Actor Jonas Chernick Dives Into My Awkward Sexual Adventure
By Adrian Mack
Georgia Straight — April 18, 2013
In acting, they say, dying is easy and comedy is hard. So where does that leave cunnilingus?
"I haven't done a dramatic cunnilingus scene yet in my long, storied career, but I would say it's probably far, far more difficult doing an explicit cunnilingus scene in a dramatic context," says actor Jonas Chernick, rather thoughtfully, considering the question. "Doing it as comedy gives you the freedom to laugh about it and have some fun."
One would hope that cunnilingus is always fun, but that apparently hasn't been the case for Chernick's character Jordan Abrams, the incompetent nerd at the centre of his uproarious film My Awkward Sexual Adventure (opening Friday [April 19]). A stone-cold festival favourite, it's a movie that manages to be both fairly explicit and thoroughly likable all at the same time—thanks largely to Chernick's performance and a script, also by the actor, that's willing to confront the kinds of issues most men would prefer to ignore.
Plus, it's Canadian. Meaning that every taboo in My Awkward Sexual Adventure gets busted politely and with the requisite amount of humour and self-deprecation. Indeed, when Jordan sets out to learn the ABCs of pleasuring the opposite sex—having been dumped by his bored girlfriend right after he proposes to her—he initially tackles the job with all the libidinous gusto of a career accountant (which is what he is).
"There is a precedent for awkward sexuality in cinema," says Chernick, calling the Georgia Straight from Toronto. "The Judd Apatow stuff is kinda grazing along those lines, but I felt we hadn't really told something from the Canadian perspective on that topic yet. And I really liked the idea that only a Canadian guy would be so obvious and so open about his lack of knowledge, and his insecurity, and his vulnerability. You would never see a Brad Pitt or a Tom Cruise play a guy who was defined by his lack of sexual confidence. You could only do that in Canada."
Jordan's real education begins once he strikes a deal with an exotic dancer, Julia (Emily Hampshire). He'll fix her chaotic personal finances if she'll instruct him in the subtle art of not being a dud in the sack. And here's where things get really raunchy, up to and including the funniest depiction of giving head since Shelley Duvall crippled Woody Allen's jaw in Annie Hall.
To put it bluntly, Chernick and his collaborator and friend, director Sean Garrity, have made a shameless crowd-pleaser. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't by design," Chernick admits. "Sean and I made a bunch of films together and they were exclusively thoughtful, art-house films. And we really wanted to make a comedy. We wanted to kind of experiment, like, 'Let's just try to do something as commercial as we can. Let's try to write something that is purely audience-friendly.' "
Having succeeded with that, the happily married actor was surprised to find that he'd created a highly unlikely sex symbol in the process. "The thing that's been most shocking to me," he says, "is the women that are coming up to me after screenings, and, you know, I won't go so far as to say I'm being propositioned, but it's pretty close. And women are expressing attraction to this character, and it's just wild to me because this is a guy who's defined by his cluelessness when it comes to a woman's body. I mean, how is that attractive?"
It's not, generally, but Chernick—who isn't a million miles from a better looking version of Kid in the Hall Kevin McDonald—turns Jordan into an adorably sincere creature. He's fully prepared to cross-dress at a Pride parade if it means he'll learn something, and he gamely bounces back from every humiliation (and there are many). And then there's just all that muff-diving.
"I've had women thank me for this cunnilingus scene," he says with audible incredulity, "because they haven't seen a scene where a woman instructs a man how to perform as directly as that. So that has been weird for me, to think of the character as attractive or sexy. It was never in my head when I played it or wrote it, but what a lovely surprise for me: to come out of it being told by beautiful women that I'm sexy in a movie. Hooray!"
Indeed—and on behalf of the men, let's thank Chernick for all the valuable and very entertainingly dispensed advice. "You're welcome," he responds, "and I hope you'll begin to discover the upper left quadrant."