How Chuck Norris Facts gave birth to the modern meme
ON A BORING FRIDAY night in 2005, Ian Spector was sitting at his computer, unable to get ahold of any of his real-life friends. So, the high school senior eventually got antsy and decided to connect with his virtual friends instead.
What happened next is the internet equivalent of Marie Curie discovering radium, or Thomas Edison inventing the telegraph. Ian Spector was about to become one of the internet’s first meme kingmakers.
That night, he logged onto SomethingAwful.com, a kind of pre-Reddit Reddit full of high school and college-aged hell-raisers who’d grown up stealing music on Napster, listening to the Jerky Boys make prank phone calls and matching funny photos with one-liners to goof around.
They were memes, even if people didn’t commonly use that word at the time. Believe it or not, the site is still active. But you can smell the dust on it.
“It was a group of people who probably wouldn’t ever want to hang out in person in real life,” Spector says. “But they did want to hang out there.”
As Spector scrolled through the constant stream of new forums and new comments on old forums, he was struck by one particular thread. It was titled “Facts about Vin Diesel,” and he was intrigued that there were eight pages of comments. He was even more intrigued when he began scrolling through and realized that they weren’t actual facts about Diesel. They were absurdist jokes, like “Vin Diesel counted to infinity — twice” and “Superman wears Vin Diesel pajamas to bed.” Some had funny pictures of Diesel that amplified the joke.