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DID YOU READ

“Air Guitar Nation”‘s Bjorn Turoque

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By Dan Persons

IFC News

[Photo: Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane (left) and David “C-Diddy” Jung of “Air Guitar Nation,” Shadow Distribution Inc., 2007]

No word yet from the International Olympic Committee on whether air guitar qualifies as a genuine sport, but to watch the contestants vying for the crown at Finland’s Air Guitar World Championship is to have no doubt. Alexandra Lipsitz’s “Air Guitar Nation” chronicles the events leading up to and encompassing the 2003 contest, with specific focus on the rivalry between U.S. champion David “C-Diddy” Jung and dark-horse competitor Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane. Now retired from active competition, Bjo… er, Dan was willing to sit down with me to discuss his life of pretend sex, over-the-counter drugs and mimed rock ‘n’ roll:

Let me understand this. You are an actual musician?

I am.

And you composed the music for this film?

I did.

And there’s footage in the film of you actually performing?

There’s a brief shot of me playing with my band.

So, then, air guitar? What the hell?

Well, I heard about [the U.S. competition], and it was like, “Okay, here’s a chance to play what’s going to be a sold-out show. I won’t have to bring any gear, I won’t have to learn any songs and maybe there’ll be some groupies. It’ll be the easiest gig I ever have to play.” Once I did the first one, I realized it’s not like playing in a band. There’s the live experience of it, there’s the roar of the crowd, but it’s a whole different animal from playing in a band.

So this started as a side gig and eventually built into this whole dark-horse campaign against C-Diddy. How did your friends react?

I tend to put myself out there as the butt of many jokes — so I don’t think anyone was that surprised; it made a lot of sense. My girlfriend at the time found it a little annoying that I kept doing it. Our first year anniversary was during the L.A. competition, and she was like, “This is how we’re going to spend our anniversary, going to L.A. for you to compete in a fucking air guitar competition?”

Did you regard the whole 2003 effort — the Internet campaign and the fund-raising and the talk show appearances — as part of the performance?

In the movie, you can see two different people. Most of the time when I was doing interviews and all that stuff, I was trying to imagine, “Who is Bjorn Turoque? Who is this fantasy? If this is my fantasy of a rock star, what’s he like?” The more times I’d do interviews, the more I got to know him. But there are moments in the film when it’s just me talking. So the whole experience is in some ways a performance, but what surprised me was that, looking back, I actually did get obsessed with it. I always knew it was funny, I always knew it was kind-of a joke, but I really couldn’t stop.

How many of the competitors come out of performance to begin with — musicians, theater, improv, like that?

Most of the people are not musicians, most are just fans. They just love this music, and this is their chance to feel that they’re “Fast” Eddie Clarke from Motorhead. I grew up in the suburbs in Denver, and I’d put posters all over my wall, sit in my room, turn up the music really loud and just rock out to that music by myself.

Air guitar is something that doesn’t really require any skills, it doesn’t require any lessons, it doesn’t require gear that you’ve got to schlep around. It’s like dancing. When you hear the right beat and you’ve had a couple of drinks and you’re somewhere where you feel like doing this [performs an air-lick], you just do it. It’s an atavistic response to music. You hear a powerful E-chord, you just want to go, Rawrrr. It’s a natural response to rock ‘n’ roll.

Is it more than just connecting with the music, though? Every air guitar performance I delivered didn’t end when the music stopped; I had to bask in the adulation of my air-audience.

You know, when I was that kid in that bedroom, and I saw that picture of Led Zeppelin and I saw Jimmy Page — his stance and his swagger and his sense of presence — that’s something I wanted to emulate.

And now, in this competition, you break out of just having the mirror as your audience.

I think there are people that gravitate towards wanting that kind of feeling, of communicating with an audience. But I have been a musician all my life, and I love it. My band has a great show and the crowd goes nuts; they come up to me afterward and say they loved it, and that’s a great feeling. It’s shocking that you can get that same feeling in the competitions. I think that making that leap from the bedroom to the stage is definitely not for everyone, but there’s always the class clown that needs to get up and make an ass of himself, and that’s the kind of person that’s going to be playing air guitar. [Laughs]

How much did your rivalry with C-Diddy extend offstage?

I think it did for a while, but we’ve both retired from competition and we’ve gone to film festivals together, and we air guitar together, back-to-back, so now it’s a mutual appreciation and admiration. I admire his skills, he admires my idiocy and persistence.

Did this whole experience affect you in any way?

It’s revealed something to me about myself: That it’s actually okay to be the second-place guy. It’s kind-of better, in a way; I enjoyed that status and the humor of it. That’s who I am.

“Air Guitar Nation” opens in New York on March 23, Los Angeles on March 30, rolling out to other cities in subsequent weeks (official site).

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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