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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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.