Exclusive Interview: Master Ken – The Mastermind of “Enter the Dojo” Karate Comedy
Karate is a pretty serious martial art.
We crack bones, punch mouths and kick groins.
But sometimes you just gotta have some fun with it.
And if you ask Matt Page, the creator slash mastermind-genius of Enter the Dojo web show, there’s a lot in Karate that make for some pretty hilarious comedy.
Especially when it comes to McDojos™ – the very backdrop for the whole Enter the Dojo web series.
So, today I thought I would share my exclusive interview with Matt Page (or “Master Ken”, as the dubious sensei he plays on the show is called), who just arrived from L.A., where he has actually been pitching Enter the Dojo for some real kingpins in the TV industry.
Join us below as we talk about the huge success of his awesome web show, the hard work behind it (including some grueling real-life martial arts experiences), how the actual episodes are created, the future plans of the show and the secret to making Karate go viral – through bona fide martial arts comedy.
J (Jesse): All right! First of all, Matt-san, could you share some short background info for my readers? Who are the guys behind Enter the Dojo, and what is your story?
MP (Matt Page): “My name is Matt Page and I created “Enter The Dojo”. I write the show and play Master Ken, while my friend Adam Rottler co-directs the episodes with me. I live and work in New Mexico, as does most of the cast and crew. I actually have a background in various martial arts, including Kenpo. Joe Conway, who plays Todd Woodland (the Blue Belt), is a Kenpo black belt who owns the dojo where we film, which is called ABQ Karate. The rest of the actors (Alex Knight, Rachel Hroncich, Ben Ziegler, Juliet Lopez, Zach Dulin and Katalina Parrish) are all extremely talented New Mexico actors.”
J: Cool! But, for those who don’t know, could you briefly describe the Enter the Dojo show for the uninitiated?
MP: “Sure. To put it simply, “Enter The Dojo” is comedy web series on YouTube. A lot of people still don’t know what a web-series is and when I met Sean Becker, who directs the hit series “The Guild”, he described it best as “Indie TV”. Our episodes range between 5 and 10 minutes in length.
The style of the show is perhaps best described as “The Office” meets “Karate Kid”. The show centers around an egocentric martial arts instructor named Master Ken, who teaches his own homemade brand of fighting called “Ameri-Do-Te” to a band of misfit civilians.”
J: Hah! That description is literally spot-on! So, how on earth did you even come up with a show like that?
MP: “Well, I’ve been training martial arts since I was a teenager, and along the way I’ve met some pretty bizarre characters [haven't we all?]. I’ve also been a filmmaker since I was a teenager and when these indie shows started popping up on YouTube I decided I wanted to combine both of my passions. My obsession with the BBC version of “The Office” made me want to create something in that format but set in a world I understood better than the corporate culture of “The Office”. So I set it in a dojo and Enter the Dojo was born.”
J: Brilliant. So the episodes of “Enter the Dojo” are in a way based on your own experiences?
MP: “Yes and no. Some episodes are exaggerated for dramatic effect. But some are not. For instance, there is an episode called “Destroy the Groin” where we Master Ken teaches his students to do “groin-only” sparring. That actually happened. I went to a school in California where the instructor told me the only valid target in a fight was the groin… and then he made me fight a woman. That’s why I had to make this show. After years of these experiences I thought “Someone else has got to find this funny!””
MP: “Yeah. well, like I said, real life tends to present ideas for me. Although I do have a lot of my own ideas that I just think are weird, or funny, and those become episodes. My cast and crew also have great ideas that we incorporate into the show on a regular basis.”
J: How has the show been received so far?
MP: “We’ve had great success! 2.3 million views and counting. 15,000 subscribers. I’ve gotten messages from fans all over the world including famous martial artists who really enjoy the show. We’ve also started performing live at various events and that’s a real blast!”
J: Wow! I can just imagine your live performances… But, going back to your online show, what are the biggest challenges behind actually creating the episodes?
MP: “As with any low budget filmmaking venture, the challenge is always time and money. The most challenging part of the process is editing. We shoot very fast, but there’s so much footage because we use three cameras at once, so assembling an episode takes much longer than I would like.”
J: I feel ya! Can you briefly walk us through the process of creating an episode then (from start to finish)?
MP: “Sure. First we set a date and I start writing. Everybody gets the final script maybe a week before the shoot (if they’re lucky) and we tend to start on a Friday night. We get in costume and do all of our interviews (scripted and improv) and then Saturday and Sunday we spend all day on the actual sketches within the show. In Season 1 we had a couple of fantastic editors (Glenn Hughes and Reuben Finkelstein) but due to lack of budget for Season 2 I’m now editing the show myself to save money. We release episodes on “Tiger Tuesdays” and obsessively count how many views, comments, shares, likes and *gasp* dislikes it receives.”
J: Well, let me tell you Matt, I’ve never given you a thumbs down! What are the top 3 most popular episodes?
MP: “Our highest viewed episodes (with a combined viewership of over 500,000) are these three:
But these three are probably the most referenced or quoted by the fans:”
J: Matt, seriously. The LPM factor (laugh per minute) of Enter the Dojo is off the hinges! But… there’s still one thing I can’t wrap my head around: How can you afford producing the show since it’s free to watch?
MP: “The answer is… we can’t. But we do anyway.”
J: Dang. An artists life, for real. So what can we expect for the future?
MP: “We’re finishing up Season 2 soon and there’s definitely a Season 3 of “Enter The Dojo” on the horizon. I’m also hoping that we can pull off a movie version of the show but that really depends on the fans and whether or not they would support a Kickstarter project for something like that.”
J: Go for it! Crowd funding is the way to go, me and my Karate Nerds™ got your back fo’ sho. But in order to do that, I believe my readers really need a strong message from Master Ken himself.
MP: “All right. Master Ken here. I am very pleased that my ‘street lethal’ art of Ameri-Do-Te is spreading throughout the internets faster than a staph infection at a Jiu Jitsu tournament. While my primary focus is teaching people to defend themselves against murderers, rapists and roving bands of feral cats, I believe that one day Ameri-Do-Te could provide a cure for various debilitating conditions such as childhood obesity, gambling addiction and quadrumarsuphobia which is, of course, the fear of wombats. Stop wasting your time with styles that are weak, flawed and inefficient. Study Ameri-Do-Te. And always remember: When in doubt… re-stomp the groin.”
J: Hah! Master Ken cracks me up each time! Love talking to you Matt, and thanks for your time. I know you’re busy making Enter the Dojo become something larger than life, and I wish you all success with the project. The Karate world needs more people with the introspection, self-distance and humility of you and your amazing Enter the Dojo team. Keep keepin’ it real Matt-san, and stay creative!
MP: Thanks Jesse, a pleasure talking to you!