulence etiquette, or how to justly protect the members of your society without committing an unintentional faux pas — such as “How do we beat up the degens who have been intolerant of our LGBTQ friends without being intolerant of the degens who deserve to be beat up on account of them saying some intolerant things about our friends who happen to be LGBTQ?” It’s the way in which we tackle complex social commentary with extreme love and respect for all while making it very funny and inclusive.
A lot of you were friends before Letterkenny started, and I think that genuine friendship really shows even when you’re filming. What was that like to build the show on those existing bonds?
Playfair: Some of my favorite memories — as well as the funniest banter I’ve ever had — have been with the cast of Letterkenny. Jared — “Cap,” as we affectionately call him — was the captain of our men’s league team, which included myself, Andrew, Nate Dales, Tyler, and Jamie LaPointe [who plays a recurring character known only as The Ginger, who may or may not have fucked an ostrich]. We had a lot of great laughs together, and many of them have since made their way into the show in some form. There’s a chemistry that can’t be faked. [Herr and I] were very close friends before the show, and we’ve grown closer over the past 10 seasons.
Herr: I didn’t think a whole lot of doing the YouTube video at first. I knew there was some buzz around it, but I was still in university and kind of just living day-to-day and wasn’t thinking too far in advance. But yeah, Dylan and I used to be roommates, we worked on a movie beforehand, and it’s actually crazy how many similarities we have. We even had the same mark in grade 11 math — we both just passed with a 50% — so there’s a lot of crazy similarities.
Mylett: Please include that tidbit.
Herr: You should make that the headline.
Johnston: “Reilly and Jonesy barely passed math. Shocker!” [Laughs.] It was a very humble web series when we started, and we didn’t know what was really going on. Then Crave came in as a brand new streaming service at the time, and they asked us for six episodes. Some of us were friends before, and some of us just met for the first time, but we all were very excited to make these six episodes as fun and enjoyable as they could be. We joke that the first season was the best summer camp ever. We started with the show at its humble beginnings and watched as it’s grown into what it is now. We’ve all developed our egos now over time, but we didn’t show up with them.
Herr: Definitely Tyler. Tyler’s got the biggest ego for sure.
Johnston: I was actually wanting to do this interview alone, but they kept saying that it’s for all of us.
Dylan mentioned earlier that “Supersoft Birthday” is one of his favorite episodes. Anyone else want to share their favorite Letterkenny episodes or moments?
Johnston: A couple of my favorite episodes over the course of time are “Les Hiques” with the French version of the Hicks and “Letterkenny Spelling Bee.” For my character in particular, I really enjoyed the relationship with Gae because it showed Stewart in an actual human capacity. There was some love and heartbreak, and not just him bouncing off the walls.
Mylett: The final episode of season eight, when Dierks disrespects Katie. He was promised from the start that the whole town would come after him, and that last sequence — the song, the way that it’s shot, and all of these different groups of people coming together to defend their family member — it just encapsulated what the show is about. Watching it made me emotional almost…
Johnston: Me too. You don’t have to say “almost.” I cried.
Herr: I cried too.
Mylett: This sounds so cheesy, but it represented us as friends. There’s that level of friendship on this show that — like you said earlier — people say they can feel in the show. That friendship is genuinely there, and that scene sums up what the show is about. No bullying, no bullshit, and we will kick the shit out of you if you cross one of us.
Herr: I fully agree with everyone. I love that sequence. I love “Spelling Bee” and “Les Hiques.” I also love seeing Tyler get pegged personally.
Johnston: Thanks, buddy… Wait, like with a ball?
Herr: Any EpiPen fight is probably the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I watch that on repeat a lot.
Johnston: So all of your favorite moments are when I’m injured. That’s that friendship thing we were talking about
Dylan and Andrew, you two are probably responsible for more people learning about hockey lingo than anyone else in history. What’s it like to see and hear so many people adopting your catchphrases from the show — particularly considering that you’re technically a second-generation hockey player, Dylan?
Playfair: Like goin’ first round first overall ferda, diggin’ deep and bearing down, chuckin’ silly sauce from the bluey! It’s lots of fun. We have our own language, and I’m honored to share it with the world. My dad told me when I transitioned from playing hockey to acting, “Hockey has given our family so much. Sports give kids the opportunity to work for a common goal in a team setting. You will use the lessons you learned playing hockey for the rest of your life. Never forget what hockey has done for you, respect the game and the game will be good to you.” I think this sentiment exists in all sports. When you’re given the chance to experience success and failure in the confines of a sports season, it proves how important the work you put in when no one’s watching is, the practice, the belief in yourself and the understanding that you’re working towards something bigger than any one person. That’s a long-winded way of saying it feels like a crispy new twig — or good and fresh, like a new hockey stick.
Herr: I think it’s pretty surreal when the things we’re saying start growing like a forest fire — that’s probably not the right terminology — but it’s just surreal. Some of the language was already in hockey culture beforehand, and Jared definitely had his finger on the pulse. What’s so cool about hockey is you have a team of guys, and they’re just constantly ribbing each other — constantly making jokes, making up words and messing with the English language. I think that’s what Jared did in a lot of ways. For me, it was just surreal to have people say the words back at you on the street or wherever you are.
Is there anything else you want to share about the new season of Letterkenny?
Mylett: I honestly feel like the scripts for the next two seasons were some of the strongest we’ve seen, because COVID gave Jacob and Jared some breathing room to really get inspired and take their time. It’s a classic Letterkenny season of jokes and swear words and silly characters and Tyler dancing. Oh, and Andrew shows his butt
Johnston: Like Michelle said, it’s the classic Letterkenny energy, but with some more treats in store, like a couple of buttcheeks.
Mylett: Definitely more butt.
Herr: I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite like a piece of meat like I have with this.
Johnston: You’re a good-looking piece of meat, buddy.