On SNL this weekend, there was a short from The Lonely Island called Young Chuck Norris. It was remarkably funny, and it was also remarkably similar to my former Star Trek co-worker Dennis Madalone’s video called America We Stand As One. In fact, it’s a little too similar. When I was done laughing, I wondered, "Did they just rip Dennis off?"
Maybe I was just touchy, and still reeling from those Apple commercials that were, uh, "inspired" by The Postal Service and sent shockwaves of indifference across the Internets . . . until a friend of mine pointed out the following creepy similarities between YCN and AWSAO (Don’t be afraid of needless acronyms. Acronymns are your friend, man. AAYF):
- patriotic shirt
- completely rockin' attitude
- brown jacket
- spending time with children for no reason
- rock climbing
- long flaxen hair on his head
- long flaxen hair as his mantra
- awesome knee bandana
- beach-side action
- american flag scarf
That’s an awful lot of similarities. It’s almost too many to be coincidental. Now, there’s a very fine line between parody and stealing, and as a sketch comedy writer I walk it myself. When I do a parody sketch, I always make sure the audience knows what the source material is, but it’s (hopefully) funny because of the original writing. I thought that Young Chuck Norris was funny because of all the images and themes, and those images and themes are straight out of Dennis’ video. Is it a parody, silently giving a nod to America We Stand As One? Or is it a moderately funny idea taken to the heights of hilarity with the addition of some long flaxen hair, an awesome knee bandana, and a completely rockin’ attitude?
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time someone’s done a parody of
Dennis’ well-meaning but unintentionally hilarious song and video, and I want to believe that The Lonely Island is doing a level seven parody, instead of a level two rip off job, because they are producing some of the funniest stuff that’s been on SNL in years, (without The Lonely Island, we’d never know that Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious, for example, and I think our lives would all be a little less awesome) and they’re an incredibly talented group of writers and performers who have embraced Creative Commons, and didn’t get discouraged when those luddites at Fox didn’t understand how awesome it was in Awesometown. In fact, I bet those Philistines at Fox have never had Mr. Pibb or Red Vines. Jerks.
But if they were, uh, "inspired" by Dennis’ totally rockin’ attitude and patriotic shirt, I think they should give him some credit. Because I heard that Dennis owns some Chuck Norris pajamas, sleeps with a night light, and has a roundhouse kick that is second only to a Chuck Norris Roundhouse kick, but comes with an awesome knee bandana and a completely rockin’ attitude.