Letterkenny plays the hits on tour: Here's what we saw at Letterkenny Live

Letterkenny plays the hits on tour: Here's what we saw at Letterkenny Live

Not many current TV shows could mount a live production that feels like an episode simply landed on stage in front of your eyes, but Hulu's cult-favorite Canadian import Letterkenny is uniquely suited for the transition from screen to stage. Often more or less plotless, and composed largely of self-contained riffs and conversations, the Canuck comedy has been translated to stage-bound sketches for its Letterkenny Live tour without losing the qualities that have steadily turned the series from hidden gem into whatever qualifies as a sleeper hit on TV these days.

At Letterkenny Live, you'll get Letterkenny, live: its tightly scripted dialogue, its delightfully dirty humor, its eminently quotable catchphrases, and its amiable cast of characters, minus some secondary players who likely couldn't commit to a 35-city tour. And judging from the packed house's raucous reaction in Los Angeles on Thursday, that's more than good enough for fans. After all, Letterkenny has become successful mostly through consistency: It has maintained its now-signature approach for 10 straight seasons, and it seems to be staying the course for the foreseeable future. (Fans in attendance were treated to a clip from the upcoming 11th season; fans not in attendance will be pleased to hear that Letterkenny is still Letterkenny by the looks of it.)

Letterkenny "Dyck Meat" Episode 1003 The Hicks attend a sausage party. The hockey players and skids have a video game battle. Wayne (Jared Keeso), shown.
Letterkenny "Dyck Meat" Episode 1003 The Hicks attend a sausage party. The hockey players and skids have a video game battle. Wayne (Jared Keeso), shown.

Lindsay Sarazin/Hulu Jared Keeso as Wayne on 'Letterkenny'

Well, pitter patter, let's get at 'er: Here are some of the things we saw at the live show.

New sketches and old favorites

As we said, Letterkenny Live isn't out to shake up what makes the TV version work. The backbone of the live show is a series of sketches that could easily be slotted into any given episode, and indeed often fill familiar templates from the show with original material. You'll get the Hicks havin' a beer and bantering about naughty topics, hockey players Reilly (Dylan Playfair) and Jonesy (Andrew Herr) facing a deluge of insults from Shoresy (series creator Jared Keeso), and "skids" Roald (Evan Stern) and Stuart (Tyler Johnston) breakdancing and playing out their passive-aggressive dynamic. And the show's finale reenacts an old scene that will have longtime fans saying, "Yes, yes, yes, yeeeeess."

Content that was "too hot for TV"

Lax as the Standards and Practices of the streaming age may be, Letterkenny somehow manages to get even more ribald outside their purview — there are lines about jellyfish stings and rising sea levels that might even make the McMurrays blush. (Well, then again, maybe not.) The live show also features a bit of content that was apparently "too hot for TV": a music video featuring Coach (Mark Forward) that was cut from the series' 2018 Christmas special. All we will say — indeed, all we probably can say — is that it's called "Christmas Lover." Ho-ho-hold onto your hat.

Letterkenny Live
Letterkenny Live

Roger A. Galvez Dylan Playfair, Andrew Herr, and Mark Forward in 'Letterkenny Live'

Out-of-character comedy

It feels true to the generous ensemble spirit of Letterkenny that the live show occasionally cedes the spotlight to individual cast members, performing stand-up comedy as themselves. The L.A. show featured Forward, who let loose with an envelope-pushing set involving Hitler's mom and Frosty the Snowman, and K. Trevor Wilson (Squirrelly Dan), who took credit for bringing Crunch Berries to Canada and slyly weighed in on the Oscar Slap fracas ("So, are we getting G.I. Jane 2? I'd watch it!"). But it was Jeff McEnery (MoDean's janitor Alexander) who really brought the house down, with a set involving anecdotes about an ill-fated trip to Olive Garden and his even worse-fated tenure as a KFC employee.

A rapturous reception

Letterkenny Live not only encourages but demands audience participation; when Wayne (also Keeso) asks you, "How're ya now?," you'd better respond with a hearty "Good, 'n' you?" And it bears mentioning that you should come to the show ready for a rowdy evening. The devotion of Letterkenny's cult following was on full display at the performance I attended, with raucous applause meeting each cast member as they made their entrance, and a similar greeting for every familiar catchphrase or running gag.

It all begs the question: When did Letterkenny get so big? To be fair (to be faaaair), the live show isn't playing to stadiums, but it is drawing sellout or near-sellout crowds, and the upcoming performance in Durham, N.C., apparently had to relocate to a larger venue to meet demand. Yet there was never a clear moment of explosion for the series after it arrived on Hulu in 2018; instead, it's slowly built its audience through good old-fashioned word of mouth while still preserving an aura of a small but beloved TV curio. (One wonders if the pandemic, which delayed the tour from spring 2020, helped push demand even higher by giving more viewers time to discover the series.)

Letterkenny Live
Letterkenny Live

Roger A. Galvez The cast takes a bow at 'Letterkenny Live' in Los Angeles.

"We can definitely feel that there's a bigger audience," director Jacob Tierney told EW earlier this year. "But what I kind of like, too, is that people still think of it as their show. The fans feel like we're still their little secret, even though we know that we're doing pretty well. It's nice that we don't feel like something that's being shoved down people's throats."

It's a sentiment that was visible at the end of the live performance, when the full cast took the stage to a standing ovation and a sustained round of hootin', hollerin', and hearty applause. To judge by their reactions, they still seem blown away by the depth of affection for their little show, and ready to keep delivering it for as long as there's a rowdy crowd that wants it.

Letterkenny Live is on tour through May 4. You can see the full list of tour dates here.

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