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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Hank and Dirk are fighting, egged on by Harvey. Steve’s smoking again, and Dirty Brad’s been hanging with the ladies. Emmanuel stopped by this week to stir things up.
This is not the storyline for a soap opera – well, not a traditional one, anyway. You see, Hank, Dirk and Harvey are bison; Steve is a grizzly bear, and Dirty Brad is an elk. And they all live, eat, and recreate in Yellowstone National Park. (Emmanuel the emu is from south Florida – he’s just a guest star.)
These are the characters created by Lisa Cords and Jen Mignard, who entertain nearly 143,000 followers of their Facebook page, “Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!”
The page’s popularity has grown exponentially since Mignard created it in 2016. Two moderators must now each dedicate nearly eight hours daily to handling incoming submissions and comments. Mignard and Cords have launched a website and a clothing line celebrating the antics of the characters they’ve created, and based on tourists’ gaffs and shenanigans.
A Place to Share the Crazy
Mignard is a married mother of two from Billings, Mont. She told Cowboy State Daily she started the Facebook page in 2016 to share with her friends crazy tales from Yellowstone.
“That was when the two tourists had put the baby bison in the back of the car,” she said. “The same year the fellow who was going to go hot potting and slipped into that thermal feature and disintegrated. And I realized there was no place kind of central for my friends to be able to read about all of it.”
Mignard said the name for the page made sense.
“You know, it’s kind of an invasion of idiots going to the park,” she said. “And so that’s what I had named it, because it’s so incredible, some of the things that these tourists do. It makes you just shake your head.”
Mignard left the page public, and it slowly caught the attention of other like-minded fans. Within three years, though, she had reached 3,000 followers, and realized she was going to need some help moderating the group.
Mignard’s partner in “Invasion Nation” is Lisa Cords from Red Lodge, Mont., a social media and PR expert whom Mignard met online three years ago.
“We kind of got together back in 2019,” said Mignard, “before there was any vision of growing this big. It’s just been kind of serendipitous.”
Mignard and Cords share the responsibility for creating original content for the page, but Mignard gives credit to Cords for the most hilarious posts.
“There’s days I just wake up and I see what she’s put on there, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness. I don’t have enough caffeine to deal with this yet,’” she said. “So, I just come back later, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is hilarious. I can’t believe the way your brain works.’”
Mignard calls Cords the “yin” to her “yang.”
“We kind of excel in different areas, and so we make this kind of perfect partnership,” she said. “We’re working on this together.”
Although they’ve been working together online the past few years, Mignard said they finally met in person just a few days ago.
“For three years interacting online, we had tried to get together, but schedules being what they are and both of us with families, we ended up meeting on Monday,” she said. “We met in Red Lodge and we absolutely hit it off. It was like we have known each other in person our entire lives. We are finishing each other’s sentences. It was perfect. It was like we met our best friend that we didn’t know we had.”
Growing the Business
Mignard, a registered nurse, left the medical profession at the beginning of the pandemic to start her own cleaning business. But she said she devotes hours each day to maintaining the “Idiots” page.
“I bet we put in 40 to 50 hours a week, each week – in the evenings, on weekends, that type of thing,” said Mignard.
Because of the popularity of the site, Mignard said she and Cords recently made the decision to start a business, which they call “Invasion Nation.”
“We are providing merchandise, shirts, drinkwear, hoodies, that type of thing,” she said. “We’re looking to branch out into some other areas as far as merchandise goes, that something’s still in development.”
Mignard said when she and Cords met up on Monday, they were approached by a boutique owner who loved their matching “Looks Cute, We’ll Do You Dirty” T shirts.
“The boutique owner requested that we give them an exclusive deal to carry our merchandise in their store in Red Lodge, because they are aware of (our) following,” she said. “So, one of the things that is on our plate is to develop a wholesale catalog, so we can address these surrounding communities around Yellowstone if they’re wanting to possibly carry our merchandise.”
Mignard developed a logo in June of this year to give the page more professional flare.
“We were growing so quickly, and I realized that if we were actually going to take this one step further, we needed to give it a logo that was simple to read, recognizable,” she said. “It’s kind of succinct, and to the point.”
Mignard said they are planning to branch out to other social media platforms.
“We are looking at starting our own YouTube channel to continue the madness, and just a different social media venue,” she said, explaining that they are working on a collaboration with a small production company out of Red Lodge.
“I’m hoping that that will also be successful,” Mignard said, “that people will continue to see our humor, just in a slightly different format.”
Cast of Characters
Dirk and Hank, the rowdy bison featured in many of the page’s memes, were Cords’ creation, Mignard said.
“That was entirely Lisa, that happened in the madness in her brain,” she said. “And so other than Steve the bear, that was me, Lisa has come up with all of these funny and amazing characters that are providing so much entertainment.”
Last week’s guest stars, Emmanuel the emu and his human handler, were a big hit, Mignard said.
“(Taylor Blake) lives in South Florida, and Emmanuel the emu is absolutely hilarious,” she said.
Mignard pointed out that many of the more popular posts don’t actually feature humans behaving badly – rather, engagement spikes when they put the “Invasion” stars in the spotlight.
“People like anthropomorphized animals like Dirk, Hank, Steve, Dirty Brad,” she said. “They love giving animals human-like emotions, and it’s super entertaining. Some of the posts we have with just people don’t do quite as well.”
Anyone can submit a post to the page, Mignard said, but she and Cords decide what makes the cut.
“Everything needs to be approved through Lisa and I to keep our content directed, and to prevent oversaturation,” she said. “We don’t need 15 posts of the same exact meme, because then it just affects the way the page is perceived. It affects engagement rates.”
Mignard said she and Cords curate the submissions to keep the page on track with their original intent.
“Keep the content going one direction, and provide this satirical view of the world,” she said, adding that there have been so many submissions that sometimes the two of them can’t keep up.
“Honestly, we probably deny about 30 to 40 posts a day,” Mignard said. “We never want anyone to be offended that it wasn’t approved, there’s so many reasons why it might not be – sometimes it’s just the wrong time of day.”
While the primary focus on the page is the original content created by Cords and Mignard, there’s a wealth of photos, videos and memes on the internet at large that the two like to feature.
“There’s so much going on that is both entertaining and funny, and also headshaking, like, what are they thinking?” Mignard said. “So, I wanted to broaden it so that we had more of an overreaching grasp of what was going on more regionally.”
She said the video featuring Emmanuel the emu is not regional, but was too funny to omit.
“She’s actually out of South Florida, so that’s beyond what we would normally post,” Mignard said. “However, that humor was so on par with what Lisa normally does herself, it just seemed super fitting. So, she posted that and it absolutely took off.”
Mignard encourages people to send posts that tie in with their message of satire and good fun.
“If people have stuff that’s funny, please, we would love to possibly feature it in our group,” she added.
No Politics Allowed
Mignard said that the page is meant to be a “safe place,” where social topics and hard news aren’t part of the discussion.
“We wanted to be politics-free,” she said. “We want it to be a place where people, when they just need a laugh, they can come, they can laugh. They don’t have to worry about anything else that’s going on in the world. They can just worry about Dirk and Hank and the park and that type of thing.”
What’s Next for Dirk and Hank?
Mignard and Cords are headed to Yellowstone this weekend to create new videos for their YouTube channel.
“Lisa and I are making this trip together to Yellowstone, where we’ll be going through that park and Grand Teton, staying in Wyoming, and then making another loop back up and through,” said Mignard. “We’ll possibly try to catch ‘tourons’ in action, that type of thing. We are definitely going to be on the lookout for Dirk and Hank – they definitely owe us for all this exposure.”
Mignard said she would love to devote herself full time to “Invasion of the Idiots”; the venture’s growth might make that possible.
“But primarily, we just want to continue to entertain the masses,” she said. “We find so much enjoyment in being able to bring this forward to people – and if we can make someone laugh, perfect.”
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