Kenneth Tanaka, commonly known as Ken, is the former coach of the McKinley Titans. He is replaced by Shannon Beiste at the start of Season Two due to having a nervous breakdown. He is the former fiancé of Emma Pillsbury.
He is portrayed by Patrick Gallagher.
Ken is seen in the teacher's lounge, where he complains about the disappearance of the coffee pot. He says hello to Emma and says she didn't show up for a mixer he asked her out to. He asks Emma out yet again, to a car show. She admits she has been making up excuses when he asks her out and that she doesn't want to go out with him. Ken gets frustrated and rubs spit on her car. He allows Will to talk to the football ball team about joining glee club. He is seen lecturing Finn about being in New Directions, confronting Will about stealing his quarter back, and using a shredder while glaring at Will and staring at Emma. He is also seen buying marijuana from Sandy. (Pilot)
Ken sees Emma and Will nearly kiss during Will's janitorial shift. Ken approaches Emma at lunch and tells her he saw what she did with Will, and that she should stop wasting her time pursuing a married man, and about how he thinks he would be suitable for her. She agrees to go out with him. (Showmance)Ken sits with Henri, Sandy, Will, and Howard Bamboo in the teacher's lounge. They celebrate Henri's birthday and complain about how miserable they think their lives are. They sing For He's a Jolly Good Fellow to Henri and realize they sound good singing together. Ken rehearses This Is How We Do It and kicks Sandy out of the group with them in Will's living room. They all suggest names for their newly founded a cappella group, including Ken, but settle on 'Acafellas'. Ken later performs Poison with the rest of Acafellas at a sports bar, in which he performs a short solo and background vocals. The Acafellas are happy about a good review of their performance in the newspaper, in which Ken's baritone is complimented. Ken has trouble when Will attempts to teach dance moves, and thinks Emma is breaking up with him when she tells him that Henri has quit the group. Ken is not pleased when Howard and Henri have quit. Puck requests to join Acafellas, and Ken lets him join, but threatens to punch Puck if he messes up his love life. Ken and the Acafellas later perform I Wanna Sex You Up. (Acafellas)
Ken screams at the football team's kicker and puts him in charge of hydration services. After Kurt's tryout, Ken declares him the new kicker and says that Kurt can wear a tutu at games for all he cares, as long as he performs well. Ken and Will try and help the team out, by having Kurt teach them a dance routine. Just before the football game that night, Ken rubs and blows on his whistle for good luck. He is frustrated during the game when the McKinley team makes mistakes, resulting in touchdowns for the opposing team. He pats Kurt comfortingly before Kurt has to kick, and is joyful when the team wins the game. (Preggers)
Ken is seen explaining a play to the football team. Ken walks into the office of Terri, the new school nurse, and expresses his concern that Emma may be in love with Will. Terri convinces him to propose to Emma. He is nervous, so Terri gives him decongestant. He proposes to Emma in the teachers lounge, and she tells him she'll answer later. The two meet in the lockers of the football team and discuss the matter. Emma accepts his proposal, but with a long list of conditions. (Vitamin D)
Ken and Emma ask Will for dance lessons and a mash-up for their wedding. When Will and Emma fall on top of each other when rehearsing for the wedding, Ken sees it and gets very mad. He makes the football players that are in the glee club to choose between glee club and football. Will tries to talk him out of it, but it doesn't work. Later, Finn talks Ken into allowing football players to be in the glee club as well. (Mash-Up)
Ken tells Will their wedding is on the following Saturday. (Ken set the wedding on that day to stop Emma from attending Sectionals). (Mattress)
Ken is furious when Emma tells him she is attending Sectionals. He then breaks up with her. (Sectionals)
Finn says he wishes he could be more like Ken who lost Emma but is doing fine, besides pulling a Jessica Simpson and gaining 40 pounds and not been showering ever since. (Hell-O)
In his final appearance, Ken confronts Will about his actions on cheating on Emma, since it has circled the whole school everyone knows. (Bad Reputation)
After being upset that Will had turned her down, Shannon Beiste was shown that she had an online interest herself and that person was none other than Ken Tanaka. Will had set up an "eHarmony" type site on "eSymphony" and he responded to her. At this point, Ken is now a Drivers Ed instructor and living in Medford, Oregon. (Shooting Star)
Despite his age, Ken is an obvious jock. Aggressive, loud, unkempt and a little dimwitted, he often seems to treat people around him like his players on the football team. Whenever he becomes passionate about something, he goes all in, and will push it until he succeeds or until his failure is so obvious and complete that he has no other choice than to let go. All this shows Ken to be a very emotional man (although he'll deny it), and often he lets his emotions run away with him.
As such, this can cause him a great number of problems regarding those he interacts with. For example, although Emma made it clear for a long time that she barely tolerated him, Ken continued to push her to date him, until at last she conceded more because she felt he was the best she could do, rather than because she had grown to like him. Unfortunately, despite Ken's attempt to be the best boyfriend/fiance Emma could ask for, even he could see she was in love with someone else, which resulted in him having a series of jealous outbursts.
Ken is also can be extremely immature in how he handles things. When he felt Will was actively trying to steal Emma from him, Ken took it out on the Football players who were associated with Glee, trying to force them into quitting Glee or get kicked off the team.
Despite his more undesirable traits, when Terri called him "kind and generous," Emma did not correct her.
- Main article: Emma-Ken Relationship
In Vitamin D, Ken suggests that they see each other when she visits his office to counteract the "affair" that Will and Emma are supposedly having, but Terri declines.
- He lived at the YMCA before moving to Oregon.
- He owns only one pair of long pants.
- According to Emma, he has 74 flaws.
I'm a good man, Emma. I'll treat you right, put up with all your crazy. They can't fire me because I'm a minority, so I'll always be able to provide for you. You could do a lot worse, and in this town, you're not going to do much better. Okay, I'm done talking now.
Ken: Emma Pillsbury, this is not an engagement ring.
I want the Thong Song. I was something I can shake my money maker to.
Finn: Hey, Coach, can I talk to you about something?