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This man is having sex

To win in this new competitive form of performance art, contestants must have no inhibitions and no shame

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Think Air Guitar, minus the instrument. Add a partner, your Republican baddie of choice, a ferocious polar bear, or a cheaply framed picture of your ex. Now work it.

Air Sex, which sees contestants take to the stage for a make-believe shag set to music, is coming to Canada.

On June 13 in Toronto and June 21 in Vancouver, hopefuls will pick their song and endeavour to wow judges with routines that peak in less than two minutes. Costumes, foreplay, climax and overall entertainment value will all be mercilessly judged.

There are only two rules: keep your clothes on, and fake the orgasm.

"We like to pull three or four people out of the audience, ply them with a couple cocktails and help them choose a song. It's been some of those people who get lost in the moment and forget that there's an audience," says Tim League, who co-founded the North American Air Sex Championships two years ago from the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, his "alternative programming" theatre in Austin, Tex.

Mr. League got the idea after spotting YouTube clips of revellers getting (mock) randy in a tiny club in Japan, the birthplace of that other great self-shaming ritual - karaoke. But Mr. League likens Air Sex to improv, and even mime. Although competitors are allowed to talk, "generally they don't."

Two thirds of the participants rehearse ahead of time and many are seasoned improv performers. Mr. League says women come out in droves, as do spouses.

"Depending on the relationship, it's either mortified embarrassment or pride."

Former champions include Sad Larry who took home the crown and an adult-themed trip to Nevada last year. Sad Larry won for his depiction of a forlorn man making love to an 8 x 10 glossy of his ex-girlfriend. Sad Larry spared his actual ex's identity, opting to defile the photo that came with the picture frame instead.

"He was a very seasoned professional, very emotive," said Mr. League.

Other competitors politicize the show. Second place last year went to a woman who dressed as Sarah Palin and seduced John McCain while a polar bear in S&M gear looked on. For her preliminary round, she dressed as George W. Bush and violated a blow-up globe.

Veteran air humper, host and judge Chris Trew said a typical evening's repertoire consists of "someone making a political statement," someone embarrassing a friend on her birthday, and someone "wearing the shirt of a rival college and having sex with an animal."

Mr. Trew remembers his favourite personal performance: a janitor working the night shift at a Holiday Inn.

"He uses his all-access room key to meet a lady and do the dirty while her husband sleeps next to her," said Mr. Trew, a comedian from New Orleans who now runs New Movement, an improv theatre in Austin.

Mr. Trew said audience reaction was split - the narrative was tricky.

"I wasn't just walking on stage and having sex."

Still, he advised Canadian competitors against taking the performance too literally, recalling a stripper who got on stage simply to work her routine.

"The audience was just really not into it. We don't want to be turned on at Air Sex, we want to laugh and be shocked. It's essentially performance art."

The show will tour North America this summer; the winner of each round will be flown to the finals at a yet to be determined location in July. Asked how Canadian air sexers will fare, Mr. League said, "I think the show has got sort of a universal language to it."

And what exactly do people get out of it?

"I know speaking to people who don't perform for a living, it's a huge rush," said Mr. Trew. "They've never been on a stage, in front of people chanting their name."

And if nothing else, said Mr. League, "It's an amazing story that you can tell your friends. Plus you'll have an embarrassing video of yourself on YouTube the day after the show, free of charge."

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