Funnymen, artist are Sarnia’s latest television stars

The Fidgets are, from left, Chris Reid, Dave Lane and John Hollingsworth. Submitted Photo

A trio of local comedians and a painter from Bright’s Grove are the latest Sarnians to grab the television spotlight.

Funnymen John Hollingsworth, Dave Lane and Chris Reid have been performing in Sarnia and across Canada as The Fidgets improv team for 13 years.

Hollingsworth says they were ecstatic to learn a live show of theirs is now streaming on Amazon Prime and is available for viewing for at least the next year.

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “This is our first project (for television) and at one point we were told first projects hardly ever get picked up.”

The Fidgets hope it’s a way to break into the U.S. market with their own brand of family-friendly comedy, said Hollingsworth.

A year ago they launched an online fundraising campaign to finance the project. Crowdfunding brought in $8,200 of the $11,000 needed to get the job done.

“We are so grateful to this amazing community for supporting us,” said Hollingsworth.

They hired a film crew to record a gig at the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre in British Columbia.

“I spent about 100 hours poring over the raw footage,” said Hollingsworth. “I looked at it so long that I began to think I wasn’t funny.

“Then my son watched it and began laughing his head off and I knew we had something.”

The Fidgets hired an editor from England to produce an hour-long show and a Nashville distributor offered to shop it to streaming services.

“No luck,” said Hollingsworth. “We were really disappointed but we forged ahead.”

They uploaded the show to a digital distribution platform called The Film Hub, where services like Amazon Prime can discover new work.

Weeks ticked by.

“It’s like throwing your hook in the water. We had no idea if anything would happen,” he explained.

The good news came in mid-January. Not only had Amazon Prime Canada and Amazon Prime UK opted for the rights to The Fidgets’ Speak No Evil LIVE, Amazon Prime U.S. began streaming it.

“That’s the big fish,” Hollingsworth said.

The Fidgets expect to be paid between four and six cents for each minute the show is viewed.

“I don’t think we’ll pay off the mortgage but it will help us get bookings,” said Hollingsworth.

He believes the show has already boosted ticket sales for their February tour of eastern Canada, to be followed by two more tours in March and November.

Local residents can see The Fidgets live at a Life Seasons fundraiser at the Sarnia Library auditorium July 10.

Meanwhile, another Sarnian to watch for on TV is art teacher and painter Ian McLean.

McLean was one of 18 Canadian painters selected to compete in a new non-scripted series called Landscape Artist of the Year Canada.

Ian McLean, painting on set of the show Landscape Artist of the Year Canada. David Leyes Photo

The show, hosted by former CBC host Sook-Yin Lee, premieres Sunday, Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. on Makeful TV, a specialty channel available to cable subscribers.

In the second episode airing Feb. 23, McLean, who teaches at Northern Collegiate, competes with five others to paint a landscape in four hours at Cobourg Marina. At the end of the show, judges select two of the six painters to move on to the finals.

The winner is chosen during the March 8 episode and receives $10,000 plus a spot for their painting at the prestigious McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont.

The series was filmed in September and McLean is sworn to secrecy about the outcome.  But he says in a written statement the experience was one he won’t forget.

“We didn’t know the exact location for filming ahead of time so there was really no way to prepare in advance,” he wrote.  “…I look forward to sharing this experience with my students.”

Landscape Artist of the Year Canada airs during an eight-week free preview of Makeful available to local cable subscribers on Channel 123 until April 5.