Jonas Chernick – The Star and Writer of My Awkward Sexual Adventure Talks About Sneaking into Dirty Movies, Raunch With Heart, and Sexy Melons
By: Jason Anderson
The Grid; April 17, 2013
People around the world think bad sex is funny.
The Toronto-based actor and writer is already familiar to viewers from stints on TV shows like The Border, The Eleventh Hour, and Degrassi: The Next Generation, on which he played science teacher Michael Betenkamp. But Chernick's raunchy new comedy is earning him a whole lot more attention. In My Awkward Sexual Adventure, he stars as Jordan, a nebbishy accountant who tries to improve his mojo after his fiancée dumps him for being lousy in the sack. (Emily Hampshire is also fun as the stripper who serves as Jordan's "sex Yoda.")
Though he thinks of himself as an actor first, Chernick spent over a decade developing the script (which went through more than 30 drafts) with director and fellow Winnipegger Sean Garrity, with whom he's made three other movies. The payback has already been worth all that effort. After My Awkward Sexual Adventure premiered at TIFF last September, it not only sold to distributors all over the world, but attracted producers eager to buy remake rights for their own territories. Moviegoers in France, South Korea, and Lithuania may soon have their own versions of Jordan's adventure.
"Selling remake rights was a really exciting thing for me, because I feel that's a testament to the concept," says Chernick over lunch near his west-end Toronto home. "It's amazing to see how it's translating in other countries." Audiences back home have been equally enthused, even if the content is a touch too risqué for Mr. Betenkamp's students.
He likes his raunch with heart. Though Chernick is now a family guy with two young daughters, he doesn't feel so far removed from the dirty-minded adolescent he was in the '80s. He has fond memories of the exploitation movies of the era, like Porky's, The Last American Virgin, and teen-targeted titles he and his peers "tried to sneak into to see boobs," as he puts it.
"Besides our dads' Penthouse magazines, that was the only way to see any kind of visually titillating material."
Now that the internet's so rife with explicit imagery, there's less demand for that kind of sex comedy, but Chernick believes viewers want to experience the unique combination of responses that he felt watching movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
"You go from laughing to being slightly aroused to feeling a little lump in your throat because you're really empathizing with the main character," he says. He wanted Jordan to be relatable, as a vulnerable male whose anxieties and insecurities are taken seriously, rather than used as more grist for ridicule. Still, Chernick is amazed by the number of women who approach him after My Awkward Sexual Adventure screenings to tell him what a "sweet, sweet love story" it is. He's been even more surprised by the ones who proposition him.
"I'm like, 'Really? I play a guy defined by his sexual inabilities—what's the appeal?' They're like, 'Nah, nah, by the end of the movie he's a master!' I didn't see that at all, but I'm not complaining."
He'll never look at a cantaloupe the same way again. After spending so long on the script, Chernick found himself in a different position (many positions, in fact) when he had to actually play Jordan.
"I started reading the script and thought, 'Oh, my god, I have to do what?! Who wrote this? I can't do that—that's crazy!" In the movie's most hilarious scene, our hero learns how to improve his cunnilingus technique with the help of a particularly lascivious-looking cantaloupe. As it turns out, that scene in the script was fruit-free until Garrity suggested using a culinary prop. "Then it was a matter of what the fruit should be," says Chernick. "In the script it was a peach. I don't know why. I thought it would be funny and a peach looks good."
Alas, the plan ran into a snag when it came time for the shoot. "It's the dead of winter in Winnipeg and the props guy comes up and says, 'I can't find a peach! I've been to Asian markets and specialty stores and there's no peach within a 100-kilometre radius!' We were like, 'What else we got?' He set up a buffet table of all the different fruits he could find and I basically had to audition the fruit. When we came to the cantaloupe, it was perfect—I could really get my face in there. The cantaloupe nailed the audition and we gave it the part!"