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“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).



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.