Everybody knows someone from Letterkenny.
Of course, you don’t actually know anyone from the fictional town of the self-titled show about to drop its seventh season—its first as a full-fledged Hulu Original. But someone from a small town. Someone who grew up with hicks, skids, and jocks, in a place where plaid is plentiful and fistfights are an accepted form of conflict resolution.
What makes Letterkenny special isn’t just that it’s based on the small-town life of creator and star Jared Keeso, but how it manages to combine quirky dialogue, regional slang, rapid-fire joke delivery, near-constant cussing, and endless sh*t talking with a surprising amount of humanity. Keeso has cited both Eastbound & Down and the Australian mockumentary series Summer Heights High as influences in mixing filthy mouths with a big heart. It’s also a direct descendant of lovable hoser comedies that stretch back to SCTV’s Bob and Doug McKenzie of the early 80s, up through the Trailer Park Boys of the early ’00s, both of which managed to build massive fan bases by combining Canadiana with down-to-earth, booze-fueled banter. Over the last few years, Letterkenny has grabbed that bottle and run with it.
“It is a true word-of-mouth phenomenon,” says Billy Rosenberg, Hulu’s director of original content and head of comedy. “We’ve seen new subscribers signing up to just watch Letterkenny, because their friends are telling them they need to check out this show. They’ve got a huge number of followers on Instagram, and it’s all word of mouth. I don’t think they put a lot of money into the marketing. That obsessive audience was a huge factor in us bringing it on as an original.”
Series cocreator and director Jacob Tierney says they’ve been lucky to have passionate fans from the start and sees the reason behind it as relatively simple. “I think it’s that it rings true,” says Tierney. “Because Jared comes from a town like that, because he’s mining his own real experiences, people can relate to it because there’s a universality to its specificity. It just feels right.”
If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a TLDR breakdown of the show: Letterkenny takes place in a Canadian town, population 5,000. The main characters are Wayne, his sister, Katy, and buddies Daryl and Squirrley Dan. On the periphery are characters such as the hockey jock bros Jonesy and Reilly and a crew of skids who make meth and dance in the Dollar Store parking lot. Surrounding these three groups is a murderers row of quirky, eclectic, and outright batsh*t townsfolk. Most of the show consists of these characters telling tales, drinking beer, and navigating primarily low-stakes adventures.
Last year, the series’ back catalog, originally created with Canadian streaming service Crave, was picked up by Hulu, making its previous six seasons available to American audiences. It immediately scored a critical boost from Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall, but the show had already long crossed the border. It’s unofficially had an American following since it racked up millions of YouTube views as a web series, selling Letterkenny merch in all 50 states, and even taking a live show for a dip below the 49th parallel last summer.
Characters on the show rarely talk about the U.S., save for wondering why malt vinegar isn’t a staple condiment in American restaurants or rolling their eyes at Canadians who move to El-Ayyyy.
You’d expect Canadians to slap the show’s sayings on car license plates or turn fictional beer Puppers into an IRL brew, but American fans of the show aren’t far behind, whether getting a show-inspired tattoo in Idaho or, like Green Bay Packers’ fullback Dan Vitale, rocking a Canadian tuxedo and looking for a donnybrook.
Here are three reasons Letterkenny has been able to build a cult following beyond its northern borders. And why you should join them.
Slang and specificity sells
Everyone loves to be in on the joke. What starts as esoteric vernacular quickly becomes a treasure trove of quotable, meme-able trinkets that you may want to slap on a T-shirt (which, of course, they’ve done). Ferda? Hockey slang for “for the boys.” 10-ply? Super soft. Texas-sized 10-four. Toe curlin’. Chorin’. If you find yourself binging the show to catch up, don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly starting sentences with “To be fairrrr . . .” and greeting people with a “How’re ye now?”
Perhaps Letterkenny’s signature move is its rapid-fire dialogue mixed with country-fried, Seinfeldian conversations about nothing. It’s a bit like if Jerry ran a produce stand at the side of a rural road. Hulu’s Rosenberg describes it “as if Wes Anderson made a half-hour show that was a mixture of King of the Hill, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Slapshot.” The show revels in its use of puns, rhymes, and wordplay, which only adds to its rewatchability.
“Because the pace of the show is so fast, and there’s so much dialogue, you’re definitely going to miss something the first time through, so it really lends itself to repeat viewing,” says Tierney. “I don’t even hear it all the first time when we’re doing edits. So it’s really easy to geek out on it.”
Small town, not small-minded
Ever since Friends and Seinfeld took the half-hour crown back in the 1990s, TV comedy has been dominated by the city and the suburbs. The depiction of rural life tends to be more a laughing-at rather than a laughing-with situation. Part of Letterkenny‘s appeal, and its ability to build a large audience so quickly, has been credited to an appetite for a small-town comedy that wasn’t based on condescension. The town of Letterkenny may only have 5,000 people, but it’s not the straight, lily-white rednecktopia you might think. While the show has its fair share of hicks, it’s also home to a diverse set of characters. Gay, straight, black, white, they all live here and talk an equal amount of filthy trash to each other.
Tierney says part of the wide appeal is the similarities shared by small communities all over. “Just swap out hockey for football or whatever sport, it’s not that different,” he says. “There’s so many people who grow up in a place like this that don’t feel represented in culture because small towns are often the butt of a joke, and they’re definitely not here. Letterkenny isn’t full of ignorance and idiocy. It’s a more nuanced look at people who live there, and that’s because Jared tells the truth about it.”
Season 7 of Letterkenny starts streaming on Hulu on October 14. Figger it out.