For Jared Keeso, AC/DC will forever be burned into his brain as the soundtrack to the next step in his television career. A tune by the Aussie rockers was blaring from his cellphone the day he found out his Internet series, Letterkenny Problems had been ordered to TV.
Keeso’s creation, about a foul-mouthed pair of dudes living in the fictional small town of Letterkenny, is the first original Canadian series to air on Bell Media’s CraveTV followed by broadcast on Comedy Network. Last Thursday’s announcement caps off one heck of a week for Keeso that started the previous Sunday when he captured a Canadian Screen Award for his lead role on Bravo’s 19-2.
Congratulations on the Canadian Screen Award. Did you know what you were going to say in your acceptance speech?
Jared Keeso: I had an idea of what I was going to say. I had some points, but I can’t believe I got through it without too many ums and uhs. I managed to seem pretty organized up there. As soon as they called my name the nerves shut off and I was pretty comfortable up on the stage.
How long ago did you find out that Letterkenny was a go? And did Bell Media contact you via phone call, email, text?
They called the producers, Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan of New Metric Media. I was in Montreal doing press for 19-2 at the time. We were expecting the green light or red light call. I was in between interviews for 19-2 and my phone rang and it was Montefiore and I knew it. This is the call. I pick up and say ‘Hello?’ and there is AC/DC music playing. [Laughs.] They let that go for 10 for 15 seconds while they were probably dancing around their offices and then Montefiore yells out, ‘Six episodes greenlit, baby!’ I was speechless. I could tell that it was a big a deal to them as it was to me. Everybody at Bell has been so supportive and seem so enthusiastic. Working with them has been a pleasure.
I’m almost positive on CraveTV we can say the f-word as much as we want.
Letterkenny is the first Canadian original to be commissioned for first window on CraveTV. How does that feel to be breaking new ground?
I couldn’t be happier about the decision to make us the first original Canadian show to be on CraveTV and then shift us over to Comedy after that. I really like it because I’m almost positive on CraveTV we can say the f-word as much as we want. And that’s good because the way things are scripted right now I think I have one page with a baker’s dozen f-words on it. It’s in every line and sometimes twice per line. Hopefully we get away with it.
Had you guys been aiming for a six-episode order?
A six-episode order is exactly what we wanted. It’s my first time being paid as a writer—it’s my first rodeo—and having six episodes to cut my teeth on gives us a great opportunity to launch without having to water down anything with a larger order. I don’t think I’m able to really pack a punch in 10 or 12 episodes.
Who is writing it? You mentioned yourself already. Is your Letterkenny Problems’ co-star Nathan Dales writing too?
Nate’s not involved in the writing. Jacob Tierney and I are writing every episode and we have Mike Dowse from FUBAR and Goon as our script consultant. And I’ll tell you, that guy is just so valuable to the process. Not only does he bring a ton of expertise to it but he speaks English very, very well. His notes are very concrete and it’s easy for us to understand what he means. We’ve done a lot of moving and shaking based on his advice. It’s pretty crazy to be working with the guy who made one of my favourite movies of all time in FUBAR.
What are you learning about yourself as a writer? Are you a lazy writer? Are you able to whip stuff off?
I’m certainly learning what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m glad that we’re going the sitcom route with this. My strength is the dialogue, as many laughs as possible. Big story and character arc is not my strength. Working on a show like 19-2 makes me appreciate guys like Bruce Smith and Jesse McKeown that much more because what they do I simply could not do.
Growing up on Listowel, Ont., I’m so proud to have come from that town. But growing up there, getting your ass kicked was a legitimate concern on a day-to-day basis.
Give me a lowdown on the setup of the show. The release says ‘The residents of Letterkenny belong to one of three groups: Hicks, Skids, and Hockey Players. The three groups are constantly feuding with each other over seemingly trivial matters.’
Growing up in Listowel, Ont. … I’m so proud to have come from that town. But growing up there, getting your ass kicked was a legitimate concern on a day-to-day basis. And I think that was because we were all in this small town with nothing better to do so we drink and we fight. We drink we fight and we dance, actually. It is true to life in that you were in one of those three groups. In high school I was friends with everybody so I can draw from actual experiences there. Letterkenny doesn’t drift too far into the absurd. The dialogue is nutty but we do keep it true to real life for the most part.
But I wanted to make sure that the show was tough. We think that’s what sold so much of our audience with Letterkenny Problems. It’s funny but it’s still tough. I don’t think you’d want to eff with either of those two guys.
Where will you be filming?
We’re going to Sudbury, Ont. I’ve only been there once, but I know from growing up and playing hockey that those guys used to come down and just beat the shit out of us physically on and off the scoreboard. There are a lot of tough dudes in that town.
The elephant in the room, of course, is 19-2. When do you expect to hear about a third season of that and how will it impact on Letterkenny‘s production schedule?
We found out about Season 2 of 19-2 a couple of days before the first season finale aired and I think we’d all love to find out around that same time again. That was great, watching the last episode and knowing we were all going back to do it again. I think everybody is pretty optimistic about it and it would be a shame if we didn’t get to go back and do it. Six episodes of Letterkenny is tailored to not get in the way if 19-2 goes back.
Meanwhile, Keeso’s 19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.