Chuck Norris to roundhouse kick bookstores this month

By
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ian Spector ’09 is not a fan of Chuck Norris, the fetishized action star who has been the subject of thousands of jokes over the last few years.

“I haven’t to date seen any movie with him except for Dodgeball,” Spector said. “But that doesn’t really count.”

For most people, it might not be notable to have never seen an episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” but Spector is the creator of the famous Web site “Chuck Norris Random Fact Generator,” and is releasing a book, “The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World’s Greatest Human,” Nov. 29 that includes the best “facts” from his database.

Though several imitations have sprung up on the Web, peddling jokes about Chuck Norris’ virility and fighting skills, Spector’s is widely acknowledged as the first. Indeed, he has been featured in numerous newspapers and on television shows including “Nightline” and a VH1 special on Internet superstars.

“I don’t want to be branded as an Internet superstar, but I was number (29)out of 40,” he said. At the site’s peak, during the winter of 2005-2006, it was pulling in 18 million hits per month, he said.

Publishers first approached Spector during the spring of 2006, when the site was very popular. Though he turned them down then, he was later persuaded to write a book of the site’s best “facts” when the William Morris Agency approached him that summer. Eventually, he began working with Gotham Books, a division of the Penguin Group, and is no longer represented by the William Morris Agency.

Spector said he actually wrote the manuscript in one night. He started writing around 10 p.m. one November night and finished at about 8 a.m. the next morning. Originally, he was told to pick 250 of the best facts from the Web site, but the project soon ballooned to include 400 of the site’s jokes.

“I knew I didn’t want to include too many vulgar things involving genitalia or infants,” Spector said. “Anything that is really vulgar or hard-core probably wasn’t approved by me. But if that’s what they think will sell, it’s fine by me.”

Though Spector does not have the same fascination with Norris that may be shared by many of his site’s visitors, he did get to meet the man himself in January 2006 at the invitation of the action star’s wife. Norris is not affiliated with the Web site or the book.

Because most of the book’s content came directly from his Web site, Spector said he is unsure whether he should be considered a bona fide author. “People say now that I’m considered an author because I wrote a 20-page intro that got cut down to eight pages and copied and pasted a bunch of stuff off of my Web site,” he said. “That makes me an author? That’s not what I think of when I think of an author.”

In addition to the jokes, Spector’s book features illustrations by Angelo Vildasol, who had previously worked on a book by the Internet-humor fixture Maddox. Spector recounted how the elusive Vildasol, who lives in Colorado, would e-mail him with updates on the project at 6 a.m. some days. The two have never met in person.

The site relies on visitor-submitted jokes to populate the “fact generator.” During its peak, Spector said the site received thousands of submissions a day. Though he couldn’t say how many of the jokes he wrote himself, he stressed that he – along with a few friends who helped him run the site when it was at its greatest popularity – had to rewrite most of the submissions to make sure they were actually funny. This attention was likely responsible for the site’s popularity, he said.

“As it was progressing, there was a lot of quality control. Our acceptance rate was about 5 percent,” he said.

J.P. Reader, a bookseller at the Brown Bookstore, also cited the surprisingly high quality of the humor as the reason for the site’s fame. “I was surprised because I don’t usually find pop culture references funny,” he said. “I haven’t looked at it in about four months but it was definitely a work-stopper. … There are some Chuck Norris things that were actually subtle even though they are absurd claims.”

So if none of the “facts” are actually true, then why a “fact generator” about Chuck Norris?

“Weird obsession pretty much nails it,” Spector said. “There’s something about the obscurity of him that people find funny.”