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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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