Like every other show on the planet, Letterkenny’s tour has been postponed due to corona virus restrictions, but just before life changed dramatically, Dan Murphy attended the last Letterkenny show in Canada, made plans to attend the US leg of the tour in Buffalo New York, and spoke with Letterkenny’s Mark Forward on the phone about the tour. Rather than hold the interview indefinitely while awaiting the chance to see the show tour the US, we’re sharing this now, and will update once the tour resumes.
With the success and popularity of Hulu’s Letterkenny, Mark Forward has become known to viewers as the volatile and manic hockey coach, complete with his catchphrase (“It’s fucking embarrassing!”) and his signature move of punting a garbage can across the room.
But, while Letterkenny and the character he plays are a relatively recent pop culture phenomenon, Forward has spent more than two decades performing stand-up in the Toronto area where he was born and raised. He’s more than a sitcom catchphrase.
“I think I’ve had a great career,” Forward said in an interview with The Interrobang. “I’ve been able to do this and make a living at it. I’ve been in two other series. I’ve been working hard for 20 years. To be honest, I don’t care if anyone knew me but I’ve been plugging away. But it’s always good when more people can find you. I’m getting my name out there more (through Letterkenny) and people are finding me and then finding my other work. I’m totally fine with however people can find what I’m doing.”
And, with Letterkenny becoming a hit with a growing cult following, more and more people are discovering the man behind Coach. In the ongoing 35-city Letterkenny Live stage tour, Forward performs a stand-up routine where he shows a different side of himself than Letterkenny fans expecting Coach might anticipate.
“My full hour is all over the place. There’s a bit of this and a bit of storytelling, it’s a bit out there and weird, and there’s a bit of yelling. It’s like dabbling in all sides of stand-up rather be fenced into one area, and it seems to be working,” Forward said. “On the live Letterkenny show, it was a conscious choice to do something different, because Coach is so out there, why not do more of my different stuff.”
Instead of the bombastic Coach, Forward is soft-spoken with a performance that utilizes pauses and awkward mannerisms to maximum effect. “I’m probably the best stand-up you’ll ever see,” he deadpans. “Although many of you won’t realize that. But years from now, you’ll be like, ‘Oh. Yeah. I get it now. I guess I was the asshole.’”
The Interrobang attended a Letterkenny Live performance in Hamilton, Ontario. Appearing on stage alongside Forward were actor/producer/writer Jared Keeso (who pulls double duty as both Wayne and master chirper Shoresy), K. Trevor Wilson (Squirrelly Dan), Nathan Dales (Daryl), Michelle Mylett (Katy), Dylan Playfair (Reilly), Andrew Herr (Jonesy), Tyler Johnson (Stewart), and Even Stern (Roald).
The cast managed to pull off a faithful and fun stage version of their award-winning television show by mixing tried-and-true sketches straight from the TV show with new sketches designed for the tour, stand-up performances from Forward and Wilson (whom, we are told, may both resemble characters from the show but are actually “completely different dudes”), a sneak peek video of the upcoming season nine, a blooper reel, and a hilarious “too-hot-for-TV” music video featuring Forward on vocals.
Forward (as Coach) also delivered with an exhaustively detailed description of his olive oil-aided cross-country lovemaking adventures with his late wife, Barb, to the disgust of his new beer league hockey teammates Reilly and Jonesie. It was unabashedly vulgar and obscene, but it was an undisputed highlight of the show.
Forward attended theater school as a young man but it didn’t take him long to realize theater wasn’t for him. “I did theater for a year and I hated it with every part of my being,” he said. “I needed to find something that removed the other actors, to be honest.”
Stand-up provided him with the outlet he wanted, one where he could write his own jokes and perform them on stage on his own. “Without good creative, it’s not as fun to be up there,” he said. “I like creating the idea and I like going out and following it through.”
He has landed appearances on John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show (Comedy Central), The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS), Funny As Hell (HBO), and Just For Laughs: All Access (The Comedy Network). He has also been a writer and performer on The Jon Dore Television Show (The Comedy Network/IFC), served a consulting producer on the Crave TV series What Would Sal Do, and appeared as Donny Mashman on Season 3 of Fargo on FX.
He is currently working his third one-hour comedy special. “It’s definitely going to be a very different hour,” he said. “I’m not the same guy I was in my 20s or my 30s. Now I’m in my 40s. I still have more to say.”
He has also remained steadfast in his decision to remain in Toronto rather than relocate to New York or Los Angeles.
“I love my country,” he said. “It’s a very different country than the States. The people, the kindness, the healthcare. I just love it. I don’t know of any other profession where you get good at something and they say, ‘OK you’ve got to go now.’ It’s a weird profession, stand-up. Everyday someone will come up and ask, ‘Well, you’ve done that. Now what are you going to do?’ It’s like, why? Isn’t this good enough? Do you ask a doctor after 20 years ‘What else can you do? Now you got to go so something else.’ I don’t wanna go.”
Forward says he isn’t driven by the next big goal or project. He’s content to enjoy things as they come.
“Maybe 90 percent of the entertainment industry thinks that way. They have goals and places they want to go. Maybe I’m just an oddball,” he said. “I just want to make funny stuff. And thankfully I’ve been a part of some good stuff that’s kept me here and working.”