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Healing and Discovering Your Mental Health Through Laughter

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Most people have heard the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’. That is true in more ways than one.
Not only does laughter create a positive psychological and physiological response that can heal the body naturally, it can help a person drop their social guards and more intimately bond with the person or thing that is making them laugh, or with whom they are sharing a laugh.
Winnipeg-based comedian Big Daddy Tazz knows the power of laughter all too well, having elicited chuckles and guffaws on stage since 1991.
As suspected, Tazz’s larger-than-life personality has always had a heart for making people laugh, even as he deals with myriad of mental illnesses like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bi-polar Disorder, and social anxiety.
“I loved being the kid in the class who got sent out for the right reasons,” he said.
It has taken him a lifetime to be where he is at now with his mental illness and has used various therapies to help him find his inner peace despite his unpeaceful illnesses.
“I’m all about finding the way to help be the best me for me, between modern medicine, ancient medicine, and meditation,” said Tazz. “I practice a lot of naturopathic things that will put my body and my mind at peace. I don’t get angry as often. I still get angry, but it’s not a flaw anymore.
“It’s all about balance. If you have an excess of anger in your life, then you have to find the love and compassion and the peace to balance that out.
“Medication will sometimes give you a false sense of balance, but you can learn where your balance can be and what you can achieve by learning your triggers,” Tazz continued.
“I love performing on stage because I have huge social anxiety, so in real life, being out in public or sitting and talking with someone is very stressful for me. But, when I’m on stage, it’s a controlled environment. Plus, I just love making people laugh. It brings such a great sense of accomplishment.”
Tazz recognizes the power of comedy, and uses that power to reach out to audiences on a deeper level than just presenting them with helpful information. He draws people in, manipulates emotions in a very genuine manner, and makes people come away from his show with a new sense of self, having brought them through an emotional journey that empowers one to look inside yourself to find healing.
“I talk about the darkest of things, but if I start with some jokes and some comedy, and slowly move into the darker areas of the show and more serious areas, people were listening,” said Tazz. “You can hear a pin drop at some points in time. Some people would be crying and then I would bring them back to laughter.
“It’s all about letting people know that if I’m vulnerable on stage, then there’s no reason why they can’t be vulnerable with their loved ones or those that they trust. I’m sure that there were people who were judging me and thinking that I was a big pussycat that can’t control his emotions, but that’s their burden and not mine.”
Much of his show also focuses on not skirting around an uncomfortable topic and tries to be real with his audience by tackling important subjects that might otherwise be considered taboo to address in public.
“I find that when people laugh about (a difficult topic), it becomes okay to talk about it,” said Tazz. “And, when it becomes okay to talk about it, then there’s no taboo, and no taboo means no stigma and some people feel safe.
“Some people can’t handle the fact that I joke about my mental health or my suicide attempts, but it’s in a way that teaches. And, it lowers the barrier, even within yourself. If you can lower it within yourself, you’re going to seek the help that you need because you’re no longer terrified and it’s not a big deal.
“Let’s just talk about everything we are not comfortable with,” Tazz continued. “We need to talk more, but more importantly, listen.
“When people are willing to talk but not willing to listen – like on social media – then they get angry because they are seeing one-dimensional words as opposed to three-dimensional beings.”
Tazz’s show has naturally evolved over time during the last two and a half decades as his preferred demographic has shifted.
“When I first started doing comedy, I worked in bars and in places where they wanted a dirty show,” said Tazz. “My show used to be extremely dirty. It was incredibly funny but very belittling, a lot of stuff that wouldn’t be acceptable now.
“As soon as I learned that we could heal through laughter, then I started writing more about things that everybody could relate to.”
Tazz’s gift of teaching through comedy has brought him and his message into many schools all over the country throughout the years, despite it being an admittedly anxiety-ridden experience for him.
“It terrifies me to talk to students because they are judgemental,” said Tazz. “But, I still go there because if I can make one student feel normal, then that’s why I was there.
“I’m a big believer that the universe will always put you where you need to be, and you don’t always know why you are supposed to be there.”
Tazz’s goal for audience members, wherever he happens to be, is to help people find peace and feel good about themselves, no matter what malady or issue they are dealing with.
“People can see how I’ve messed up my life sometimes and go ‘oh, I’m not alone’,” said Tazz. “Life should be full of self-love because if you have good self-love, that will spill over into other facets of your life. Nobody will be able to bully you or make you feel the need to be angry because you are secure in what you believe and what you think.
“It also makes it easier to bend a little bit. I like blue and they like yellow, but maybe we can both like green. My opinion isn’t necessarily right. It’s just what I’ve been taught and what I believe in.
“There is nothing wrong with having a mental illness,” Tazz continued. “There is something wrong with people belittling others about it, or with someone feeling bad about it and not wanting to get help because they’re terrified.”
In addition to evening comedy shows, Big Daddy Tazz can often be seen in schools across the country promoting his anti-bullying program that helps students deal with bullies and promotes self-esteem.
“Whenever someone hires me, I often try to get into schools in the area as well,” said Tazz.
He also organizes an annual comedy night fundraiser with himself and other special guests to raise money for local charities in the Winnipeg area.
Tazz was also happy to play to the Swan River crowd, and hopes to return much sooner in the future.

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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