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“Whisker Wars” Interview: Meet Jack Passion

“Whisker Wars” Interview: Meet Jack Passion (photo)

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As the two-time World Champion in the Full Beard Natural category, Jack Passion’s long, brilliant, crimson beard is the beard to beat at most competition. As you will see in “Whisker Wars,” for Jack, bearding is more than a hobby, it’s a potential livelihood. Jack wants to turn his successes on the competitive stage to profit through sales of his “Facial Hair Handbook,” personal appearances and endorsement deals. Jack Passion is determined to become the first “Professional Beardsman.” In order for Jack to succeed, he must maintain his status as top beardsmen and protect his title from emerging rivals.

How did you end up in the world of competitive facial hair growing?

I had a beard and I was in college. A freshman in college. My beard was very young then. I heard about this competition in Carson City, Nevada in 2003, but we didn’t go at the last minute. Looking back, I would have done pretty well. The next competition was in Berlin and I just went. I thought it would be an awesome story to tell my grandkids one day, that I went to a world beard and mustache competition. So I went, and I got third place, as a 20-year old American kid. But since I didn’t speak any German I didn’t really get how rare that was. Then I went to Brighton [in 2007] and got first place. Then I wrote a book called The Facial Hair Handbook. Then in Alaska [in 2009], I won first again and now I’m stuck with the beard. Stuck isn’t the word I want to use, because I’ve made a lot of friends and it’s been a great experience.

Do you ever feel like shaving?

No. I do sometimes think what it would be like not to have two-and-a-half feet of red hair in front of me. It informs people’s opinions right away. It’s like taking a puppy everywhere you go. People don’t always want to see a puppy in a 4-star restaurant you. Beards say more about the inside of a person than the outside. I try to present myself and my beard in a positive light. Beards aren’t just for hippies and bikers and grungy guys, but for every one of me there’s a bunch of people with beards who don’t want to integrate into society. Also, my beard just gets a lot of attention. I can’t even just run to the grocery story. I have to budget a lot time for pictures. So I do wonder what it would be like to not have a huge beard.

How often do you get mistaken for a member of ZZ Top?

I don’t get mistaken for ZZ Top. I mean, people make jokes about it, or reference it. I have tried to play that card before, though, but I just look too young. People don’t buy it. Until Whisker Wars airs [Fridays at 11 p.m. ET on IFC], it was the only pop culture reference for beards. ZZ Top was the only band people associated with beards. And that’s not a bad thing. They and their beards are really high profile. And Billy Gibbons has a big red beard. So yeah, I do get it all the time.

How did you meet Phil Olsen?

I met him in the Frankfurt airport in 2005. I had talked to him on the phone and he wanted to meet. He had organized a trip to Germany for the World Beard and Mustache Championships in Berlin. That’s when Beard Team USA was starting to come out.

Do you have a day job?

I live off my book, The Facial Hair Handbook. And I use my time to work on other projects. Most notably another book. I’m a writer. There are two currencies: money and time. I’m very rich with time. I have a cool and good life. It’s why I get to travel to bearding competitions. I take a lot of time off. It’s a good job for a guy with a big beard. You don’t see people with beards like this in the workplace.

Tell me about Beard Team USA

It’s an umbrella organization for all the American competitors who compete in the World Beard and Mustache Competitions. It’s very loose. Almost unofficial. The Germans who invented the sport of bearding really have this club mentality, but the U.S. is a huge country and is spread out all over the place. It’s hard to unite everyone or have meetings. The name is an homage to the Olympics. We’re the team representing the U.S. in competition.

But you are also quite competitive with each other

It’s a sad reality of the human soul that people become jealous and exploit opportunities to claim power, which is fueled by their own ego and vanity. There is competition amid the teams. But compare it to the NFL. You want to be on the team, but you also want to be a starter, you want to play. Some people don’t compete in the competitions seriously, they just go to have a good time. Other people go to compete and only care about beating Jack Passion. Which … I mean, that attitude has to be stamped out. But television is more compelling when there are bad apples. I can’t let their negative attitudes prevent me from having a good time.

What do you use to keep your beard in tip-top condition? What’s your daily routine?

My book, The Facial Hair Handbook, is divided into two phases: offense and defense. For me, as a competitor, it’s so much more important how I eat and how I take care of myself. Everything you eat or drink is reflected in your beard. I can carbon date my beard: This is when I was eating sugar, this is when I was drinking coffee or had a soda. If you grow grey hair the first time it’s easy to take care of. My beard is always clean, I condition it, I brush it, I stay after the split ends. The mainstream has lost the knowledge about beard care, because people started shaving. Before you could go to the barber and they would care for your facial hair. Now sacrifices have to be made to look awesome. I take cold showers. I use apple cider vinegar and I condition my beard. I only use all-natural products. I don’t put anything on my hair that I wouldn’t put in my mouth.

Do you really not eat sugar or drink coffee?

Sugar will grow bad hair, but I’ll drink coffee now and again, but it’s a constant attack on your adrenal system. But it’s a personal thing. There are plenty of guys in the facial competition world who smoke, eat candy, etc. But they aren’t the ones winning. They aren’t the top competitors.

What’s the hardest thing to eat with a beard?

Soup is a hard one. Huge burgers. Corn bread. Ribs. Anything wider than your mouth. I like to use straws. I like things that you can cut up with a fork. But, man, I haven’t had an ice cream cone in eight years.

Do your parents understand your career path?

They have known me as long as anybody. I think …well, we sometimes disagree on things, but they must have figured out at some point in my childhood that I am fiercely independent and I’m going to be successful in whatever I choose to do.
They would love to see me go to law school, but they are equally impressed that I have risen to the top of this field. They just want me to be successful. I’ve got everything planned out. They have nothing to worry about. Maybe they don’t understand, but I’m happy, so they are.

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New episodes of “Whisker Wars” air on IFC on Fridays at 11 p.m. ET

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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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