Born in Norfolk County, Ontario, JR grew up idolizing Johnny Carson and David Letterman. His grandfather was a professional photographer, and eventually JR was able to get his hands on one of his 8mm cameras. After getting a taste for filming, and being on camera, JR got himself a video camera from his university. He set out to start filming his own late night show – some of the footage which still survives!
By the late 90s, JR owned a successful skateboard shop and was doing well, but his dream of having a late night talk show had not died. JR got himself a hi8 camera and began self producing a pilot episode of what would become The Shakerbelly Show. After hiring a production company to package his footage together, JR started shopping around the show to cable networks, and local cable access – but no one was interested.
A year later, and JR was struggling to get his show on the air. Late one night, while watching informercials he had an idea – he’d buy his own airtime. The JR DiGS Show aired on June 20th, 2001. The show pulled in amazing ratings – beating Conan O’Brien and Craig Kilborn. But the show still failed to attract any network interest, and JR spiralled into debt. But he was determined, and was able to attract a major beer sponsor. This allowed the show to continue.
The show hung on by a thread for the next couple years, enduring many setbacks, but always having solid ratings. Finally, Global TV decided to air the show as the lead up to Saturday Night Live – the show was going national!
The show continued on attracting more sponsors and garnering more fans, but JR was still paying for air time. Despite pulling in amazing ratings, JR still couldn’t get the network to pay for his show, and eventually The JR DiGS Show was pulled off the air.
JR wasn’t gone long, though. He continued to produce shows. In 2006, Digs launched Be Real with JR Digs, a comedy series in which he tried to make a compelling reality show out of ordinary people partaking in everyday activities, and In the Can with JR Digs, a show in which he acted as mentor to young aspiring filmmakers, for TVTropolis. Another Crappy Canadian Late Night Talk Show was produced for CHCH. In 2007, Digs launched What the Digs?, a mash-up style show which consisted of Digs’ previous showed mixed up, and edited in a surreal manner. Following this, Digs created Late Night Television with JR Digs which ran for one season.
Man with a Van, in which Digs travelled around Canada in a van, was launched in 2008. The show was cancelled by Global in 2014. During this time, Digs also created Bands from a Van, a spinoff of his Man with a Van show which focused on musicians. Digs would interview bands and have them perform – all inside his van.
Digs continues to organize an annual Acoustic Christmas charity benefit show in Hamilton. The 2015 show included Spencer Rice of Kenny vs. Spenny, Max Kerman of Arkells, Terra Lightfoot, Tom Wilson, Mike Trebilcock from Killjoys, Elliott Brood and The Trews, while the 2016 show included Lightfoot, Kerman, Trebilcock and Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke.