You’ve probably heard at least one Chuck Norris joke. “There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live”; or “Every piece of furniture in Chuck Norris’s house is a Total Gym”; or “Chuck Norris once visited The Virgin Islands. Afterward, they were renamed The Islands.” There are thousands of them on the internet. But jokes like that last one, and others that are “racist, lewd or portray Mr. Norris as engaged in illegal activities,” are the reason that he filed a lawsuit against the author of The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World’s Greatest Human a year and a half ago. The book was written after the author’s Chuck Norris fansite became popular and Chuck Norris jokes became part of the vernacular.
Now, at the urging of the Christian publishing company that published his previous book, Chuck has dropped the lawsuit and will be writing a similar book with an autobiographical approach. Each joke will be followed by a 250-word story about why the joke has special meaning for him. The only known requirement about dropping the lawsuit is that during book signings, Norris will not sign the first book of Chuck Norris “facts.”
News of the book, which Mr. Farrar predicts will sell 100,000 copies in its first year, comes more than a year after Mr. Norris dropped an infringement lawsuit against the Gotham Books imprint of Penguin, which published a collection of spoofy factoids about “the world’s greatest human” based on a popular Internet meme started by then-undergraduate Ian Spector.
That book, which spent four weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, contained 400 so-called facts, all of them along the lines of “Chuck Norris can divide by zero” and “Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open.”
In December 2007 Mr. Norris filed a suit against Gotham, alleging that “some of the ‘facts’ in the book are racist, lewd or portray Mr. Norris as engaged in illegal activities.”
Gotham Books publisher Bill Shinker welcomed the suit at the time, arguing that the book was a plainly marked parody protected by the First Amendment. The lawsuit, Mr. Shinker said, would only help sell more copies of it.
Mr. Farrar said the idea for Mr. Norris to put out his own authorized take on the meme came from Tyndale. A six-figure deal, worth a sum somewhere in between $100,000 and $250,000, was struck this past May.
The book will be funny, according to Mr. Farrar, but it will also be more.
“The facts themselves will be humorous, but he will have basically a 250-word commentary on each fact,” said Mr. Farrar. “He talks about his movie career and different things that have happened to him in his life. He’ll take the humor as a jumping-off point.”
As for the lawsuit against Gotham, Mr. Farrar said we’d have to talk to Mr. Norris’s lawyer.
“I know there was a lawsuit at some point but I don’t know much about that,” Mr. Farrar said. “They have said that when they do signings in October that they won’t sign the other one.”
[from The New York Observer]
This is one of those sticky situations where first amendment rights get tangled up in the simple question of who gets the check. Yes, Ian Spector and many other Chuck Norris fans actually penned the jokes, but they are based on the name and persona of a character created by Chuck Norris himself. My first instinct is that it’s not about being “lewd” or “racist,” but about money. But considering that Chuck is an active member in many conservative groups (which has not made him friends in the gay community), highly religious, and promotes living a moral life, I wouldn’t be surprised if the insulting “facts” really were a deciding factor in the lawsuit – he wants to keep his image in his control. Dropping the lawsuit and then taking advantage of the Chuck Norris joke “genre” is probably the best thing for Chuck to do, and by far the most fair to all parties.
Chuck Norris and his wife, Gena, are shown on 2/11/09. Credit: WENN.com