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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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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.