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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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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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