They’ve been called dad jokes. They’ve been called awesome. They’re also been called cringe-worthy. But love them or hate them, hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila’s colorful quotes are a big part of American Ninja Warrior.
Akbar is especially known for his off-the-cuff, enthusiastic, some times nonsensical commentary. One Twitter account, @ANW Akbarism is dedicated to capturing these ridiculous statements.
But who’s the mastermind behind the account? It’s a Ninja community mystery. The author has ever revealed his or her identity or motives. We wanted to delve deep into this enigma for our readers.
After months of following leads (not really) and swearing an oath of secrecy on the Warped Wall (that did happen) we were granted an audience with the author of @ANWAkbarism.
Here’s what we learned.
What got you interested in capturing Akbar's statements?
So it's sort of a long story. My friend who helps me catch all the Akbarisms, she told me to start watching American Ninja Warrior. I started watching season 6 and I immediately loved Akbar's quotes and I just started calling them Akbarisms. I thought everybody did.
When I found out they filmed in Venice we decided we had to go for the season 7 Venice finals. My friend said, ‘You have to make a sign,’ because I love American Ninja Warrior signs.
I said, “What better than to make a sign with an Akbarism on it?’ So I went and Googled Akbarism expecting to find a huge list of Akbarisms to choose from and there was nothing.
I couldn't find any so I decided I had to capture some. I took my favorite Akbarism, "You gotta believe to achieve," and put it on a sign. Did #Akbarism. And that is how it all started.
How long have you been running the Twitter account?
Since March of 2015. That was the first time ever @ANWAkbarism posted.
What keeps you motivated to go back week after week and try to do this?
Well to me Akbarisms are just verbal joy. They are inspirational. They're so creative and they just make you smile. I feel like they shouldn't just go into the ether and disappear. They need to be documented.
I started tweeting them out to the different Ninjas. They've written back that they really like getting their Akbarisms. I just feel it's my duty to record them, even though it's harder than some people might think.
So tell us about the process of trying to capture Akbar's comments when he's winging them out there a mile a minute. How do you keep up?
It's me sitting with my laptop and my phone, a person I refer to as my bearded consultant, and my friend on the phone in Northern California. It's important to me to get them word perfect.
So in the middle of a run that's full of action, you'll find me saying, "AH! Rewind!" And my friend saying, "There's one! You have to get it!" My bearded consultant is saying, "You should take a picture of that!" We're actually a very funny process. Sometimes I go back multiple times.
Team Ninja Warrior was a special challenge because in addition to side by side Ninjas, we had some side by side commentary from Matt and Akbar because they got so excited. So that was a real challenge.
Have you had a chance to meet Matt and Akbar?
I have. I've gotten to meet them at several of the tapings. I always make a big sign for them because they work so hard and they're amazing. They've been super friendly and gracious. As are all the Ninjas I've met at Ninja Warrior.
It's just the best community. I love Akbar and Matt. They just have such boundless enthusiasm, which is one of the things I love most about American Ninja Warrior.
How do you think Matt feels about Akbar taking all the glory on this account?
Well Matt has wonderful comments as well, and I do tweet those out in addition to Akbar's. He knows that I love him and Akbar equally even though I did start with the Akbarisms.
What does Akbar think of the account?
You know, when I started all of this I had four Twitter followers. Akbar was Twitter follower number five. He immediately got on board and totally took it in the spirit in which I mean it, which is a very loving spirit.
He just thinks they're funny. Sometimes he'll tweet back and say, ‘Did I say that?’ and I'll say ‘Yup. I have the record of it!’ It's been super fun to see them. Matt and Akbar will tweet at me a lot during the show, so it's really fun.
What's the end goal for this? Do you want to grow an Akbarism empire? Tee shirts? Coffee mugs?
Total world domination. I've been excited that I feel like Akbarism is a word out there in the vernacular now. There's podcasts. Forbes Women did a podcast called Akbarisms. [Editor’s note: We were unable to find a link to this podcast at the time of publication.] Akbarism is under Akbar's Wikipedia page. I would love to make it to the Urban Dictionary.
Do you have a trademark on the word?
I'll have to talk to the Ninja Lawyer. Maybe Mike [Chick] can help me out with that one.
Anything else we should know about your tireless work?
I do sometimes make up my own Akbarisms. I made up ‘A woman's place is on top of the Warped Wall.’ Which I put on a big orange sign that you can see on the show.
As you know I take great pains to catch each and every #Akbarism. But if you watch closely, you'll notice that I usually don't tweet Akbarisms said when someone falls.
The reasons is I know how hard the Ninjas work and I don't want to rub it in when they don't complete the course. I'd love to hear from the Ninjas if they want ALL their Akbarisms, even if it's something about them falling or getting wet, or if I should continue my policy of selective editing!
So let’s hear it in the comments! Should they capture ALL of Akbar’s statements? Or just his words of encouragement?