Los Angeles Times Magazine
December 9, 2001
You might say that Chris Barnes gets to moonlight at his
own workplace. On Monday evenings at Comedy Dojo in
Santa Monica. The third-degree-black belt can be found
wearing a traditional karate uniform, saying something
like, "Breathe out on the strike", while demonstrating a
move for a reverent martial arts class. Fifteen minutes
later; Barnes, who is also a veteran of Chicago's Second
City comedy troupe, will be in his civvies, quoting Moliere
and citing a favorite "Frasier" episode to his next class, a
wise-cracking gang of comics in training.
As the Dojo's owner and lone instructor; Barnes, 42 has
the challenge of wearing two hats down to a fine science.
The Pennsylvania native, who moved to L.A. in 1990 and
has dozens of television and film acting credits, started
the school a couple of years ago after a near-fatal bout with alcoholism. Today, Barnes offers
four karate classes and two comedy workshops to about 100 students per week at the Dojo,
on the second floor of a nondescript industrial building on Colorado Avenue. (About 10 double
dippers - all actors - study both subjects.
Noting that both comedy and martial arts require discipline and
breed confidence. Barnes finds the transition from stern sensei
to comedy coach easy. " Even in the comedy world I'm known
for being pretty strict." That said, there's undeniably a different
vibe from class to class. "The karate deck stays pretty serious,"
says Dan Weiss, who has been studying both comedy and
karate with Barnes for nearly two years. "The comedy class is
slightly looser. "
But the biggest divergence may be in student reactions to
constructive criticism. With karate, Barnes says, the response
is always a reverential "arigoto sensei" ("thank you, teacher")
"In comedy," he says, "I give a correction and it almost hurts
their feelings. You will not hear 'arigato' in a comedy class."
- Leslee Komakio