Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
You can’t keep a good comedian down.
At least, that would seem to be the case for Jon Ljungberg and Big Daddy Tazz.
The two local comedy legends are finishing up work on their second book for kids, which they co-wrote and Ljungberg illustrated. Ljungberg also plans to release a solo book — Hello Jon, It’s Nice to Meet Me — later this year, which looks at his "life in showbiz, booze, and being 90 minutes from death."
Ljungberg, a recovering alcoholic, will also host and speak at Recovery Day Winnipeg 2020. The event will be held on Sat., Sept. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. According to its website, the event is billed as "two hours of entertainment and people speaking about their recoveries from addiction." The virtual event will be headlined by musician, actor and activist Tom Jackson, and will also feature local musicians The Keen & The Kind.
"It’s a day of awareness and sharing for people with addictions, and there will be information and support for people in recovery," Ljungberg, who recently moved from Norwood to The Maples, told The Lance recently.
A longtime former breakfast television host, the native of Massachusetts talks openly about battles with the bottle, as well as his well-documented legal troubles and bankruptcy, and said his own addiction to alcohol is something that slowly took hold of him through the years. In January 2017, he was rushed to the hospital with massive internal bleeding, and he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. He twice went to rehab, and now lives in sobriety.
"People would see me at events, and they’d never know I’d had a drink. I didn’t drink to get drunk, I’d drink to feel normal," he said.
Like many people during the pandemic, Ljungberg has had to pivot. He’s been hired full-time at Winnipeg Harvest, and is looking forward to continuing his association with the organization that he’s long been an advocate for.
"Before COVID-19, there were so many Manitobans who relied on Winnipeg Harvest, and now the numbers have skyrocketed," he said.
An accomplished illustrator, Ljungberg also teaches cartooning at the Forum Art Centre.
Comedian Tazz, who is also a mental health advocate and motivational speaker and sometimes affectionately known as the Bipolar Buddha, has known Ljungberg for many years.
Since the start of the pandemic era earlier this year, the community-minded funny man has tried to make the best of the situation by indulging his passion for books and reading to kids — thereby promoting literacy at the same time — every morning live on his Facebook page.
At press time, he’d read for more than 150 consecutive days — at least one book a day.
"It’s one silver lining of the pandemic," said Tazz, who lived in south St. Vital before recently moving to North Kildonan.
"I always wanted to be a children’s entertainer, and it’s been such a blessing to be able to connect with them in this way."
"Some days, I feel like a bit of a wizard, and a bit of a mentor, and it’s a great feeling," he added, noting he has a sparkly pink, purple and teal Jeep that he uses to spread his anti-bullying message.
Visit recoverydaywpg.com for more.
Community journalist — The Lance
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7111
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