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“Whisker Wars”: Meet Alex LaRoche

“Whisker Wars”: Meet Alex LaRoche (photo)

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Alex LaRoche is the Austin Facial Hair Club’s freestyle beard master. His red whiskers are sculpted into shape before each competition with a lethal yet effective combination of hairspray and glue. While Americans have a reputation for floundering in the category, Alex could emerge as the first serious American freestyle beard contender on the world stage. Each time he styles his beard, it gets more elaborate revealing that perhaps the smart alec Austinite might actually be invested in the competition. However, just ’cause he cares about the competition, the outspoken member of the Austin Facial Hair Club has no problem talking about the club’s increasing disillusionment with Beard Team USA. He sat down with us to talk about “Whisker Wars,” beards, and the trouble with soup.

How did you end up in the world of competitive facial hair growing?

It started with some friends of mine who have a magazine called Misprint out of Austin who had a tongue-in-cheek beard contest in 2006. I missed the first one and prepared for the second in 2007. So I went, and it was super fun and jovial. Then we saw that people did this around the world, so we went to Alaska. Then we saw the Norway trip was coming up and we started to raise money for the club

How did you raise money?

We had a bunch of parties. We started out with a show called a Bear-lesque. We had an ABBA cover band called STABBA and some drag queens and other dudes. Then we had a Halloween party on a riverboat with a Huey Lewis cover band called the New Drugs. We got a bunch of sponsors to donate beer and tequila and sold tickets. One of the most fun events we did was have a Beard Prom. It was an adult prom at the American Legion Hall in Austin. There were balloons, a see saw moustache, alcohol, food. Those were the primary ways we made money this year.

Did you make enough to send everyone to Norway?

Well, no. Between hotels and airfare and food and stuff, we did make a big dent in it though. Especially for some of the dudes who couldn’t afford it we made it possible for them. We [Austin] were the most represented city in the world there.

Does your mom ever say, “You’d be so nice looking without that beard?”

No. When she and my father married he had a beard. And he’s pretty much always had facial hair. Now my sister on the other hand has said it a lot. Especially when I had sideburns she thought they were tacky. She likes it now. It’s probably too big for her to handle, but she’s excited about the TV stuff.

Do you have a day job?

I have a unique job in that I work for Apple. So I first moved out here to Cupertino and then moved back to Austin. When I moved out here I had a beard and actually shaved it off once and one of the dudes who hired me said, “If we had known you were going to shave your beard, we wouldn’t have hired. ” I’m not a doctor and I’m not in food service. It’s not in my way.

What do you use to keep your beard in tip-top condition?

Daily I use Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner. It makes it pretty soft. Sometimes I switch it out and I use this Neutrogena thing that erases all the other products.

Oh the Anti-Residue Shampoo?
Yeah, that’s it. I use a leave in conditioner everyday, too. When I decorate it and curl it for competition, I use Tresemme mousse and the Got2b Glued hairspray or Aquanet. Sometimes Elmer’s glue to really make it stick.

I guess that’s what the Anti-Residue Shampoo is for. How much of bearding is genetic luck? As in what just naturally grows out of your face?

I think there is a little bit of genetics involved. My mom’s hair goes down to the back of her ankles and it’s not dreaded or anything, so I think I have a pretty good chance. Now if your beard is graying or something, that’s different. But, the judging at these competitions is pretty subjective, though, especially from what I’ve seen of guys with big beards. Some times there’s a guy with a red beard who sometimes win. The judges like the color, I think. Freestyle guys can dye their beards as long as it is a natural color. I think the grey beards look sweet. You see guys in their 20s with full beards and old guys in their 60s with grey beards, but you don’t really see the transition. I think a grey streak is kind of awesome. If it was symmetrical it would be awesome. I don’t think they would take points off in a competition.

Tell me about Beard Team USA

It’s a brand that Phil Olsen owns. I joined Beard Team USA in 2006 or 2007 around the time that we were looking up beard competitions online and we saw that he was out there doing this thing. We invited him to judge a competition in Austin. But, [Beard Team USA] is not a real team, it’s a collective of people. Everyone I’ve met on the team is cool. Like really cool. The Portland guys, the LA guys. But there’s no point to joining the team except to buy a t-shirt from Phil or compete in a competition that Phil put on. We have more fun in Austin. We told Phil that we weren’t part of Beard Team USA so he could stop yelling at us about losing. We don’t go to these competitions to win, we go to meet people and hang out. We are fully prepared to lose. We aren’t going there to win. That’s not the point of growing a beard.

What’s the hardest thing to eat?

The bottom of the beard isn’t a big deal, but the moustache is really the worst. An ice cream cone is tough. The big sphere is just bigger than my mouth and it just gets dragged through your moustache. I’ve learned to tuck my beard in when I eat soup.

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New episodes of “Whisker Wars” air 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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