I am obsessed with Dave Seeger, and the long and storied legacy of crap that followed his one brief brush with success, “Karate Rap.” Look, I know that’s pathetic… luckily there’s someone even more obsessed with huffing Dave Seeger’s bullshit, and his name is Dave Seeger. He wrote one clumsy parody rap in the 1980s that barely made a cultural blip, and then he tried to coast off that near-success for the next 30 years. It’s amazing. It’s like making a mediocre pun that did not get a laugh out of your 4th grade class, and then trying to sell T-shirts of it for the rest of your life.
I’ve already gone too deep into the Seeger-verse: I stalked his whole family through the internet and I uncovered that he is but one branch of a gnarled tree, a whole clan based on making pop culture crap for at least four provable generations. I am possibly the only person outside of the Seeger family to watch Dave’s children’s show, Sensei Rainbow and the Dojo Kids. I am definitely the only person to pay two actual human dollars to watch his full length feature movie, Sister Sensei.
Dave Seeger, like many disappointing white dudes, prefers to be called Sensei. Sensei Dave has started a few independent businesses, one of which was Samurai Sound, a recording label founded to capitalize on the four people who sort of liked “Karate Rap” in 1986. That studio produced this movie, but more importantly, they also did the entire soundtrack. Every song is by Sensei Dave and family, and they all belong to my favorite musical genre: songs explicitly about the scenes that happen in the movie as they play. If somebody is fighting to survive, or believing in themselves, or just running up a hill, Sensei Dave will croon that exposition to you over an electric guitar and backup vocals that consist of his wife layered four times.
As with every single other thing the Seegers have ever or will ever do, this movie is mostly “Karate Rap.” It opens to a remixed “Karate Rap,” it contains scenes from the “Karate Rap” music video, and characters reference lines from “Karate Rap.” The Seegers have never thrown a soiled mattress away in their lives. It just becomes a loadbearing wall in the piss chapel of the filth castle their family has been building for the last 120 years.
Sister Sensei is another entry in the most inexplicable genre – parody movies that don’t want to fully commit to parody, and also don’t understand humor. Please understand I don’t say it lightly when I tell you that when they find the accursed Blockbuster the universe forgot, Sister Sensei will be on the Unparody shelf, filed right next to Traxx. I’m not saying it holds a candle to Traxx, I’m just saying they’re disgruntled neighbors and every once in a while they get in a shouting match about who gets to eat the raccoon that died on the fence.
We open on a brutal karate match where an evil karate master named Tiger defeats his opponent easily and without mercy, then issues an open challenge to defeat all comers. This is how that is depicted on film:
That’s a two second cutaway in a fast-motion montage. If it’s supposed to be a joke, there’s no setup, punchline, or whatever you call the middle part (Arbuckle’s Turn?), so I have to assume Sister Sensei blew their budget on the title graphic and ran out of money in the opening scene.
Only one man will accept Tiger’s crudely taped challenge: Sensei Dave.
This is Sensei Dave.
He looks like everybody’s dad’s shithead friend. He’s the funny guy in church. He looks like he runs Duluth’s third most authentic taco franchise, and that’s the outfit he wears for most of the rest of the movie. He owns four karate gis and one pair of civilian clothes, which he uses for everything — lounging around the house, training in the woods, jogging in Manhattan — high-waisted jeans, an America sweater, and Nike outlet cosmetic defect sneakers are his blessed karate armor.
He sees Tiger’s poor man’s Post-it and tells his wife “get my belt.” I’m not sure if that’s a wry joke about domestic abuse, except yes I am – Sister Sensei doesn’t have a single line with more than one meaning. Watching the Seegers stab around blindly for jokes is like wiggling the railroad spike embedded in Miracle Gus’ frontal lobe — you might make him laugh, but that doesn’t mean you’re funny.
Lemme show you what I mean, here’s the gag they do instead: Sensei Dave keeps his black belt in the fridge!
If you don’t get the punchline, that means you’re looking for a punchline, and you’re already in so much trouble. You will not live to see the end of this movie. Sister Sensei is to comedy what Mulholland Drive is to detective stories. You can try to solve this mystery with reason and logic but all your theories will fizzle out at the dumpster monster.
The news immediately picks up Sensei Dave’s answer to Tiger’s challenge, and it makes front page news, because that’s how big Karate is in this universe. The purse for this fight, between two local dojo owners? $13 million dollars. Nobody laughs at that detail — there’s no punchline after, no pause for the characters to comically react. That absurd amount is just a fact in this movie, because that’s Sensei Dave’s first zero-research wild guess at how much amateur karate is worth to the world.
Just about every single person you see in this movie is somebody the Seegers know or, odds are, another Seeger. Most of the training montage is just Sensei Dave’s actual karate class, who agreed to extra in their sensei’s karate movie in exchange for a free stripe on their belt. And this was before the rise of the internet, so they didn’t realize “star in my sensei’s karate movie” was choke-out fetishist slang for teaser murder in a snuff film.
The Seegers have an almost noble willingness to exploit every single resource at their disposal. Sensei Dave’s father owned the rights to Batfink, an obscure and unpopular cartoon from silver age animation, so there’s an extended scene where they just pause to watch Batfink. It does not tie into the story. There are random home movies spliced throughout Sister Sensei, inexplicable shots of the geishas from “Karate Rap,” and every family member has a role in this film, including Sensei Dave’s entirely too pregnant for this shit wife.
Her character has an unprompted flashback to the first time she met Sensei Dave “at the Karate Dojo Dance” which is — you guessed it — another scene from “Karate Rap.”
This whole movie actually might qualify as the first remix, making it the Seeger’s greatest contribution to hip hop since the time they tried to take credit for the popularization of rap.
Sister Sensei is forty minutes of story and fifty minutes of Seeger found-footage festival. Like the part where they cut to a long and entirely pointless scene reading karate bedtime stories to their children just so they have an excuse to reuse this animation from their aborted children’s show.
The Seegers use every part of the Garbage Buffalo, and I promise you that anything they made after Sister Sensei was at least 30% Sister Sensei.
Back to the training montage: Sensei Dave hands his top student a sword and demands they attack him, then easily dodges with all the self awareness of a Walker, Texas Ranger fight scene while cleverly quipping “hey, I said a little off the top!” His class laughs, because they know if they don’t this will turn into Sensei Open Mic night until he finds the dry pity-chuckle that keeps his delusions fed.
Sensei Dave is the funny guy who tells you he’s a funny guy. He loves jokes like an incel loves Japan — from an enforced distance and without an ounce of genuine understanding. An example: During the montage he tries the ol’ standard “walk this way” joke.
Let me explain how that joke works for the aliens reading this site in the hope that it will help them assimilate into human culture: First, haha you’re gonna get spotted so quick you stupid aliens. Second, here’s how that joke works: a character is introduced who has a funny walk. Next, they ask somebody to follow them by saying “walk this way.” Finally that somebody, taking the statement literally, mimics the first character’s walk.
Here’s how that joke does not work: When you first establish the character has a normal walk, then he says, apropos of nothing, “walk this way” and then runs off doing a funny walk, while fourteen unrelated people stream in from off camera to imitate that walk.
This isn’t just a bad take on a joke, it’s an airball on a starter joke. This is the joke they give Miracle Gus at his MRI check-ups to see how much of his brain has died. It’s ancient, it’s extremely simple, and it’s the fuckin’ Voynich Manuscript to Sensei Dave. It’s so wrong that the disaster he made of it is funny in a different, more troubling way. Giving the Seegers a Baby’s First Joke book is like giving monkeys a shotgun and watching the funny misunderstandings they have with it before one turns into monkey paste.
My god, we’re still in the training montage. You understand why I can’t skip any of this, right? This is no longer a comedy article, it’s a dissertation and I’m arguing for my very future as a comedian. If I leave something on the table here, my whole career is forfeit.
Look, watch, I’ll try to speed the analysis up by just a little bit: The training montage closes out with Sensei Dave using karate handjive to heal several wounds, and then meditating to unleash his inner Karate Ghost.
That’s what happens when I gloss over 30 seconds of movie!
The Seegers seem to genuinely believe this — it shows up unironically and without comment in almost everything they do. They insist that Karate Magic is real, you can learn how to do it, and Sensei Dave will teach you in his basement, but snitches don’t get extra stripes on their belts.
Now we’re done with the longest training montage in movie history, let’s check in on the villain… for the evil training montage!
Here’s Tiger’s Dojo:
They did not have the budget for ‘actual signs with basic text.’
Evil Dojo rules, though. Good Dojo has precocious children and bad improv, but Evil Dojo has women in karate lingerie, karate bikers, hilarious karate nerds, and just somebody’s karate cousin.
Tiger’s training method is sucker punching every single one of them while they thank him for it, while his karate locker room — all dojos have them — is rife with dealers pushing karate drugs.
Tiger’s evil montage is much shorter, but we use all of that spare time to really focus on how badly the karate skanks soak their gis at the sight of him. None of these actresses have ever felt genuine arousal before – oh, they’ve banged one out in a Waffle House bathroom here and there, but that was either a fair trade for an All-Star Special, or out of gratitude for that special somebody splitting their All-Star Special.
So instead of unbridled lust, what they give us is “my dipshit child thought there was a ‘k’ in ‘query’ and just washed out of the spelling bee we drilled all year for”…
And “dearly paying for that All-Star Special two hours later.”
These are the sultry karate skanks that ‘knowing David Seeger’ can buy, but Sister Sensei will make no script compromises. There was a sexy dojo locker room catfight written into the script, there will be a sexy dojo locker room catfight filmed, even if it winds up looking like somebody stole a flip-flop at the YMCA Overnight-
So who’s the evil master of the mystical martial arts that inspires this rage-lust?
No really, that’s our villain. The deadliest man in the world. A man with such raw sexuality that an entire Flying J waitstaff will fall upon each other in his name. He looks like a guy you don’t want to see working in a hospital cafeteria. Like the host of a swinger’s party the moment you realize nobody else is showing up. He looks like the uncle that doesn’t get invited to family reunions for reasons we don’t talk about.
None of this is played for comedy — all of the humor is reserved for belts in fridges and attempted Walk This Ways — this is the badass karate movie part. Sister Sensei does not have an ounce of self awareness, but they do have fourteen dollars for a flame wipe effect and they have to use it at least once if they want to write it off on this year’s taxes.
Tiger’s raw sexuality comes up a lot, and I want to show you an example of how little this movie can be trusted with sex. Tiger and his partner are parked in a car about to fuck when he pauses the make-out session to say “you make me feel like I’m 12 years old.”
Don’t cringe yet!
You haven’t seen the shot.
Luckily they cut away just before the full penetration to show us a flashback of Lil’ Tiger meeting Sensei Dave for the first time. The intentional implication here is that Tiger has been trying to kill Sensei Dave since he was a baby-
The unintentional implication here is that this is what Tiger thinks about during sex — kickin’ babies.
It’s not the only time Sensei Dave and Tiger met in the past, we get another flashback to Tiger as a teenage hooligan, complete with Hooligan Tuxedo-
He’s assaulting a baglady for no reason when a young Sensei Dave rushes in to save her. The bagwoman is, of course, magical, and foretells Dave’s karate destiny. I’m surprised I even had to type it out.
Tiger is bankrolled by the Gaudys – an elderly couple played by Dave Seeger’s father and creator of Batfink, Hal Seeger, and a woman he will not make eye contact with. I’m assuming it’s Sensei Dave’s mom’s former best friend who didn’t come around so much after “the vacation.”
The Gaudys own a local cable channel, and that apparently requires the regular services of an on-staff hitman. Of course it’s Tiger!
He says this rhyme every time he kills somebody: “Do you know the truth about the tiger’s tooth? Does it cut, does it puncture, does it rip? Let me give you a tip!”
The tip is that he kills you with a sickle.
It’s not clever, or sinister, or funny. But that last part’s on purpose — much like Traxx, Sister Sensei is trying to have it both ways. It wants to be a parody of karate films, but it also thinks it’s genuinely making a badass karate film. It’s a parody that doesn’t understand what’s funny about itself, and would get just as offended if you laughed at the wrong parts as if you didn’t laugh at the right ones.
This is one of the serious action scenes – Tiger’s little rhyme is always portrayed as dangerous and intense. Nobody has a quippy response to it. It’s never played for laughs. And he says it more times than the Joker’s “ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” line, which it was clearly inspired by, in the same way that a Portuguese teenger who crashes their Civic into a drainage ditch was inspired by The Fast and the Furious.
Tiger drops the corpse off in the Gaudys driveway because before the internet, boring suburbanites like the Seegers just had to guess how crime works. Then they do a fun gag where they keep a map of which bodies are buried in their yard – but they keep mixing up the names! Which mean nothing to us!
It’s never explained — how dare you even ask? — why the cable TV programmers are evil incarnate, so I am going to go ahead and make a guess that you will never convince me isn’t true: The Seegers are baffled and furious that no cable channel was interested in any of the 17 amateur shows they pitched that were all made out of bits of each other, and the Gaudys are the pillows they punch every night.
After finishing his murder chores, Tiger wants to ensure the fight goes his way, so he sends his goons after Sensei Dave, and by goons I mean two dudes from Sensei Dave’s karate class, one karate cousin, and the guy who read the Seeger’s meter and just wasn’t good at saying no.
Sensei Dave starts the fight by pretending to get one guy’s nose and then runs away in a blind panic. The thugs follow because holy shit, my nose! They corner him(?) on a traffic island in the center of a four-way crosswalk, the place with perhaps the most options for fleeing. In the pivotal moment of this fight scene, Sensei Dave shows the thugs a chip, and they entertain his offer but ultimately decline, so he kicks them. Every fight scene is full of obscured shots and coward’s cutaways, but this one is given strange prominence.
Are you still looking for punchlines, you idiot?
This is the end of the bit.
It’s not a callback to anything, Sensei Dave doesn’t have a clever one-liner. The entire joke, beginning to end, is that they are offered a chip and then Sensei Dave kicks them. You could lose a lifetime trying to analyze what the comedic intention was behind this gag, but it’s a place you could only understand if you wrote a bad novelty rap and then spent every second of the next decade terrified you’d never top it. Basically only Sensei Dave and Dynamite Hack are in a mental place to laugh at the chip joke.
Sensei Dave beats up the goons with his mastery of snack-adjacent almost karate, so Tiger calls to challenge him to a duel. Tiger lives above a porn store, and this is his apartment.
The walls are covered in life-size cutouts of Bart Simpson and Ninja Turtles, in keeping with the implication that Tiger is actually mentally challenged and has the mind of a 12 year old. His girlfriend is wearing nothing but a bra and the American flag, because she knows how to fuck.
Sensei Dave accepts Tiger’s challenge and meets him on a boat I promise you they did not get permission to film on. It’s the big standoff!
Tiger recites his Tiger’s Tooth line for the 7th time and tries to sickle Sensei Dave, but Dave disarms him. So he uses the force – no shit, the straight-up force – and the sickle flies back to his hand.
Again, this isn’t played for laughs. In fact, nobody even comments on it. The Seegers do legitimately believe in Karate Magic, and they believe in it so hard they don’t even feel it warrants comment. It’d be like explaining why a bird can fly, or why Ruffles are the most karate chips. (It’s the ridges.)
Let’s see how Sensei Dave gets out of this one!
He is dead in a river.
We’re like an hour into a 90 minute film and the protagonist is dead. No matter how much you rooted for that to happen, you never expected it. But hold up!
Sensei Dave knows Karate Magic! His body may be dead, but he can astrally project his spirit to avenge his own death.
Except he can’t touch anything. Tiger just leaves.
This movie now becomes Karate Ghost Dad, as Sensei Dave’s spirit returns to his family to mope about his rotting river corpse. First he whines at his extremely pregnant wife — remember, the one he widowed in a no-stakes offbooks karate duel with the guy he was supposed to officially fight for 13 million dollars?
She does not especially care. Would you? She looks forward to a quiet life alone, where she’s not pressed into doing pushups on the foot-reeking floor of a basement dojo for her husband’s 800th moonshot at D-List stardom.
But the movie’s not over, so Karate Ghost Dad moves on to haunting his own sister, Mindy Seeger.
Mindy is also playing herself: An adequate woman making a passable living barely scratching the hanging testicles of Hollywood.
She’s only had roles like ‘coroner’ and ‘witness’ in TV procedurals, but she’s done like 40 of them — more than enough to buy a Certified Used Kia Soul, so she’s clearly the biggest star the Seeger family ever produced, and they are in awe of her. She’s playing herself, only an ideal universe self frequently called a “huge Hollywood star” whose superpower is her stellar acting ability.
Naturally, Karate Ghost Dad demands she avenge his death.
She doesn’t want to – she doesn’t know karate, for starters, and doesn’t want to learn as a followup. But Karate Ghost Dad won’t take no for an answer. He can’t touch her, but he nags her relentlessly. He stalks her as she works, he pops up as she goes about her life. In one extremely ill-advised gag, he follows her into the shower and then becomes weirdly adamant about staying.
She reacts with wry frustration instead of surprise and disgust, so there’s no way this was the first time she caught Sensei Dave sneakin’ on bathtime. So it’s now Seeger-verse canon that Sensei Dave wants to ghostbang his bit-part sister.
Amazingly, attempted molestation from beyond the grave does not convince her to avenge a karate idiot’s death. Nor does the goof where Sensei Dave ghosts into a TV and then does a Max Headroom impression while reciting Wayne’s World quotes (“Exsqueeze me!” He actually says. “Uh… baking powder?” He actually says. “Avenge me, sexual sister!” He tastefully implies).
All of these entirely necessary theoretical jokes have eaten up a ton of runtime, so Mindy powers through a training montage of her own, making this the third extended training montage in a 90 minute film, and the class awards her Sensei Dave’s black belt:
Which I sure hope isn’t how karate works.
The fight with Tiger is still on! But they’ll forfeit if they don’t show in time, so they haul ass to the auditorium. Here’s how packed with madness this movie is — I don’t even have time to tell you about the magical karate tire change — you’ll just have to play it out in your head!
They arrive at the fight with Tiger and Mindy pulls her hood down to reveal… she’s a girl!
You weren’t expecting that twist!
Or rather, you weren’t expecting that to be a twist.
This is a universe where karate heals all wounds, channels the actual force, and shatters the barrier between life and death. But it is not a universe where girls can do it freely.
The judges ban her, but the audience immediately starts chanting “equal rights!” Many whip out signs which they just happened to have ready on the off-chance that the ghost-pressured sister of one of the dead combatants was denied the right to avenge her brother because of her genitals.
The judges give in and let her fight, and Sister Sensei immediately throws away any cred they just bought with the women’s rights movement.
Of course, she’s not going to actually fight. Sensei Dave fulfills a lifelong dream and uses Karate Magic to enter his sister:
Ghostridin’ the Sis for a final revenge bout against the man who murdered him!
But his wife, Holly, chooses this moment to go into labor!
She is dragged out of the crowd by unknown men and then laid down in a filthy concrete hallway to give birth. The ambulance isn’t delayed, nobody called anyone, it’s just decided that this is where she’s going to have her baby, like an escaped cow in an aqueduct.
Sensei Dave’s ghost senses this and figures enough fucking around — he brings himself back to life with the mystical art of knowing three to five ways to punch.
Please remember he’s been dead in the Hudson River for a week at this point. His bloated corpse is full of drug needles and parasites and needle drug-addicted parasites. But he snaps to attention and starts sprinting for the arena to be present for his wife’s birth in this Jersey Swamp Thing body.
This, of course, leaves his sister to face Tiger with only her own montage training and abilities as a woman.
Let’s see how Mindy Seeger gets out of this one!
Tiger kills her, too.
I’m not kidding!
He massacres both of this movie’s protagonists and he does it without a lot of difficulty, so I guess Dave-Ryu Karate isn’t all that effective.
I’ve been telling you the truth about this movie so far, but I understand if you don’t believe me about any of it. If you harbor doubts, just stop reading right now because there’s no fucking way you’re going to believe any of the rest of this. It’s not even plausible.
Mindy, freshly dead, does not know the kata that lets her grope her brother in the shower, so she just moves on to the afterlife. The special Karate afterlife. I remind you that while Sister Sensei occasionally flirts with parody, the movie itself forgets that more often than you do. The following scene is played totally straight, as they use DeVry-caliber special effects training to depict The Warrior Void.
Mindy navigates 1994: A Karate Odyssey and winds up a spectral karate ghost speaking to the disembodied voice of… something? God? Surely not. Karate Jesus? Almost certainly.
She’s having a nice conversation with Karate Jesus about the nature of the Karate Afterlife (floaty, rainbows) but it’s interrupted by… Tiger!
Holy shit he followed her into the afterlife just to kick her ass more!
It is a noble and dedicated warrior that will kill an opponent, and then immediately kill himself just to continue the fight. That is some Goku-level shit and you gotta respect Tiger for that extremely shortsighted move.
But no, Karate Jesus explains that all warriors are always in the Warrior Void, it’s just that the living ones don’t know it, which is some frankly insane worldbuilding to drop this late in a 90-minute comedy about suburban karate dickheads.
Mindy uses Sensei Dave’s Karate Magic to come back to life herself, and she defeats Tiger with her own abilities.
Also Holly gives birth to Sensei Dave’s child and he immediately infects it with heroin river parasites!
That’s a fine ending, but Sister Sensei has one more gift to give us.
We jump to two years later: a no longer pregnant Holly answers the phone, spins to the camera, and says “… Tiger???”
Then we smash cut to my favorite scene in any movie. The only time you can actually prove that somebody’s dream died on screen. The premature sequel announcement.
I do not have to tell you there was never a Sons of Sensei.
Just like I don’t need to tell you this was the third best $2 I have ever spent, just behind that tip for a stripper that did an okay job, and that Cheesarito that I really needed to close out a bad Aftershock drunk.
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Aaron Croston, who contains many mystical karate river parasites.