“Tazz showed me that we owe comedy; comedy doesn't owe us. To be on stage having people enjoy our craft is the gift and we are blessed to be able to do it.” - Jim McNally
"Big Daddy Tazz is a true legend. An icon. A beautiful and kind man, but most importantly: an extremely funny and brilliant comedian. I have not lived in Canada very long (just over four years). Leaving England and starting my comedy career all over again in a new country was not easy. The best friend I had here in comedy (who was the reason I moved here) took his life over two years ago. So, to meet a man like Tazz shortly after who is so kind and generous with his time but does so much to help those of us and those we know with mental health problems makes him a real hero of mine. I learn from Tazz both comedically and personally. I am somewhat able at this point in my career to decline most offers that come to me and pick and choose where I work. Whenever a gig comes up in Manitoba and it's with Tazz, I am there. And I will be there next week for four shows and I can't wait. We will have fun, we will hug, we will do our jobs well. What else is there in life?" - James Mullinger
“Tazz is like a 4th generation maple tapper. He just turns the handle and instantly the collective Canadian laughter pours out. Also, he loves syrup.” - Lara Rae
“I've known Tazz for 25 years and I've seen him perform hundreds of times. I'm constantly blown away by his ability to connect with any audience, from small and rural to huge glitzy corporate galas. His presence onstage is so accessible and likeable and compelling. He's also incredibly quick and sharp and nimble and funny, not to mention emotionally honest and vulnerable in his comedy. It's almost not fair how damn good he his.” - Dean Jenkinson
“Tazz has a heart bigger than all of outdoors and he wear’s it on his sleeve. One of the most natural likeable comedians I have ever met. Folks just like him. He is the king of Winnipeg. On and off stage. “ - Tim Nutt
“To call someone who works as hard as Tazz does a man with problems is to wish those problems upon oneself. And I would have told Tazz the same thing, but he never shut up long enough for me to get it in. A beautiful man who should spend more time seeing his own beauty.” - John Wing
“I've watched Tazz grow from a raw rookie to one of the best in the country. No other comic has the compassion, empathy and healing comedic chops. I have learned much from working with him. Proud to call him my friend.” - Kenny Robinson
“When you think of Tazz, you immediately think guy with a big heart. He always has a-lot love for everybody. We are in a business where that isn’t always the case. Super funny guy which is overshadowed by him being a good person, I’ve never seen him have a bad show.” - Kelly Taylor
“This man is funny and Canadian, man what a great combo!” - Phil Hartman
Sometimes a picture does say what a thousand words could not, in the case of Big Daddy Tazz the picture above and the words match. Tazz Norris is one of the most beloved stand-up comics in Canada. I recently planned to have a half hour phone conversation with BDT and it turned into two hours of tears and laughs.
So how did Tim Norris become Big Daddy Tazz in Comedy and the "Bipolar Buddha" from his devotion to helping people with mental illness. It has been a long hard road with lots for bumps and bruises along the way, but BDT has come out on top and became the person he always wanted to be; according to BDT “now I use my hands to hug and not hit.”
Tim Norris was born in Regina Saskatchewan, raised mainly in Saskatoon and spent summers on a farm near Osler Saskatchewan. Both Tim’s father and uncle John were great story tellers; Tazz remembers “I loved watching my dad bullshit with the family and laugh. He had such a great smile and big booming laugh. He's gone now, and my heart has tears missing that laugh. He was a legit tough guy. Had a hard life, (harder than I could have ever imagined I found out later) people were scared of him.”
Young Tim would sneak downstairs and watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Around 8 years old Tim saw Dean Martin get a laugh from Johnny Carson and Tim found his calling in life. It was Tim’s aunt Elsie who devilishly encouraged Tim to be silly and tell jokes much to the pretend chagrin of his mother. Some of BDT fondest memories are of standing centre stage in an Export Plain Players Light smoke-filled living room telling jokes (most of which he had no idea why they were funny) that I had read or heard on Carson.
“I was a stand-up junkie, I couldn't get enough of comedy. The Alan Hammel Show or The Allan Thicke Show, Funny Farm, a weird game show called The Jokes on Us (with Monty Hall hosting and Nipsy Russel, Arte Johnson and such) The Gong Show whatever I could emerge myself in comedy wise but my all-time fav to this day is and will always be the Carol Burnett! Tim Conway and Harvey Korman were like gods to me. Tim especially.”
Two other favourites were Dick Van Dyke who had young Tim laughing so hard that he would fall off the couch. But, BDT’s all-time idol is Dean Martin and he loved watching The Dean Martin Roasts. Tazz remembers; “I realized you could make a living being funny when I saw footage of Dean Martin's cars and mansion, it was eye opening and awe inspiring.”
While his career path was carved out early in life, the rest of Tim’s childhood was not easy. “I was an emotional child (and fully grew into an emotional adult) I couldn't keep still, I made jokes and lied a lot to try to make friends. I'd get furious at the drop of a hat, in-proportionally emotional and then want to harm myself because I was so sorry for my actions. So incredibly sorry. (This action carried itself through my life and still rears its dog head even today) This seemed to emerge after I suffered a head injury as a child, I often wonder if the two were and are connected. I found humour would help me be accepted on some level. Well let me clarify it made me feel like I was being accepted. Make me laugh they'll leave you alone. Make me laugh they'll want you to be their friend. Make me laugh spend Math class in the hallway.”
BDT knew he was odd duck in school, or a Rhino amongst the ducks early on his life. “My big thick glasses along with my awkward chubbiness helped me stand out and pointed a huge Warner Bros Neon blinking arrow straight at me.” And trouble started to rear its ugly head, but some of it was hereditary and some was learned behaviour. “I got a lot of things from my dad. His stature, his outrageous temper, his mental health challenges but also his quick wit, big smile and booming laughter. Some of my best memories are laughing with him at the Looney Tunes cartoons. I often wish I knew about his past when he was alive, so I could have related to him better. Instead of hurling insults and left crosses.”
At the beginning of BDT’s comedy career being on the road was hard for Tim, he was lonely, and this would cause his mental health issues to creep up. His ex wife Shelley remembers; “Tim was gone 3 or 4 weeks at a time. In those days he cared more for strangers then he did for family. When I was pregnant with our son Joshua Tim was on a long BC run. Today he is a very different person, humble, more opened and his life revolves around his family.” Joshua, Shelley, and wife Christie say that the biggest benefactor of the change in Big Daddy Tazz is his younger son Khyler. Tazz spends a lot of quality time with Khyler as he grows up. Time, he missed with Joshua because of being on the road and having to deal daily with mental health issues.
His oldest son Joshua concurs; “I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old my dad was always driving out of town in his Honda Civic Hatchback. In the summers, I got to go on Road Trips with dad to Saskatoon and Regina. I went to a Regina Motel with dad so often that the staff let me run around the place. But, my younger brother Khyler gets to send more daily time with my dad, fishing and working on the classic car collection.”
BDT’s sister Melissa remembers; “My brother was always funny and annoying to his little sister, it was obvious that Tim was having a hard time in school as he was a troublemaker and smart ass. When I went into high school, I found out about his reputation, and it made it difficult for me to date. He always took care of the underdogs, and I am proud of the man he has become.”
So, how did Tim Norris face his demons and come out the other side a much better person. His ex-wife Shelley pushed him to seek professional help. BDT went for help and was diagnosed as being bipolar. At first, he was ashamed of having a mental health issue to deal with. He was diagnosed at age 27 but did not seek treatment for 7 years. In 2001, he finally spoke about his illness, and it has been full steam ahead ever since then.
“My show has gone from over the top Dirty to Squeaky Clean. It had to if I wanted to do corporates and TV. If I wanted this to be a business. I have grown as a human, I stopped drinking and dealt with my anger, hate and mental health. I started talking about my struggles with my mental health almost 20 years ago when it wasn't fashionable. Part of the change was coming to terms with my mental illnesses, becoming peaceful with myself, forgiving myself. A big part of that was my heart attack and two failed marriages. My first heart attack set me on my ass, made me feel vulnerable for the first time ever. I decided to make more changes, some of them stuck some of them lead to the second heart attack. The birth of my boys helped change who I was as well.”
Today Big Daddy Tazz is a happy man and at the top of his profession. Now most gigs are flown to, and he comes right home. There is more family time with his children and wife Christie. As Christie says; “success in Canadian Comedy means we still eat Macaroni and Cheese, but now we can afford the Kraft Brand.”
In 2016, Big Daddy Tazz was one of five people nominated for “Our Manitoba Heroes”, an initiative that recognizes ordinary people who do extraordinary things. “Being recognized for the hero award for my community work was such a grand honour. I was in such lovely company with past honourees. My family was so very proud, and it stands as in of my favourite accomplishments.”
His eldest son Joshua puts the award in perceptive; “Dad and I were out to dinner one night and a guy who I went to high school came over to the table and said our dinner has been paid for. This person had seen one of my dad’s talks on mental health and it saved his life.”
Big Daddy Tazz is one of the most recognizable people in Manitoba. His yearly charity event is sold out. His comedy shows are successful and motivational speeches are standing room only. You cannot miss him in the Anti-Bullying Machine rapped in Pink, Purple, and Teal with kid’s signatures all over the truck. Tim Norris has Paid it Forward! He is living his childhood dream and helping others.
“According to BDT’s buddy Doug, who works on restoring Tazz’s car collection; the only issue with the Anti-Bullying Machine is that when we are out in one of his classic cars kids come running up to Tazz and want to sign the car.”
An avid classic car collector, however, the 1962 Galaxie Sunliner Convertible.is the King Pin of the collection. Tazz states; “the Sunliner is the car that started it all, when I became clean and sober and responsible for my mental health, I promised myself I could buy a classic car and this one will be with me for ever.”
If you see Big Daddy Tazz at a show, speech or driving around Manitoba, stop and say hi. You will get a big hug and maybe a ride in his car. And remember Laughter is the best Medicine!
To find out more about Big Daddy Tazz visit http://www.bigdaddytazz.com
Mention you found out about Tazz Norris on www.thecomedygreenroom.com