Laughter Is The Best Medicine

John Hollingsworth (’93) grew up in a family that valued comedy. Shows like Carol Burnett, Inspector Clouseau, and Hee Haw were big influences as a kid. But it wasn’t until attending Trinity Western University that Hollingsworth tested his own comedic legs.

In his freshmen year, Hollingsworth had his first experience with improv at 11:07, Trinity Western’s improv night.

“It blew my mind,” says Hollingsworth of the experience. “Seeing people jump on the stage and getting suggestions from the audience—it seemed so dangerous! Anything could happen and go wrong, but it always worked out.”

Hollingsworth recounts seeing many incredible performers, like Craig Erickson (’90), Allan Larson (’90), Jim Bugg, Heather Knechtel, and even the founder of 11:07, Dirk Van Stralen (’89). He had so much fun laughing in the audience. But in his second year, things changed.

AN UNEXPECTED STAGE PRESENCE

“My friend, Van Williams (’92, ’07), was really into 11:07,” says Hollingsworth. “He banged on my door and asked if I wanted to go with him. I said that sounded like a good idea. He said, ‘Good, because you’re in it. I signed you up to be on my team.’”

“That was the beginning of a long journey,” says Hollingsworth with a laugh.

Though acting wasn’t something he ever imaged himself doing, it turned out he was a natural at comedy. Hollingsworth took an acting class with Professor Ron Reed and was greatly encouraged. He continued acting in 11:07 until graduation and gave a memorable performance under Professor Lloyd Arnett as Nick Bottom in A Mid Summer Nights Dream.

“I’m extremely grateful for my time at Trinity Western. The whole community was awesome! The professors were supportive, great teachers. I would wish that experience on anyone!” says Hollingsworth.

TEACHING WHAT HE LEARNED

When Hollingsworth graduated and returned to his home in Ontario, he discovered there was no improv community in his area at all. But he didn’t let that discourage him. He decided to start a class at his local church and teach all that he’d learned.

“More and more teenagers were coming out every week,” says Hollingsworth. Because of the interactive component, his class was drawing in kids who couldn’t sit still during regular church youth groups.

“It kind of became like youth group,” says Hollingsworth. “We’d pray for each other, talk through things, and do improv all night long.”

Soon after it began, several local churches found out what they were doing and invited them to perform for Christmas banquets and other various celebrations. They became known as “No Laughing Matter” and performed for several years, but eventually retired the group when members started moving away.

Then, in 2008, Hollingsworth and a friend decided to start it up again

BECOMING THE FIDGETS

“We were talking at my house about what we should call ourselves,” says Hollingsworth. “My wife is a teacher, and the brains of the operation. She said to me, ‘You’re funny and hyper. Usually, when kids are like that in class, we say they have the fidgets.’”

Just like that, they had their name.

Since 2008, Hollingsworth and two others have travelled all across Canada doing fundraisers and shows for corporations and schools. One of their signature fundraisers involves selling mousetraps, setting them on the stage, then going on to perform their final scene with blindfolds. All the money raised goes directly to the charity.

Hollingsworth says they’ve raised over $150,000 for various charities through the mousetrap skit. One video got so much traction on YouTube that they even had a lifetime supply of mousetraps donated to them by the Victor pest control company.

THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD

Hollingsworth recounts a night where they were approached by a woman after the show. The woman shared that her father died a year ago and she had not laughed in a year. With tears streaming down, she said this was the first time she’d felt joy since.

“We didn’t make a million bucks in that show. But we made her smile,” says Hollingsworth. “We get to climb on the stage and get ideas, input, and engagement from everyone in the audience. They get to forget about their troubles for a while and experience laughter in community. In that way, we can be a blessing.”

“Making people laugh—it’s the best job in the world,” says Hollingsworth.

SPEAK NO EVIL TOUR

The Fidgets don’t travel full-time, but they have had a tremendous amount of success in their 11 years in action. Things have been going so well for them, that they’ve even been approached by Crown Entertainment for a possible deal with Netflix and Amazon Prime.

As a result, The Fidgets head west in February for their “Speak No Evil” tour, where they plan to film a performance in Vernon, B.C., and package it up to pitch their brand of family-friend, clean comedy to streaming companies.

Hollingsworth says that the opportunity to do this type of thing is a God thing, and he couldn’t be more thankful for the support of his family, friends, and Alma Mater. Hollingsworth says that without a doubt, he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for Trinity Western, 11:07, and the creative inspiration he received while a student.

Interested in seeing The Fidgets in person? You can catch them in Walnut Grove, Vernon (filmed), Penticton, and Agassiz during the first week of February. Learn more on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fidgetscomedy/

Vernon: https://www.ticketseller.ca/tickets/event/the-fidgets-improv-comedy-show-1

Walnut Grove: https://sd35.schoolcashonline.com/Fee/Details/11120/111/False/True