DID YOU READ

“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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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