Satirist puts Mennonite twist on pandemic
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/04/2020 (1150 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After four years of writing the Daily Bonnet, a satirical website featuring Mennonites and current events, Andrew Unger never imagined the news he spoofs would become viral in all the wrong ways.
So instead of getting laughs by overstating coronavirus stories featured in the headlines, the Steinbach resident tends to underplay the big news for some comic relief.
“You can’t use the satirical tactic of exaggeration at this moment, you can only use the satirical tactic of understating it or putting a Mennonite twist on it,” the high school English teacher said of the stories he’s written about the COVID-19 pandemic.
When public health officials clamped down on groups larger than 10, Unger wrote a 225-word fictitious story about how the maximum put large Mennonite families in quite a predicament.
“The Friesens next door have got half the family in the root cellar and the older Schellenberg kids are sleeping in the F-150,” wrote Unger, whose first novel is slated for publication in September. “I hear Pastor Bill has got some of his kids camping out in one of the old baptismal tanks.”
Other recent headlines include, “Mennonite man super excited that he can finally attend church in his undies” (in response to church services moving online) and “Penner kids have been watching nothing but Frozen 2 all day every day for the past two weeks” (a commentary on how parents are coping with the recent cancellation of school).
Unger’s humorous take on social distancing merited a retweet from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and 1,200 likes on Facebook.
“Pastor Tom has decreed that since everyone has to keep six feet apart these days anyway, they might as well allow a little rhythmic movement,” the story said, explaining how a Mennonite church in Swift Current, Sask., relaxed its rules against dancing.
Along with spinning stories on current events, Unger reposts one older article daily so his 25,000 followers on Facebook and 2,300 Twitter followers get a sense of normalcy mixed in with coronavirus stories.
“People are under a lot of stress right now, and they need to laugh,” said Unger, 40, who previously wrote under the pen name Andrew Bergman. “It is good for our mental health when we laugh.”
Searching for a funny side to current events has the benefit of keeping up his own spirits in the face of uncertainty as Canada ramps up its efforts to fight the virus.
“I look at the real news, which is all terrible and because I’m writing these things, I’m thinking of what’s a funny spin, so it forces me not just to dwell on the negative.”
Since Unger launched the Daily Bonnet (www.dailybonnet.com) in May 2016, it has received more than ten million views.
The Free Press is committed to covering faith in Manitoba. If you appreciate that coverage, help us do more! Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow us to deepen our reporting about faith in the province. Thanks! BECOME A FAITH JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
Updated on Friday, April 3, 2020 10:50 AM CDT: Corrects number of site visits.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.