CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — As usual, Mendy Pellin wore the traditional black coat and hat of a Hasid and sat on a high stool facing the camera. He read quickly through a page of notes, shook his head vigorously in the way of preparation, and signaled his readiness with a nod to his cameraman, Dovi Trappler. As the camera rolled, Mr. Pellin’s voice dropped to the confident baritone of an overeager news anchor.
Picture Stephen Colbert with a beard and a black hat, and you’ve got Mendy Pellin, above right, host of an irreverent Internet news broadcast.
Mr. Pellin, a garrulous 25-year-old, was beginning yet another segment as the host of “The Mendy Report,” an Internet news broadcast on the Web site ChabadTube.com. He runs the broadcast out of his childhood bedroom, now cluttered with production lights and videotape cassettes, in his family’s fourth-floor walk-up apartment on Kingston Avenue in a Hasidic enclave of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Standing 6 feet 2 inches and wearing a long, dark beard, Mr. Pellin is aware that his appearance may suggest, to those outside the Hasidic community, an intense humorlessness. “The Mendy Report” is his lighthearted attempt to prove otherwise by parodying local, national and international news, in a style that sometimes recalls Comedy Central staples like “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report.”
“There’s a certain stereotype of Hasidim, and I think this has been a big tool in breaking that stereotype,” Mr. Pellin said of his program, which, he said, has been viewed a half-million times since its debut last January. It was the subject of a recent article in The Jewish Sentinel, a local weekly newspaper.
“The Mendy Report” is also a looking glass for Mr. Pellin’s fellow Hasidim. Most Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights don’t own televisions, Mr. Pellin says, and despite its lighthearted tone, his online broadcast has emerged for some members of his community as a legitimate source of news. “We’re not really that exposed to the outside world,” he said, half-jokingly.
On Tuesday afternoon, from a stool in his bedroom studio, Mr. Pellin filmed a few segments for the show’s third season, which will begin on Feb. 18. Afterward, he went down to the street to film a segment about what he described as “the happiest people in the community” — school crossing guards. Who are they, he wanted to know, and what is the source of their boundless cheerfulness?
Mr. Pellin and his cameraman found their crossing guard standing at an Eastern Parkway median, in front of the Oholei Torah elementary school, and began firing questions at her. Do crossing guards get paid? (Yes.) Did she like her flashy yellow uniform vest? (No.) What would happen if a child crossed in front of a speeding car? “Is it like a presidential bodyguard,” he asked, “where you’re required to jump in front of the child?” The guard said it was not like that.
As Mr. Pellin conducted his interview, bearded men in dark coats and hats paused to snap his picture with their cellphones. One man declared Mr. Pellin “the best man in town.” Mr. Pellin later identified the individual as his former principal, who, since his school days, it seemed, had grown more tolerant of his antics.
Mr. Trappler, the cameraman, is another admirer of Mr. Pellin’s approach.
“He was the first one to venture out and do things in a casual way,” Mr. Trappler said. “A lot of people got the chills. But he took a black-and-white community and turned it into color.”