Ninjas are mysterious creatures. They are rumored to walk on water, catch arrows with their bare hands and disappear at will. Of course, the claims are unsubstantiated as very little is known about ninjas and the art of ninjutsu. Their mystery is the only certainty we martial arts fanatics have confirmed. That and their devilish sense of humor.
New research, however, indicates a possible link unknown for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. The discovery was made by Dr. Ikan Kikhi and his team earlier this month. Kikhi has sought the secret of the shinobi—the traditional name of the ninja—since 1969, when his college roommate swore it was a ninja who kept stealing the towel from the bathroom while Kikhi was in the shower. Seeking vengeance, Kikhi dedicated his life to discovering the weakness of the shinobi and using it to expose them like naked, underdeveloped teens in a co-ed dorm.
Years of searching landed Kikhi at the top of the mesas west of Albuquerque. There, he met an elderly Chinese man who gave him the lead he sought. After hours of Tai Chi, the man—whose name has been withheld due to the dangerous nature of the information he possesses on the ninja—told Kikhi of a deep-rooted relationship between the shinobi and improv comedy. "He told me, 'The practice of shinobi and improv are one and the same. Where you find impromptu jokes about burying pants, you will find the towel thieves.' Then he was gone—poof—hidden behind a dying juniper," Kikhi said.
Armed with new wisdom from the mesa man, Kikhi surveyed Albuquerque's theaters for signs of improv. Scouring the performance spaces by day, he and his crack team found no tangible evidence. "There were props and stage equipment and aisles of seating, but there was no evidence—no evidence whatsoever—that anyone had improvised any comedy in the vicinity. Those ninjas are good. They know how to cover their tracks, but we weren't about to give up," Kikhi said.
After some Tai Chi to regroup, Kikhi decided to change his strategy and attend the theaters at night when ninjas are know to be more active. Kikhi's team agreed to attend The Box Performance Space on Saturday, March 22, based on an image seen in a bowl of green chile stew at the Frontier by the youngest crew member, Ki Hap, who sensed the four potatoes floating in a perfect square must be a sign.
That night just before 9 p.m., the team arrived at The Box and was greeted by something it didn't expect. "The parking lot," Kikhi said, "Well, it was full of cars. We knew something was amiss because ninjas don't drive, but we thought perhaps the ninjas knew we knew this and were up to some trickery. This only excited us more at the prospect of discovery."
Inside the theater, Kikhi bought himself and two team members tickets to see the night's performance. They sat in the front row to be sure they could retrieve evidence from the stage at a moment’s notice. The other people in the theater, not ninjas by Kikhi's determination due to their lack of mysterious aura, took their seats and the stage lights dimmed. "That's when I saw him," he said. "The first of the shinobi in a clever, clever disguise. In the darkness, the ninja darted with speed from one side of the stage to the other, slinking about in a way only they can. When the lights came up, I knew he was ninja. I knew."
The man was one of a group called The One Night Stanleys—an improv comedy troupe who, after a brief warm-up act by Mark Chavez and Kevin R. Elder (who could also be ninjas), performed the joke from the mesa man's prediction. "The Stanleys, using such wit and vigor, strung together bizarre tales of dysfunctional families, binge-drinking birthday parties, relationships via the Internet and, the joke we were waiting for, burying pants. An amazing thing happened, as they drew prompts from a brief interview with an audience girl who must have been under some ninja confusion-power to join them on stage," Kikhi said. "But it was all wrong. They may be ninjas, but they could not be the ones who stole my bath towel, driving me to self-loathing and rage so many years ago. They just couldn't."
The One Night Stanleys continued to use their ninja skills of adaptation and distraction to entertain the audience for nearly an hour, changing characters so rapidly Kikhi and his team could never pinpoint the actual identity of any of the four improvisers. "We may not have gathered enough to satisfy my revenge, but now that I know where to find the shinobi hiding among us. I'll be there every night until I figure out their secrets. You hear me, Stanleys?! Every night!" Kikhi said.
The One Night Stanleys, identified as Joe Carney, Nando Fresquez, Alex Knight and Steve Lucero, were unreachable for comment on their status as full-fledged masters of shadow, but traces of smoke bombs were discovered as they exited the stage Saturday night.
"They're ninja, all right," Kikhi said. "Where there is improv comedy, there are ninjas. I just can't prove it 100 percent ... yet."