DID YOU READ

“Whisker Wars”: The Recap of America’s Beardsman

“Whisker Wars”: The Recap of America’s Beardsman (photo)

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Bearding is a sport. The competition is fierce, the mustaches are waxed, and the beards are very very long. Welcome to “Whisker Wars,” where we go behind the scenes and into the world of competitive facial hair growing. We will be recapping each episode of this season, so if you miss an episode, we got you covered.

The first person we meet in the premiere episode of “Whisker Wars” is Phil Olsen, founder and self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA. While you may be able to name a few Olympic athletes, soon you will be able to name every member of the team who are growing beards for America. Olsen reminds us that the global field of competitive bearding has been dominated by Germany for far too long. Now there is one year until the next world competition in Norway and the upstart Beard Team USA is hoping to unseat the champions. To prepare the team for battle, Olsen is staging the first ever U.S. national championship in Bend, Or. His ringer in the competition? Jack Passion, the first American to ever take gold in the Full Beard Natural category of the global competition. And Jack didn’t just do it once, he did it twice. Now Passion has decided to turn his fame into a career. What color is his parachute? Professional bearding. Based on his credentials as a world champion, Jack is attempting to become the first bearding professional. To further his cause and help garner sponsors, he wrote a book called “The Facial Hair Handbook.” Unfortunately, the decision to go pro has earned a lot of ire from his fellows bearders, who think Jack is taking himself way too seriously.

For Jack, a win in the national competition in Bend would help cement his title, but victory isn’t guaranteed. He faces some serious competition in Myk O’Connor, of Brooklyn, New York with his full-sleeve tattoos, and full, lustrous beard. Also on the radar? The members of the Austin Facial Hair Club, which features some fantastic beards including Bryan Nelson’s red menace. Complicating matters for Phil as he tries to put together Beard Team USA is that Austin isn’t too wild about Jack. They think Bryan should have taken his crown during the competition in Alaska and they hold a grudge. Also in Austin is bearded politician Allen Demling who wants to follow in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps, but with a much much bigger beard.

Out in California is Aarne Beilefeldt whose long beard is frequently kept in a ponytail in order to stay out of harm’s way as he maintains his wooded property and stays well off the grid (except for the tv crew crowded inside his small cabin, of course.) Even though Aarne is off the grid, he knows about Jack Passion and doesn’t hesitate to take a few jabs at the reigning champion and his professional pursuits.

A gallery opening in New York City dedicated to the art of the beard brings many of the competitors to Manhattan. When Jack spots a portrait of his Austin-based beard rival Bryan, he takes a moment to talk a little smack. Unfortunately, a few Austin Facial Hair Club boosters are in the crowd and seize the moment to further the ill will between the parties. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Back in Austin, the club members remind us of how hard it is to eat with a beard. Ribs? Nope. Only Melitus Callahan-Barile with his Alaskan whaler beard can manage to scarf down a few of Austin’s famed barbecue ribs. While the Austinites are eating, Jack Passion is getting his game face on. He’s back in San Francisco and is getting ready to compete in the San Francisco Beard and Mustache Competition. One unexpected contender? Austin’s Alex Laroche with his freestyle beard. They play nice and bid each other luck, but even though they are competing in different categories, Alex has a plan to take Jack down. In this competition, the crowd picks the winner. So when Alex throws his popularity behind a rookie, he hopes the crowd will follow. They do, and Jack goes down.

Jack is shaken by the loss, because he felt the crowd voted against him just to see someone else win. Phil Olsen hoped to cheer up his star by arranging an opportunity for Jack to seek advice from world freestyle beard champion Willi Chevalier. Chevalier suffered a tragic accident that almost cost him his famed beard, but he fought back and reigns supreme. Chevalier offers Jack some words of wisdom, but Jack makes a controversial decision: He’s not going to compete in the national championship. He claims his decision to host the competition is to give someone else the chance to win, but Austin sees it as a sign of fear. Yep, they think Jack’s scared of Austin.

At the national competition, the whisker warriors get ready for battle. They will compete in different categories, including mustache, partial beard, full beard, and freestyle, but all their beards will be judged on sheen, style, length, fullness, and luster. Austin’s Alex Laroche is angling for the crown in freestyle, but Willi Chevalier has come for the one title he does not have yet. Willi takes it easily with his perfect, complex beard. The full beard category has the fiercest contenders: Bryan Nelson, Myk O’Connor, Allen Demling, and Aarne Bielefeldt. To the shock of the Austin crowd, Bryan is ousted before the finals. Allen Demling takes second place to do Texas proud and then in an upset, Aarne Bielefeldt beats Myk and the rest of the crowded, bearded field. This is Aarne’s first win, but it’s a hard blow for Myk. Instead of beating crushed by the defeat, though, Myk is more determined than ever to be at his best when Beard Team USA takes the stage in Norway.

“Whisker Wars” airs on IFC on Fridays at 10:30 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.