Ultimate Badass: Why Chuck Norris Jokes Are Even Funnier Six Years Later
Ian Spector didn't expect to create a cottage industry by making up "facts" about Chuck Norris like the one claiming the action star has 600 miles of black belts in his home.
But when opportunity knocks, you don't respond with a roundhouse kick.
Well, Chuck Norris might. The mythical Chuck Norris who, according to the "facts" compiled by Spector, once actually made it rain cats and dogs just so he could solve a mouse problem.
History suggests that the "Chuck Norris is the ultimate badass" meme actually started in 2005 when Conan O'Brien started making "Walker: Texas Ranger" jokes whenever a joke bombed.
However, it was Spector who turned a website of fictional facts about the man, the myth, the legend into a huge Internet success story that paid off for him when he got a book deal while still majoring in cognitive neuroscience at Brown University.
"It was an accident," he admitted to AOL Weird News. "I was working on an entreprenuerial project, but when a major book publisher offers you money, you take it."
Spector has just released his fourth book on Norris, "The Last Stand of Chuck Norris: 400 All-New Facts About The Most Terrifying Man in the Universe" (Gotham Books), which includes new findings about Norris.
For instance, did you know that only God is allowed to edit Chuck Norris' Wikipedia page? Or that when Chuck Norris claps with one hand, the sound is deafening? How about this one: Chuck Norris can ignore the call of nature for 36 hours, but he can never ignore the call of duty.
Some might think the public would tire of hearing dubious details about Norris -- and Spector is one of them.
"I do see this is having a shelf life," Spector said. "But I'm really surprised at how intensely people feel for him and these jokes. But I'm not a Chuck Norris fan. I've only seen one film of his and he sued me after the first book."
There was eventually a settlement that allows the publishing of facts while letting Norris control his brand.
"I guess he didn't want a whole book of dick jokes," Spector said.
Too late! According to Spector's new book, Norris has nicknamed his testicles "the good, the bad and the ugly," and his orgasms have been known to trigger avalanches throughout Europe, volcanic eruptions around the Pacific Rim and violent political unrest across Tatooine.
Although Spector says he's surprised the Chuck Norris "facts" have lasted, he thinks they succeed because there is a forumula for making them work.
"You take something normal and combine it with something crazy," he said.
A perfect example: Chuck Norris visited the Virgin Islands. Now they're just the Islands.
There's another factor that might be best termed "red state/ blue state."
"If you're a fan of Chuck Norris, you'll like this book," Spector promised. "But it's just as funny if you're not."
Spector is surprised that many people do consider Chuck Norris to be the ultimate badass based on the jokes he's helped propagate.
"A lot of people only became aware of him after the jokes became popular," he said.
He may have a point, says Los Angeles-based branding expert Grant Powell.
"The jokes may have been the best thing that's ever happened to Chuck Norris' career," Powell said. "They're so over-the-top. They wouldn't work for, say, Steven Seagal because Norris takes himself so seriously that he doesn't take himself seriously."
Still, Powell understands Norris' concerns over Spector's book. "If the jokes run out of steam, it could affect the brand," he said.
No effort was made to contact Norris for this article because, to paraphrase a John Updike quote, gods don't answer fan mail.
However, Leslie Greif, the creator of "Walker: Texas Ranger" says there are ample reasons why testosterone-fueled "facts" (like this one: "Chuck Norris designed the first Ed Hardy shirt when he ran out of douchebags to kill") still strike a resonance in fans and fear in the hearts of evil men.
"Every culture needs heroes," Greif explained. "And he's the only true authentic actor who was a five-time world martial arts champion."
Unlike Spector, Greif believes the jokes will have staying power, much like the Greek myths of Hercules or tall tales like Paul Bunyan.
Part of that, he concedes, is the fact that the name "Chuck Norris" just sounds tough.
"For that reason, I think that people who don't know who Chuck Norris is will still find the Chuck Norris jokes funny," he said.
Comedian Jay Thomas, who is best known as Eddie LeBec on "Cheers" and currently hosts a talk show on Sirius satellite radio, isn't so sure.
"I think you have to know who Chuck Norris is to get these jokes," he said. "Part of it, he's this little guy -- 5-foot, 4 inches -- he's not a great actor and he's so serious that it's funny. If I know my kids, I think they will hoard these books for 40 years and then they will put out the jokes themselves using someone else's name."
Comedy writer Pat Gorse, who writes for Radio Online and has worked with Rodney Dangerfield and "The Tonight Show," thinks Norris' lack of public response -- other than his lawsuit against Spector -- is the best response.
"If you don't get pissed, you don't look ridiculous -- even if it is ridiculous," he said.
Whether the jokes disappear from the public consciousness or are handed to future generations, like Helen Keller jokes, remains to be seen. Still, Spector has made a name for himself as the go-to guy for celebrity brand recognition.
"People are aware of what I do now," he said. "And a couple of weeks ago, I was approached to discuss doing similar things for other celebrities."
How will Norris react?
Don't know, but according to Spector's book, "celebrities die in threes because for Chuck Norris, killing one celebrity is never enough."