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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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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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