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Letterkenny goes out into the wide world

ON STAGE What : Letterkenny Live! Where : Royal Theatre When : Tuesday, March 3, at 6:30 and 9:30p.m Tickets : $40-$90 It’s honest comedy that comes from a place of respect, K.
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"Letterkenny" stars Jared Keeso, left to right, Nathan Dales, Michelle Mylett and K. Trevor Wilson are shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Bell Media MANDATORY CREDIT

ON STAGE

What: Letterkenny Live!
Where: Royal Theatre
When: Tuesday, March 3, at 6:30 and 9:30p.m
Tickets: $40-$90

It’s honest comedy that comes from a place of respect, K. Trevor Wilson says about the widely popular television show Letterkenny and its satirical portrayal of the hicks, skids and hockey players mythologized in true-North Canadian culture.

“We treat it with care and it’s the fact we are laughing with them, not at them,” said Wilson, a standup comedian, who plays the gentle giant Squirrely Dan on the show.

“When the first season came out, a lot of people from Toronto and Montreal would say they really like the show but ‘there’s no way these people are real,’ ” Wilson said. “And then people from small towns would come up to us and say: ‘When did you follow my family around for a year?’ ”

The show, filmed in Sudbury, Ont., debuted on CraveTV in 2016. It is rooted in Letterkenny Problems, a short-format web series created by Keeso and released on YouTube in 2013.

In December 2017, the fourth season of six episodes was released. The series has a new media partner with a deal for 40 new episodes, and a 26-city Letterkenny Live! tour now underway. The tour pulls into Victoria for two back-to-back shows on Tuesday before wrapping up in Surrey on April 6.

Letterkenny was created by Jared Keeso and stars Keeso and Nathan Dales as Wayne and Daryl, two friends living in the small town of Letterkenny, Ont., a fictional farming community loosely based on Keeso’s hometown of Listowel, Ont.

The rapid-fire verbiage between these modern-day Canuck heroes — punctuated by malapropisms, pluralisms and profanity — takes to a whole other level the beer-swilling, toque-wearing Doug and Bob McKenzie who, in the 1980s, hosted the Great White North.

Letterkenny outsmarts later evolutions of the genre, including the Canadian mockumentary television series Trailer Park Boys.

Keeso “has got a great respect and love for where he’s come from and his upbringing and playing hockey through the years,” Wilson said. “He has a real honest love for that type of community and its people.

“I think that’s is where the popularity comes from,” Wilson said. “It is most of Canada, Letterkenny. The reason people have gravitated towards it is because they see themselves in the show — rarely are they represented.”

Wayne is a fast-talking, open thesaurus and no-nonsense, but honourable northerner who has a heart of gold and calls ’em as he sees ’em: “Don’t you dare dilly dally or dick around after dark in December. It’s definitely damn drafty if you’re down a duvet.”

A common catchphrase for the modern-day cowboy is: “Pitter patter, let’s get at ’er.” Wayne lives a simple life guided by a code of conduct that includes looking after friends and family.

Unlike other characters on the show, Wayne has a firm command of the English language. Also known as the toughest guy in town, it means he can solve a problem with his fists or his words.

It’s telling that “there’s a lot of dudes” at the live shows. They can relate to a bunch of guys sitting out in the bush in the dead of winter having an earnest debate about what is and isn’t homophobic and what’s culturally appropriate for the time.

“Stuff like that is a lot of fun because these are real conversations you can imagine people having: ‘I’m not sure we’re allowed to say that no more, I think that may be homophobist — well it’s definitely something, that’s for sure,’ ” Wilson said.

With his sister Katy, Wayne runs a small farm stand with the help of Daryl and Squirrely Dan. The show also includes a pair of local hockey players, who each has a relationship with Wayne’s sister. The hicks are the farmers, while the skids are the local drug addicts.

Wilson, who has plied his trade in standup for 18 years, visiting many small towns throughout Canada, said if someone only visited Toronto and Montreal, they would not know Canada, because he has met the people on his show.

Wilson’s character is a burly hard-working farmhand with a loose grip of the English language who loves to tell stories. He is surprisingly socially conscious — a staunch feminist and defender of minority groups. “We’ve created this strange lovely man and it’s a lot of fun,” Wilson said.

“In all my years playing small towns, I’ve met hundreds of these guys who just put way too many plurals in their sentences and misuse the English language.

“My buddies and I, when we played small towns, collected a great series of malapropisms that we’ve heard different people say over the years.

“Pretty much when I get my script I just go through the lines and figure out what words I’m going to say wrong.”

As for the live show, Wilson says it’s constantly changing up, keeping the actors on their toes.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com