America, Young Chuck Norris Stands As One

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):

- bluejeans
- 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.

30 thoughts on “America, Young Chuck Norris Stands As One”

  1. It is amazing the commonness of the problem of plagiarism in our country today. As one who has been through the endless struggle of writing week after week, digging through the piles of books in order to get post-graduate education credits, and working hard to “give each author his/her due”, it is difficult to see how the activity of overtly “borrowing” from others without giving credit has become a racket in its own right! Looking back on a long history of authorship, however, it is not a new practice. Only, for our time, copying from an author is not an honor (as it was for the ancient Greeks, et al), but a sacrilege. With luck, no one will ever do this to you.
    In addition, I really enjoyed your “Radio Free Burrito Episode 4″. Hopefully, I will be able to respond more thoroughly through e-mail as my thoughts continue to sift regarding my perspectives and questions on your podcast. It was very, well, “interesting…” Have a great evening, Wil.

  2. I think it’s much more likely that the similarities stem from a few specific items:
    1) They’re parodying the same kind of ridiculous over-the-top rock video in the first place, so the style is bound to be similar.
    2) I’m assuming YCN was done like “Lazy Sunday”, where they basically had one day to run out and shoot a bunch of footage in New York. So, you get some shots by the water… which aren’t THAT similar to the beach shots in AWSAO. And you get some shots in Central Park, which again bear only a passing resemblance to the AWSAO stuff. They basically shot the most interesting stuff near them, which happened to be water and park footage with rocks.
    All in all, I think the similarity list in your post is pushing it a bit trying to find commonality where not that much exists. Who knows, though?

  3. I agree with lilserf. YCN is obviously lampooning the type of rocker that might rhyme with Led Lugent or Neve Nerry.
    Since they’re both paroding a style of music, they’re bound to borrow a lot of the motifs that are common to that genre and that’s what I believe happened here.
    Now excuse me whilst I rock along with LimoZeen!

  4. It probably WAS stolen and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. So many people are desperate to come up with the next hot idea that they steal because their own ideas are so pathetic. That’s Entertainment!
    SIGH!
    Scott
    (Maybe I need a new day job!!!)

  5. Wil, was this post supposed to be a Joke?
    If not, I think your jumping at shadows. Whereas the Apple vs Postal Service situation has clear shot for shot copies, YCN and AWSAO doesn’t. The only similaties that you state are that both videos star generic rocker dudes (as has already been stated by lilserf and inturnaround). I mean come on, that your using the fact both videos starred men wearing bluejeans (i.e. pants) as a sign that thievery has occurred should show you how weak the case is.
    People do steal from one another, but this ain’t one of those times.

  6. I just went to the Lonely Island’s home page. Their logo for “The Heist” looks surprisingly like the logo for Wine (everyone’s favorite way of running Windows applications on Linux).
    See it at http://www.winehq.com – top left of the page.
    Granted, I haven’t listened to the song so maybe it’s a pro-open-source ballad and I’m off-base.

  7. It probably WAS stolen and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. So many people are desperate to come up with the next hot idea that they steal because their own ideas are so pathetic. That’s Entertainment!
    SIGH!
    Scott
    (Maybe I need a new day job!!!)

  8. It probably WAS stolen and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. So many people are desperate to come up with the next hot idea that they steal because their own ideas are so pathetic. That’s Entertainment!
    SIGH!
    Scott
    (Maybe I need a new day job!!!)

  9. It probably WAS stolen and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. So many people are desperate to come up with the next hot idea that they steal because their own ideas are so pathetic. That’s Entertainment!
    SIGH!
    Scott
    (Maybe I need a new day job!!!)

  10. I’d have to say that this is much more an homage to Tenacious D, something like their “Dio”, then it is to the clip you linked.
    That said, I don’t see much steal of either one in it, just good funny.

  11. Funny stuff. Not to SNL bash, but…
    1. Chuck Norris humor is not exactly cutting edge. Conan’s been doing it for a while, plus the internet of course continues to pave the way. Its been done.
    2. It looks and sounds like a poor man’s Jack Black project. Lets see Young Chuck Norris vs Wonderboy!

  12. You know, I didn’t quite see it as the rip-off you do.
    Big deal; like we agree on everything…
    But, if you’re going to do a rip-off scenario, you could borderline go against the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”.
    Then again, almost anything shot in Jersey 20+ years ago could very easily look like anything shot in Jersey… uhhh, you know…
    Today.
    Not to mention a lot of those 70s/80s “themes” are pretty easy to characterize–such as the glam rocker stuff. I mean, find me a Styx video where they didn’t all … yeah.
    Dunno. Don’t see the same connection, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
    Peace.

  13. I thought exactly the same thing that Wil did when he saw it, but I interpreted it less as a direct repurposing (which the Apple ad clearly was) than as an homage. I kept expecting to see a post-processed flag waving in the sky, but I guess the SNL crew didn’t have time to throw that in.
    I was trying to explain the similarity to “America, We Stand As One” to some friends who hadn’t seen the video and wound up just looking stupid. At least now I feel some vindication.

  14. Wow, I’m surprised that there wasn’t mention of how young chuck norris handled some of the situations. I loved how he beat up the thief and gave the woman’s purse back, then knocked her out as well….it had a priceless dynamic! Maybe he was implying guilt on her part…cause if she didn’t have the purse, the robbery would occur..
    (or maybe there was mention and i totally missed it) :)
    -D

  15. It’s Saturday Night Lying

    Wil Wheaton catches SNL ripping off Dennis Madalone. Note to Lorne Michaels: The shark just called and said quit jumping over him.

  16. I have to admit that when I first saw that SNL sketch, all I could think of was the America Stands as One video (which was infinitely more funny and disturbing).
    That being said, isn’t this whining about how your friend was ripped off on the other side of all the creative content wants to be free, creative commons, EFF stuff usually championed in forums like this?
    Content producers need to dictate the terms in which their content is used. Hipster downloaders are all for justifying their theft with that kind of garbage, but when it’s your (or your buddy’s) content getting swiped it’s a different story. Is it that much a leap that the unfunny dilettantes at SNL are the ones profiting instead of a bunch of poor defenseless consumers?
    Joachim.

  17. It is amazing the commonness of the problem of plagiarism in our country today. As one who has been through the endless struggle of writing week after week, digging through the piles of books in order to get post-graduate education credits, and working hard to “give each author his/her due”, it is difficult to see how the activity of overtly “borrowing” from others without giving credit has become a racket in its own right! Looking back on a long history of authorship, however, it is not a new practice. Only, for our time, copying from an author is not an honor (as it was for the ancient Greeks, et al), but a sacrilege. With luck, no one will ever do this to you.
    In addition, I really enjoyed your “Radio Free Burrito Episode 4″. Hopefully, I will be able to respond more thoroughly through e-mail as my thoughts continue to sift regarding my perspectives and questions on your podcast. It was very, well, “interesting…” Have a great evening, Wil.

  18. Hello,
    i’m from Germany.
    First i watched the SNL comendy version and its funny. But the Dennis Madalone’s video called America We Stand As One is also a kind of funny for a german. It’s because we are in germany not so patriotic.
    I assume the music video is not a comedy.
    If you try to make the same type of video in germany (with german fire fighters…) all peaple will think it’s ironic.
    funny thing
    bye Emzy

  19. I don’t understand how doing a parody of of Dennis Madalone’s video by taking its style and changing the subject to Chuck Norris constitutes plagiarism. Its a parody. I mean that’s what the Lazy Sunday video was, parodying a gangster rap video and changing the content to something banal for the genre using the standard comedic device of putting something in an unusual context. Which in and of itself isn’t groundbreaking, it was just well executed. The Madalone video is pretty well known on the internet and I mean if they copied someone else’s parody of the Madalone’s video or if that’s something different because you are playing off your analysis as being something original and essentially the function of a parody, and where any original creative content is imbued in it as a new work, is as a form of comedic analysis. But its implicit in a parody that you are copying something. I mean you can legally parody a song without getting rights to it, and the song doesn’t even sound that similar in the SNL video. And as far as giving credit where credit is due, the parody itself is the credit. I have never seen a parody, that wrote a disclaimer that announced “Parody of this previous existing work”. IF the complaint is that people won’t get the reference, my question is that really the job of a parody, to make sure there is no way for the audience to miss a reference, if so sucks for the “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” then.

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