You have questions, a ninja has answers

Funny title character of podcast responds to viewers' weird, arcane inquiries

September 07, 2006|By Jessica Berthold | Jessica Berthold,The Morning Call

The titular character of Ask a Ninja (askaninja.com) is like that loud, effusive relative who, when asked a question about mufflers, babbles wildly about babies and potholes for five minutes, then halts abruptly as if he's answered your query. Except the ninja is very, very funny.

The decidedly un-ninja-like ninja answers viewers' questions in a voice that's half Oscar the Grouch, half Gilbert Gottfried. Bobbing his head and gesturing madly, he holds forth on topics ranging from ninja love to Merchant Ivory films in this weekly video podcast.

Got a burning question you don't need a straight answer to? Go ahead. Ask a ninja.

Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine are the podcast's co-creators. Both are in their early 30s, live in Los Angeles and are improv comedy veterans. They are currently at work on an animated series about suburban ninjas called Kinzai Ninjas. Nichols answered some questions about the podcast. Why did you pick a ninja as your host?

I think everyone secretly thinks, "If I just trained a little bit, I could be silent and deadly, too." I know I've always had pre-adolescent notions of scaling walls and getting into places silently, and my partner Douglas is a huge Kung Fu movie fan. So your show is poking fun at ninja pipe dreams?

Yes, and at ourselves, since we have them, too. And [the show] works on this deeper level because our ninja is not even close to what a ninja should be. They are supposed to be quiet, and ours is loud and kvetches like a Jewish mother. He's everything you wouldn't think about a ninja, but clearly he's a ninja because he's dressed like a ninja. Are you the ninja?

We don't talk about who actually is the ninja. Douglas and I work very closely with the ninja. He shows up, and we're lucky he doesn't kill us. How many viewer-submitted questions do you get?

We get 300 to 500 e-mails a day, but a lot of them are the same. What are some common questions?

"How many people have you killed?" "Are ninjas better than pirates?" Half of them are about pirates. We get a lot of Chuck Norris questions and questions about whether there are gay ninjas. How do you pick a question to use?

We like the weird, esoteric ones, and ones that allow for huge turns. Like we'll have one that asks if ninjas can catch colds, and then we'll look at whether colds can catch ninjas. It sparks so much more creativity if you take a big leap like that. You recently started running ads. Are you picky about the ones you use?

Yes. We are adamant about keeping them short. And we are trying to make it not annoying to the consumer, so we make the ad be for something that appeals to our main demographic of young men between 13 and 24. Thirteen-year-old boys and yet here I am, watching it.

But no, we also get mothers saying they watch it with their two kids who are 8 and 10. It really spans the generations. What's your favorite ninja-themed movie?

All the ones I've watched are horrible, but my favorite martial arts movie is Kung Fu Hustle. It's part Looney Tunes and part Matrix and has Bruce Lee action all over it. You recently started a new podcast called "Hope is Emo" with Christa Flannigan from MadTV, about a teary emo girl. How's it going? It's been one of the most viewed clips on YouTube since the first episode. It's really finding its fan base now, but at first people were like, "Die Emo Die!" It was this voracious buzz saw of hate. Some people didn't understand it was a show, which was kind of amazing since it's got a theme song. Do you have more projects in the works?

There's nothing I can really talk about now, but we're definitely in development with a slate of different podcasts.

Jessica Berthold writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.

ASKANINJA.COM

In a word:

Rollicking.

E-candy for:

People who have secretly wished they had super powers. Fans of offbeat humor.

In sum:

Comedic weekly video podcast that features an unlikely ninja answering questions about ninja topics.

This blog as a person:

Arrested Development's Gob, swapping his magician's wand for throwing stars.

Sample topics:

What to give a ninja as a gift. Where ninjas get their uniforms. The diet of a ninja. The best way to kill a ninja. Why three is a magic number.

Classic episode:

The ninja answers a questions about whether he's accepting interns by saying that the "ninternship" application process is very rigorous. "Just to let us know that you're interested, you have to pull out somebody's still-beating heart, have them sign it, and get it to us before the heart stops beating. I don't recommend using the United States Postal Service." (Question 23)

Making it happen:

Thirtysomethings Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine .

Created:

January 2006.

Updates:

Weekly.

Writing:

Extremely funny.

Presentation:

Also extremely funny.

Comments allowed?

Yes.

Popularity:

50,000-80,000 unique visitors per day.

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