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“Whisker Wars”: Meet Bryan Nelson

“Whisker Wars”: Meet Bryan Nelson (photo)

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Meet Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin Facial Hair Club and rival for Jack Passion’s full beard natural crown. Bryan was once considered the beardsman who stood the best chance of usurping Jack in the Full Beard Natural category, but Bryan is fighting his way back from a decision that has left him fighting to regain his status. But he’s not just twiddling his thumbs waiting for his beard to grow, he is using his time to motivate the Austin ranks to compete in every bearding category at the World Championships in Norway, whether they compete as part of Beard Team USA or not. He may also be using his time to impersonate Jack Passion on Twitter. Bryan sat down with us to chat about beards, bears and the Coen Brothers, so read this and then tune in to “Whisker Wars” tonight at 11 p.m. ET.

Hi Bryan, where am I reaching you today?

Well, I’m out tour managing for Peelander Z on the Warped Tour

Is that your day job?

It’s something I do a few times a year. I record bands and I do sound. I am trying to get out of working in bars.

Do you find that your beard limits your career choices?

I’ve been in the music business for about 15 years. When I’m tour managing it’s easier to pick me out of a crowd, which can be really helpful. It’s quick way to point me out, especially because I generally work with Japanese bands, so I stick out in a crowd.

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

There was a competition in Austin and I was a judge there. Then since I had a big beard, I was directed to the websites with all the competitions and everything. I almost went to one contest but …well, it was a whole bear society. I would get 20 emails of people asking to use my picture. Now, I really don’t have a problem with anyone’s sexual orientation but I don’t want to put myself on the front page of a bear website either. So I stuck with the Austin contests for a while.

You have a wife and child, did you meet your wife with a full beard?

We met in the fall of 2004, I asked her out at one of her art shows, and a little over a year later, after we got serious, I decided to shave my beard. I had dated other girls and, while my beard was clean, other girls had, you know, cuddled in my beard, and I wanted to give her a clean beard that was all her beard.

Did she appreciate that?

I think so.

But then you started growing it back right away?

Yep. August 2005 was the last time I shaved. My beard grows pretty fast. Last year my wife and baby and I were extras in True Grit so they had to cut my beard and my hair for that so I could look like a city person. They cut it all they way to my nipples.

So even though you compete in the beard circuit, you let them cut it for the movie?

Yeah. I was thinking my six-month old daughter gets to be in a Coen Brothers movie. Cutting it actually helped me have a more relaxed attitude about the beard and the competitions. I mean, you can’t take these competitions too seriously. The judges are like the mayor’s daughter or a hairdresser from the town. Some people get way too serious about it. Our team can get really serious and really competitive, but we smack each other down.

With a six-month old daughter around, what is the weirdest thing she’s ever got stuck in your beard?

Her whole body! First it was her hands. Then her toes and then she would get stuck and she would start screaming and she couldn’t move and would be pulling my beard out and screaming. It was bad.

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

I usually take a shower once a day. Mostly because sometimes you wake up and your beard is sticking out weird ’cause I slept on it wrong. I take a beard correction shower. I shampoo and condition it. I use Main and Tail Straight Arrow. It’s for horses. It doesn’t have alcohol, which can be really drying for beards.

What’s the hardest thing to eat with a full beard?

Actually, drinking out of a water fountain is really hard. I have to use two hands and move my moustache out of the way. Sometimes soup can be a challenge. Or soft-boiled eggs. Egg yolk is the worst to get in your hair. I am pretty good though. I would challenge anyone to a contest of messy eating. Actually, we wanted to have the Beard Olympics! You would have all these messy foods and one napkin and see who would have the least food on their bead.. Also maybe a beard soak where you dip your beard in a cup of water and see who can wring out the most.

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New episodes of “Whisker Wars” air on IFC on Fridays at 11 p.m. ET/10 ct

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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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