Ryan Pandolfi has a personal tie to the beneficiary of the latest edition in The Pandolfi Initiative’s series of comedy shows.
The Brandon promoter has four comedians booked for the second annual Big Daddy Tazz and Friends performance, scheduled to take place at the Keystone Centre’s amphitheater on Jan. 27. This year’s show will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Brandon, an organization that played an integral role in the upbringing of Pandolfi’s father, Derrick.
“My father grew up without a father in his life and his mother was literally in and out of the family all the time,” Pandolfi told the Westman Journal on Friday. “Big Brothers and Big Sisters was already established in Winnipeg when it came into Brandon in the early 1970s. My father was one of the first recipients of a Big Brother in Brandon. He had a very long relationship with his mentor that lasted more than 40 years. For my father, it saved his life because he had no parenting growing up until he met his Big Brother.”
Established in 1972, the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters has provided mentoring programs for youth aged six to 18 for more than four decades. In 2017, the organization put out a call that they were struggling financially and required immediate help due to a decline in revenues from their fundraising campaigns.
At that time, Big Brothers Big Sisters Brandon served more than 125 children and teenagers while another 400 to 500 received gifts from their Christmas Tree at the Shoppers Mall and the Toyota Full of Toys campaigns.
A percentage of the final net proceeds from the 2018 Big Daddy Tazz and Friends event will be forwarded to Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
“This is personal for me,” Pandolfi said. “My father is one of my best friends and a great mentor himself. He was the best man at my wedding and has had a huge influence in my life. The least I can do now that I’m a grown man is try to give back to the organization that made my dad who he is.”
Big Daddy Tazz, the headliner of the upcoming show, has also been an important influence in Pandolfi’s life. Together, they’ve promoted six of the seven shows put together by The Panfolfi Initiative. Many of them have benefitted an individual or family struggling with health issues or charitable organizations operating in the city.
“This (promoting events) is my medicine. My goal is to help an organization or individual, but it also helps me with my own mental health." – Ryan Pandolfi, The Pandolfi Initiative
Pandolfi met Tazz in 2013 after a friend died of cancer. He fell into a depression and reached out to the comedian knowing that the Winnipegger suffered from mental illness himself.
“Until then, I was promoting mediocre events to raise money for charities… but I lost my drive and fell into the darkest hole in my life. It was hell,” he said.
“I struggled so hard with depression and didn’t want to carry on anymore. I had seen Tazz perform earlier and thought I’d call him up and see if he’d help me out with an event.”
Tazz responded, and quickly became a significant mentor, guiding Pandolfi through his depression.
“Tazz has kept in close contact with me ever since,” said Pandolfi. “We’ve done a lot of benefits together. When my wife’s mother passed away this past year, nobody – including my boss at work – called to check in on me more than Tazz. He’s been a mentor for me from day one when I met the man.”
Besides Tazz, the January comedy show will feature Rob Pue from MTV’s “Punk’d”, Greg Morton from the “Just for Laughs” comedy show and festival, and Patrick McKenna, the comedian who played “Harold” on The Red Green Show.
Advance tickets are on sale now for $20. They are available through the Keystone Centre’s ticket office or online at tickets.keystonecentre.com. Those who purchase tickets in advance will be entered in a draw for a $500 Sobeys Gift Card.
Sales through early November have been brisk. More than 200 tickets were sold as of Nov. 9, just a few days after they were made available to the public. The promoter’s previous show was a sell out and Pandolfi is expecting the same thing to occur this time.
Pandolfi and Tazz are also in the development phase of another event currently scheduled to take place next spring. This promotion will host a number of entertainers, sports personalities and musicians speaking about mental health.
“This (promoting events) is my medicine. My goal is to help an organization or individual, but it also helps me with my own mental health,” Pandolfi said.
“I owe all of my success and knowledge in promoting events to Big Daddy Tazz. Nobody else.”