In the history of newspapers, there has been a rare breed of columnists (Josh Freed) who have done their readers a vital service. That service is taking the issues of the day that have affected their city, province, state or country, and use a well-informed, and humourous, approach to tell their devoted readership the absurdities and ridiculousness that are attached to these issues; as a result, those readers get a better understanding of what the message these columnists are trying to convey.
Jimmy Breslin was one of them. So were Pete Hamill and Mike Royko. And English-language Montreal journalism has a pundit who has ink running through his veins in the old school manner, and uses his print platform to express his humourous opinions on the always frustrating, yet never dull, way of life in Montreal and Quebec.
His name is Josh Freed.
For over 40 years, Freed has informed and entertained readers with his inimitable take on the absurdities of life in both Montreal and la belle province, mainly through his weekly column in the Saturday edition of The Gazette. But people got their introduction to Freed through his skills as an investigative journalist during the late 70s, when his quest to find an longtime friend of his who was entangled in the web of the Moonies religious cult became a best selling book called Moonwebs (which in turn became the critically-acclaimed movie Ticket to Heaven). But as his career evolved, Freed focused his approach on a more topical, yet satirical, manner. This transcended into a series of best-selling and award-winning books such as Sign Language, Fear of Frying, and Whoever Laughs, Lasts. And then he took to the stage as one-quarter of “The Four Anglos of the Apocalypse”, doing a sporadic series of satirical shows that brought his writings to life, accompanied by cartoonist Terry “Aislin” Mosher and musical comedy duo Bowser and Blue, that always played to sold out crowds wherever – and whenever — they performed.
And now for his latest book, Freed has taken his satirical pen and focused on the one subject that has not only greatly affected Montreal and Quebec, but the rest of the world, too. The topic is the COVID-19 pandemic; the book is called Postcards from Pandemica.
The book is a collection of columns he wrote between February 2020 and June 2021 that dealt with every aspect of the pandemic, and how it drastically affected the people of this city and this province, to the point of absurdity amidst the panic and concerns that were garnered from this wide-spreading virus. From outbreaks to social distancing to curfews to hand sanitizer to vaccinations, no COVID-related subject was safe from Freed’s curmudgeonly wit. No matter how many times you have repeatedly heard or read about anything dealing with the pandemic, Freed manages to give them his own twist, and that is why Postcards from Pandemica is such an enjoyable book.
For example, he explains how the lockdown had a number of silver linings to it, such as bringing families back together again as if it was a 1950s sitcom, or the dip in the crime rate, or introverts never having that FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling again … because there was nothing to miss out; or how the pandemic has created a new series of German expressions such as “maskentrottel” – or “mask idiot” — referring to someone who wears a mask indoors, but under their nose; or how the anti-vaxxers have turned Canada into a “no-vaccination nation” (shades of the “neverendum referendum”).
These are the some of the many COVID issues and concerns that are covered in the book; and why people will enjoy it is that because they can identify with the dilemmas that Freed writes about so pointedly every week. He has suffered and endured with them, and that’s what gives him that empathetic edge.
So if you survived the nearly two years of the COVID pandemic, but are just plain fed up with everything that’s associated with it, just follow this prescription: take 161 pages of Postcards from Pandemica and call Josh Freed in the morning to thank him for this much needed dose of humourous healing. No testing or vaccination passport necessary.