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“Whisker Wars”: Meet Myk O’Connor

“Whisker Wars”: Meet Myk O’Connor (photo)

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“Whisker War’s” Myk O’Connor, a Gotham City Beard Alliance member, claims he never thought bearding would change his life but it has. He met his girlfriend fiancee and beard coach, Karolina, at a competition in Alaska, fell in love with both the sport and her and moved across the country to pursue both. While a loyal member of Beard Team USA, Myk feels strongly about beard competitions “doing good,” raising money for charity and working to alleviate some of the misconceptions about bearded men. He sat down to chat with us for a few minutes about all things beard:

How long have you been in Brooklyn?

I’ve been here for two years.

How did you end up in the world of competitive facial hair growing?
Two and a half years ago I was in San Francisco and a friend of mine with a handlebar moustache said, “Dude you have a really good beard you should grow it out again.” Then I heard about Beard Team USA and looked it up and saw that the World Championship competition in Alaska was coming up. I wasn’t planning on competing but did.

What category of bearding do you compete in?

Well, at the World Championship in 2009, I competed in the Garibaldi. The beard length can’t exceed a certain length of 8 or 9 inches from your chin or your bottom lip, I can’t remember. It’s a more rounded beard. It’s a matter of how you brush it.
I was just glad I wasn’t first up. I had no idea what I was doing. I thought maybe I had a chance in the Garibaldi because it wasn’t a super competitive category. You know, I was just there to have fun and I ended up getting 4th place. Basically, I lost. But I liked competing. Then I won Best Beard at the Coney Island Beard and Mustache Competition in September of 2009.

Now you compete in full natural?

Yeah, that’s the big one. Well, that and freestyle. If you go to the events you see these guys really standing out. They are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. They are the guys with the big beards.

Your girlfriend, Karolina, is your beard coach. What does a beard coach do exactly?

I don’t think she even knows what she does. She just makes sure I look good. We were at Nationals and she was standing in back with a utility belt with brushes and combs and hairspray and mirrors and everyone wanted one last look before they hit the stage. So she was letting everyone look and get ready to compete. It’s a way for her to feel connected to what I’m doing. She originally came to take pictures and now she’s everyone’s beard coach. She has a certain celebrity status now. Everyone knows who she is.

What’s your daily beard care routine? Do you something special before competition?

When I wake up I have to shower. My beard is just a mess. It looks like a car wreck. It’s all twisted up. You can shampoo it — and I do — but it’s a different type of hair. You just don’t want to use the same harsh chemicals. They need specific products. I like Bluebeard’s Beard Wash and this thing called a Beard Save or just Johnson’s baby shampoo. When you wash and condition your beard hair, it kinds of splits in the middle more than the hair on your head does. I also have a bunch of different brushes that I use for shaping, smoothing. I have boar’s hair bristle brush that I like. And I use Jojoba oil. It is really good to moisturize underneath.

How is the Gotham City Beard Alliance? Do you have archrivals?

My friend Chris started the Gotham City Beard Alliance and started making it an active club. When I went to last year’s beard and mustache competition I was able to get more members and started letting them know about competing. Everyone knew who Jack Passion was and everyone aspires to de-throne Jack Passion. We have some inner club rivalries but nothing major. But as far as other rivalries everyone was super excited to compete in the NYC competition last year. The goal for our club is to have super close friendships and work within the community. My biggest thing is breaking down stereotypes and being active in our community and lending a hand and recruiting more people and making a name for ourselves. I was really inspired by the Austin Facial Hair Club. I really wanted to be more like them.

How often does your club meet?

Well when we are getting ready for a big competition or a party, we’re constantly having to meet. But, it’s hard to get that many people together. But at events and stuff, that’s when everyone really wants to come out.

How many people are in the club?

Active members? I’d say 30 or 40. We have some who are farther out from the city, so they don’t come to meetings but they sponsor us and come to events. It’s a pretty different vibe from Beard Team USA.

This sounds glib, but do women ever compete?

Yeah. It depends on the competition. At Coney Island women compete. And they have beards, like, big beards. We try to include women, because otherwise it’s a big sausage fest. So we have competitions with categories like best fake beard. In Detroit Karolina won first place in fake beard, but I didn’t even place in my category, so I was kind of mad that I got shown up by her. Not really. But kind of.

Are there beard competition groupies?

Yeah, yeah there definitely are. The Whiskerinas are taking a more active approach to the competition. They aren’t groupies, exactly. Karolina does some stuff with them. I don’t mind if Karolina does it, I’ll support her in whatever, but I feel like I’m watching old videos of Van Halen with these women just losing their shit over men with beards. It’s kind of strange.

How long have you had a beard?

I’ve always had some sort of facial hair.

Since high school?

Maybe. Pretty much since I could first grow it. But this one I’ve had for two and a half years. In Jan ’09, I was like fuck it I’m doing it. That’s when I started competing. My beard grows really quickly, too.

Do you ever feel like shaving?

I think anyone who has had facial hair this long feels like shaving sometimes. I am so tired of walking down the street and having people ask me questions about it or gawk or if I’m in a bad mood and someone says something negative and I’ll come back negative and just think, “Shave it and never deal with this again.” But, no, I don’t want to shave it. I want to see how long I can get it. I want to see what I can do with it. I don’t want to cut it until I have to. Even then it wouldn’t all be gone. I’d still have something. Now the bearding world has really taken off, it’s kind of a trademark.

Do your parents understand what you do?

I don’t think my parents have ever understood what I’ve done. I told my mom about the competition in 2009 and she was like, okay, I’ll check it out. She was more excited for me to go to Alaska. But when I packed up from SF and said I was doing this stuff and moving to New York, they were supportive. They ask about the competitions and how I do. And I get to see the world. That makes my mom happy.

Who do you see as your biggest competition in the U.S.? And the world?

The judges. I have certainly been to competitions where I should have won or at least placed and walked out of there just completely dumfounded. I mean, you go to have a good time, but it’s still a competition and I’ve walked out of there sometimes and been like, “What happened?” I mean, yeah sure Jack Passion is someone to consider. I’ve only competed against him twice in the past year, so I don’t necessarily consider him my biggest competition. It’s really more about the judges and how can I make myself stand out.

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“Whisker Wars” airs 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.