Fake it ‘Til You Make it: Judging the Air Sex World Championship

Air sex at its finest. Photo courtesy Ryan Wolf.

When my tiny Catholic mother asked me what I did this weekend, I told her I went to the theater. It’s true. I went to Tempe’s Madcap Theaters on Saturday night and had a good ol’ time.

What my mom doesn’t need to know is that I actually judged a terribly filthy air sex competition.

Dirty minds, dirty mouths and dirty acts involving invisible people evoked howling laughter at the Air Sex World Championship’s Tempe stop on Oct. 23.

For the second year in a row, the Alamo Drafthouse Air Sex World Championship hit the road to scour the country to find their champion. What’s the incentive to compete? Besides the glory of the sport, each winner in the 18-city tour gets flown out to Austin to complete for the world title next year.

Chris Trew, a comedian and host of the event, said the idea started when air guitar competitions just weren’t cutting it anymore.

“It started with Tim League, who runs Alamo Drafthouse. We used to do air guitar there but it got really boring so Tim was like, ‘What if we did air sex?’” Trew says.

By then, air sex had already been established as a spectator sport in Japan, crossing over to the States via the banks of user-generated videos on YouTube. The rules of air sex are simple: no nudity and keep it pretend. You can pick your stage name, costume and song.

Trew started as a competitor and later became a judge.

“They eventually asked me to take over the show and pretty much make all creative decisions,” he says.

Brock LaBorde, a comedian and writer, came on the tour to judge the last shows in the tour.

LaBorde even judged a special air sex show for the season finale of the “Bad Girls Club” on the Oxygen Network.

So what makes for a good routine?

For LaBorde, it’s all about the narrative.

“It’s fun when someone tells a story on stage with some kind of fantasy, seduction story or something bad that happens,” he says.

Tempe’s most creative and bold put on their game faces and moved to songs such as Ginuwine’s romantic classic, “Pony,” Reggie and the Full Effect’s “Love Reality” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Trew himself started out the evening with his own air sex act to the tune of R. Kelly’s “Bump N’ Grind.”

“The perfect air sex show has a handful of train wrecks, an actually sexually appealing routine for both a woman and a man, and some awesome comedians who are prepared,” Trew says. “We like when people commit fully.”

And who is the ideal air sex competitor?

Trew compares air sex to karaoke in the sense that anyone can get up to do it.

“I’ve seen people who are crippling shy who are like, ‘You know what, I think it would be incredibly fun to do air sex,’“ he says.

Trew, however, does note that just like karaoke, the talented few shine above the rest.

Trew and LaBorde have a certain chemistry with one another that can be attributed to the fact that they are creative writing partners and co-owners of Studio8.net.

During the show, they screened a pilot they shot with Tommy Wiseau, creator and star of cult classic  “The Room,” that aired on Comedy Central.

“The House That Drips Blood On Alex” is a 13-minute horror story of sorts with Wiseau acting alongside Joey Greco of “Cheaters” and Justine Ezarik of YouTube’s iJustine.

The pilot drew big laughs from the audience, though the air sex competitors baring themselves on stage drew an even rowdier reaction.

I would have been content to watch it all from the theater seats, but during our interview before the show, Trew invited me to judge the show with LaBorde.

I was completely unprepared and unqualified to critique such a sporting event, but thought it would be fun to try. What I soon learned was that it is impossible for me to be anything but positive. For some reason, I channeled Paula Abdul and could only tell people that they did great.

Some of my notes included, “Classy move,” “Get it gurl” and “What is he planning on doing with that?”

The first competitor, Der Bear, sported a pink headband, a yellow sleeveless T-shirt, cut-off denim shorts, a tiny mustache, sunglasses and roller blades. His act was tough to follow, but five more came on stage and worked their hips like there was no tomorrow.

Pantomiming sex acts left people sweaty (and even bloody in one case), but smiling.

In the end, LaBorde and I picked our favorites, who had a “dance-off” of sorts, and the winner was picked by the audience.

The winner, whose stage name is a too-dirty-for-print play on the word “catastrophe,” was bashful and shy after her pantsless performance. She masterfully synced her moves with Dresden Doll’s “Coin-Operated Boy” and literally rocked the stage in just a T-shirt, undies and red heels. With just a chair as a prop, it was clear to everyone in the room that she was the winner.

I can’t count the number of times I wanted to look away but couldn’t. I was a terrible judge in the sense that I couldn’t give anyone a bad review. They got on stage and pantomimed sexual acts in front of a crowd; they were all champions in my eyes.

Contact the reporter at apanguia@asu.edu.