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.
The idea was a half-homage, half-goof on Diesel, who was having an internet moment at the time. His new movie, "The Pacifier," featured him attempting to turn his muscular masculinity on its head by playing a monotoned Navy Seal who had to go undercover as a babysitter to protect a family.
Critics hated the movie but it grossed $200 million worldwide. And on computers around the world, snarky teenaged rabble-rousers loved piling on Diesel. There was something inherently hilarious about following the movie's example of juxtaposing Diesel's manliness with over-the-top "facts."
Spector was a brilliant kid, so savvy with computers that he taught an internet class for senior citizens when he was in third grade. As he got older, Spector became known as the kid who could rip R-rated comedy CDs for you. He used his web savviness to fit in, and slipping the cool kids a bootleg Chris Rock or Wanda Sykes album was the ultimate icebreaker.
That night, he laughed at the endless stream of jokes people were posting. Late into the evening, Spector began copying and pasting his favorites, somewhere around 50, into a primitive generator tool on his website. His site, 4Q.cc, was pretty rudimentary: A fact would pop up, then users would click a tab to randomly generate another one. He posted a link on SomethingAwful and went to bed.
In the morning, he woke up and was surprised that his dinky strewn-together site had exploded with 10,000 visits overnight. "Huh," he thought. "I might have something here."
His brain started cooking about building something around this strange phenomenon. He loved the jokes himself ... but couldn't quite get his head around why it provoked such a large audience response.
He shrugged his shoulders and kept pulling from SomethingAwful while also adding some of his own. His generator continued to rack up views for a month or two.
Just when interest seemed to have died down a bit, he posted a poll asking who would be a good person to sub in for Vin Diesel. The beauty of most of the jokes was that they weren't specific to Diesel. He thought it would be pretty seamless to have versions of his site that spit out "Samuel L. Jackson has punched people so hard that their blood bleeds" or "Dick Cheney uses pepper spray to season his meat." They all hovered around the basic concept of American uber-machismo in a way that both mocked and stoked it.
He put up about 10 options, including Cheney and Jackson, and he even included Paris Hilton just because it was peak Paris at the time. At the last minute, Spector threw in a write-in spot, too. Maybe his readers had some ideas?
They did. They had one big, bearded idea. When Spector sifted through the results, his eyebrows went up a bit. None of his 10 options got to double digits ... but there was a surprise write-in candidate who had 50-plus votes. To this day, Spector isn't sure if one person voted dozens of times, or dozens of people voted for the same guy.
Either way, Spector had a clear winner to try for future "facts," and he couldn't help but giggle as he began to type in the name "Chuck Norris" over and over again. The internet was a few minutes away from getting a roundhouse kick that changed it forever.
IN THE 1980s ACTION MOVIE BOOM, Chuck Norris was on the second tier of a wave of martial arts and fighting movies that would bank billions at the box office. Arnold Schwarzenegger led the way, with Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso probably belong in the conversation, too.
There was an athleticism behind each of them that captivated many sports fans, and it's no coincidence that the UFC emerged in 1993 with an organizing principle of "Which fighting style is the best?" The 1980s had primed the pump.
In retrospect, though, Norris was the only actual badass in the bunch.
Born Carlos Ray Norris, he served in the U.S. Air Force and developed an incredible arsenal of fighting skills. He eventually was awarded black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and Tang Soo Do. In fact, it's an actual Chuck Norris Fact that he later created his own martial arts discipline, Chun Kuk Do. (He did not, however, invent the giraffe by uppercutting a horse, as Spector would later allege on his site.)
In the late 1960s, Norris was living in Hollywood, training celebrities in martial arts, when he met an aspiring actor named Bruce Lee. They became friends and would often spar in epic battles. So when Lee asked Norris to be a villain in "Way of the Dragon," their memorable final fight scene was mostly improvised, with both men pulling from their many sparring sessions to create a huge grand finale -- and launch Norris toward movie stardom.
Norris spent the 1970s as the lead in mildly successful action movies before he got the starring role in 1984's "Missing in Action." It was a POW rescue fantasy, with clunky dialogue and nonstop violence. In other words, exactly what audiences wanted at the time. The movie made $52 million on a $3 million budget, setting up a prequel and a sequel. Norris' career was off and running.
But by the mid-1990s, the repetition of his movies -- all the fighting movies, actually -- seemed to have worn out movie crowds. Norris took a job on "Walker, Texas Ranger," a hokey but popular TV series about Norris having a badge as he spinning-back fisted criminals in the face. Walker ran for eight successful years. But as he hit his early 60s in the 2000s, ass kicking roles became a bit of a stretch -- even for Chuck Norris, a guy whose vehicles supposedly run on fear.
Right as Norris' star had begun to fade, Ben Stiller had an idea: What if the climactic scene of his next project, "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," centered around the one and only Chuck Norris? Norris said yes, and his thumbs-up ended up being a signature moment in the movie. Stiller's villainous character, White Goodman, spends the rest of the movie saying, "F--- Chuck Norris," as his life spirals out of control.
Dodgeball ended up being one of the surprise smash hits in the summer of 2004, and it was the ideal risqué movie for rowdy teenagers like Spector and the SomethingAwful crowd. They had all been in wombs or diapers for the "Missing in Action" era of Norris' popularity, but they'd caught enough of his supreme 'Merica masculinity from reruns of "Walker, Texas Ranger" to go "Oh yeah, I know that guy" when he popped up in Dodgeball. A Norris rebirth had begun.
In retrospect, Chuck Norris was the perfect fit for the Facts meme genre of comedy. Not as obvious as Vin Diesel or Samuel L. Jackson ... but well-known enough that there was an element of surprise when his name popped up. It's the difference between playing the "Let's remember some baseball guys" game with some friends and saying Ken Griffey Jr. or Nolan Ryan, versus Mackey Sasser or Dickie Thon or "Oil Can" Boyd. Deep cuts -- but not too deep -- are funnier.
The Norris Facts phenomenon came along at the exact moment when memes were emerging as what internet expert and historian Colin Lankshear calls "a new modern literacy." Lankshear is a professor and researcher from New Zealand who has lectured all over the world. He and his late wife, Michelle Knobel, wrote a slew of academic papers in the 2000s studying the rise of memes. They made the case that memes are an essential form of modern communication and that memes will sink political campaigns, shape the way we think about certain products and, of course, be instrumental in sports discourse for decades. They argued that for the foreseeable future, there's poetry, fiction, nonfiction, academic writing, business writing ... and memes.
Lankshear goes so far as to say maybe every elementary school class lesson should start with a meme. He believes that telling 25 third-graders in 2023 to crack open a textbook or look at a smartboard in the front of the class is setting up kids for failure. That's not how they've learned for the first chapter of their lives. They grow up on screens, with emojis and memes and GIFs and photos with short captions. Want to get them into a conversation about the Korean War or Beowulf? Start with a meme, then go to the textbook. "Print is still essential," he says. "But digital teaching amplifies and transcends what you can do with material text."
Lankshear considers Spector's Chuck Norris Facts to be one of the pioneers in bringing memes to life. But like many early memers, Spector had no idea of that influence as he moved into freshman housing at Brown. He left up the site with links to facts about both Diesel and Chuck Norris, and he later added Mr. T after a group of NASA system administrators reached out with 300 Mr. T facts they'd compiled.
Suddenly Spector's silly little Friday night whim was generating 20 million visits a month. He had cooked up one of the web's first viral memes, and like so many things with the internet, it is virtually impossible to plan or replicate. Who could have predicted Rickrolling? Arthur's clenched fist? The Spider-Man meme? That the internet would make the name "Karen" toxic?
Of all topics on the interwebs, sports has emerged as perhaps the most fertile ground for both meme usage as well as generating wild, unpredictable memes. Did you think you'd still be using James Harden's postgame interview side-eye? Or Alonzo Mourning's grit teeth head shake? The Undertaker sitting up in a coffin?
Crying Jordan is the unquestioned sports meme GOAT ... but most people forget that the meme began three years after he actually cried. And then one day, it just exploded when a frustrated Hornets fan dumped on MJ as GM in a single photo with a line of text saying "Why did I buy the Bobcats?"
Spector had stumbled into a seismic early version of the meme. The site continued to take off, and he came home from Brown after his first semester still a little baffled by his own creation. He remembers sitting in his parents' living room one night during the break, watching "Lost" and wondering what was in the hatch, when the phone rang.
"Ian, the phone is for you," his mom yelled.
"I'm watching something," Spector said. "I'll call them back."
Then she said something that made him forget all about the hatch. "Ian, pick up the phone," she said. "It's Chuck Norris' wife."
SPECTOR AND GENA O'KELLEY talked for about 15 minutes that night. She said she and Chuck had become aware of his website, and they were interested in meeting him. In that initial conversation, Spector couldn't quite get a read on exactly how Chuck felt about the popularity of his Facts. But the tone of the call was friendly and curious, not angry or gushing.
She said that Chuck had started an MMA promotion and would be holding an event in Connecticut in a few weeks. She knew that Spector's parents lived on Long Island, so she thought maybe it would be nice if they could all meet in Chuck's suite.
At first, Spector was a little leery. He admits he has periodic bouts of social anxiety, and he had some concern that Norris might confront him about the site. But his wife had been quite cordial on the phone. So how could he turn down meeting a man who had memorized the entire internet and refreshes websites by simply blinking?
A few weeks later, Spector found himself in an elevator in Connecticut, heading up to a casino suite. In photos from that day, he looks like the absolute last person on earth who would be a meme mogul of jokes about the hyper-masculine heroics of Chuck Norris. He was just a skinny kid, barely out of high school. Even now, he says he's not sure if he is a nerd or a geek. "Probably both," he finally suggests.
Gena opened the door and welcomed in the Spectors. It was the nicest hotel room Spector had ever seen, and she motioned him and his dad into the main area of the suite. She introduced him to a few members of Team Norris -- Spector thinks it was a lawyer or two, plus Norris' manager. And then he saw Chuck Norris himself, lounging on a loveseat.
Norris stood and extended his right hand toward Spector, who couldn't believe he was shaking hands with someone who could dribble a bowling ball. Part of Spector laughed a little inside, thinking about the handshake coming his way, and whether there were some jokes to mine about Chuck Norris' grip causing the Big Bang or a tsunami or something. It ended up just being a good, firm handshake that wouldn't have caused any dinosaurs to go extinct but will forever be etched in Spector's brain.
Norris looked much younger than his actual age (64), but he also was decades from the guy who sparred with Bruce Lee. Make no mistake, though: He was still Chuck freaking Norris. "He knows who he is," Spector says. "He wasn't as tall as you would think. But he still stood there in a way where he could have definitely killed anybody else in the room."
They hung out for about an hour. Spector felt jittery at first, but Gena gently drove most of the conversation. She asked about him and how he came up with the idea for the site, and as Spector talked, he noticed how she and Chuck had begun to spoon on the small couch together. "They were pretty lovey-dovey over there," Spector says.
The conversation was genial. They weren't going to be best friends, for sure. But it was never confrontational. When Norris talked, Spector felt like he seemed a little perplexed by how to feel about his own Facts. From their conversation that afternoon, he got the impression that Norris was mostly amused by the Facts and enjoyed being back in the spotlight. People were talking about Chuck Norris again, and it's hard to be mad that people think when you step on a Lego, the Lego cries.
One thing Team Norris didn't seem to like? They didn't own the Facts. "My site was just words on the internet," Spector says. "But they had a huge impact and they didn't really have any control over any of it."
Toward the end of the hourlong hangout, one of Norris' business people asked the Spectors to please not do anything to monetize Chuck Norris Facts. "If you're going to do anything that generates revenue, please don't -- or at least talk to us first," Spector was told.
As their time together wound down, Spector felt honored by how much the Norrises were asking him about his life -- they seemed genuinely interested in him. He thinks it might have been as simple as that. Or perhaps they were just as befuddled that an 18-year-old college freshman was sitting here, talking about a concept that had commandeered the internet and boosted Norris' stardom overnight more than any team of managers and publicists could have come up with.
One of Spector's enduring images of that day happened as he was about to leave when the Norrises asked him what his major was going to be at Brown. Spector said he wasn't 100% sure, but that he was leaning toward becoming a doctor.
Gena sat upright from the cuddle session. "Chuck and I just got our blood analyzed, and I think we should study a lot more about blood," she said, with Chuck nodding along. "Everybody has blood. But everybody is different."
In his head, Spector was thinking, "Sure, I'll tell them to get right on that." Instead, he said, "Yeah, that's really interesting."
A little while later, Spector and his dad stood to leave. They'd been invited to stay for the MMA event, and part of Spector wishes he'd said yes. But truthfully, he's not an MMA guy. He's not even really a Chuck Norris guy -- he doesn't agree with some of Norris' conservative politics, and he has regrets about some of the more crude jokes he's published over the years. Let's just say there are more than a few R-rated jokes that address what Chuck Norris is capable of on a love seat.
Norris and his wife walked them to the door and asked again if they wanted to stay for the MMA event. The Spectors again declined, and Chuck Norris put out his hand one more time. "He had a firm handshake," Spector says. "Not like he was trying to hurt me or anything. But he shook hands like a world champion martial artist who has seen and done a lot."
That was the last time he heard from Norris -- until the lawsuit papers arrived.
ABOUT A YEAR AFTER Chuck Norris Facts blew up, Spector's site was still generating millions of views per month. Vin Diesel, now with his sleeves rolled up in the "Fast and Furious" factory, had become a distant memory. It was all Norris, all the time.
In fact, competitors had begun to spring up. Most late adopters probably didn't even see Chuck Norris Facts on Spector's site; ChuckNorrisFacts.com had sprung up with the same base set of jokes, plus new ones that were feeding into that site. Spector began to see T-shirts and posters of Facts, and he had nothing to do with those. "There's a part of me that doesn't want to know how many people made money from Chuck Norris Facts," Spector says.
But he did leap at the chance to write a Chuck Norris Facts book. Patrick Mulligan, then a young Penguin Books editor, reached out in 2006 and asked Spector if he thought he could come up with 600 facts about Chuck Norris. In the spirit of Chuck Norris, he said yes. It would be like if his website came to life in print form, complete with fun illustrations. That's why he didn't see it as a money-making venture as discussed with Chuck and Gena in that suite. "It would be words from the internet in print," Spector says again.
So he started compiling his favorite Norris facts, and he wrote a bunch of new ones himself, too. Spector has a beautiful mind. He's so smart it is intimidating, citing studies and experiments in casual conversation that no single person should ever know off the top of their head. At one point, he mentions the "paperclip maximizer problem," which is a terrifying philosophical exercise in which you must imagine AI being programmed to make as many paper clips as possible until it's impossible to make any more. In essence, it's the idea that robots could be programmed to wipe out all living creatures and bleed the planet dry to keep cranking out a single mission -- in this case, maximal paper clip production.
But he also has the kind of brain that can suddenly shift into crafting one-liners about doctors looking under Chuck Norris' beard and discovering ... another beard.
Eventually, he realized that 600 was too ambitious, so "The Truth About Chuck Norris" is subtitled "400 Facts about the World's Greatest Human."
As he wound down his first draft of the book, Spector began questioning whether or not he wanted to become a doctor someday. He didn't love some of the human biology courses on the horizon, and as he switched back and forth from contemplating what he wanted to be when he grew up, to figuring out that Chuck Norris once killed two stones with one bird, he decided to change majors from computational biology to cognitive neuroscience.
He began to mention on the site that he'd gotten a book deal, and a few small media outlets referenced that it was coming. The book published, and within a week or so, a cease-and-desist letter arrived. Believe it or not, Mulligan says Penguin loved it. Norris' attorneys were saying that his likeness was being leveraged to make money. Mulligan says Penguin had anticipated a potential lawsuit and felt good about their ability to argue that parody is allowed under American Fair Use laws, which is true.
The lawsuit meant some legal headaches that would cost tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees. So, after a few months of preliminary proceedings, both sides agreed to a confidential settlement. Subsequent copies would be labeled "unauthorized parody" to try to hammer home that Norris didn't have anything to do with the book.
When pestered for settlement details, Spector politely declines. "I'm technically not allowed to talk about the terms," he says. "But I can say there was no creation or destruction of wealth."
But a funny thing happened after the lawsuit was filed: Book sales skyrocketed because of the publicity generated by the lawsuit to try to prevent book sales. "Everybody went out and bought the book and it became a bestseller," Mulligan says with a chuckle.
The book became a New York Times Best Seller. That led to four -- yes, four -- follow-up books of Chuck Norris Facts, including one that featured Chuck Norris Facts dueling with Mr. T Facts. Spector never got into any posters, shirts or hats, though some competitors did. He laughs when asked how much he thinks he banked from the Facts phenomenon. "I'll say this: The experience has been priceless," he says, groaning at himself for having to be generic. "The cumulative value of the books and everything is definitely a healthy six figures."
As he flips through a few of his books now, some of the Facts make him wince a bit. He really wishes he had a do-over when it came to all the sexual prowess jokes, and he also worries he played some small role in the way a certain brand of toxic masculinity has come roaring back. It's not hard to imagine someone starting a successful Andrew Tate Facts website.
Most, though, are just funny one- or two-sentence jokes that plumb the depths of the "manliest man ever" brand of humor. The more time you spend with Chuck Norris Facts and some of the images people edited in, the more you realize that Spector was doing short-form content before we had a name for it. "TikTok is the ultimate version now of what we were doing then," he says. "The thing I made was a lot less sophisticated. There was no algorithm or neural networks."
It's hard to say Spector officially invented the meme. But he was, at minimum, a key early influencer. When the first of three national ROFLCons (Rolling on the Floor Laughing) was held in 2008, Spector was one of the big gets of the conference, along with the original inventor of 4chan, Christopher Poole and LOLCats entrepreneur Ben Huh. Wired Magazine had a series titled "Behind the memes," and Spector was profiled.
Spector had a table to sign books, and even people who didn't have a book stopped by to ask for an autograph. Spector was an early internet rock star. "Well, to the extent that a nerdy person who created memes can feel like a rock star," Spector says. "That's when I knew I had done something big."
Norris had become some version of a rock star again, too. He continued to navigate a fine line between reveling in his revived relevance and his discomfort at not being the originator of it. When asked for comment for this story, a PR rep for Norris said he "politely passed," which is probably how he deals with kidney stones, too.
Norris has addressed the Facts fad several times over the years, never seeming angry or bothered by the Facts themselves. As he indicated directly to Spector in that hotel suite, he's always seemed more hesitant about people using his name and image to make money than anything else.
Over time, though, he seemed to begin to appreciate what the Facts had done for him. Norris even went so far as to package what is essentially an autobiography and call it "The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book: 101 of Chuck's Favorite Facts and Stories." Each chapter starts with a joke, then tells the story of his life.
He once went on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" and read a top 10 of the best facts, culminating in "Chuck Norris' tears can cure cancer. Too bad he never cries. EVER." As the hosts roar laughing and try to end the segment, Norris raises his right hand, allegedly the only hand that can beat a royal flush, the same one that Spector got to shake a year earlier.
"Now, I gotta tell you my favorite one," he says.
The crowd screams its approval, and Norris says, "They wanted to put Chuck Norris' face on Mount Rushmore. But the granite wasn't hard enough for his beard."
AFTER GRADUATING FROM BROWN with a degree in cognitive neuroscience, Spector continued writing his Norris books as he began a series of tech jobs. His big investment, a startup he mostly funded himself, had been an app that enabled you to have any photos you take instantly printed out and mailed to you for less than $1. Cool idea. Didn't work out.
Spector loves stuff like that: utilitarian tech for humans. What's the best way to design a ballot that isn't confusing to voters? What is the exact size and spacing for where a cupholder in a car goes? Spector can talk about these topics for hours.
For most of the 2010s, he bounced between various startups. Nothing hit big, though. He calls those "the s-- years" because he was making money but feeling adrift. The Chuck Norris Facts wave had begun to recede; like so many things on the internet and social media, it came and it went. A distant meme memory from 10 minutes ago.
In 2019, he decided to go to MIT as a grad student. He completed MIT's one-year graduate studies program with an A-average in 2021, and he's currently living in Boston and working at Makai Labs, which "uses best-in-class AI to solve real-world operational and strategic challenges at scale." Translation: Spector is researching and developing AI for a slew of different people in different fields.
Most days, that involves devising ways that tech can help companies speed up their supply chains by 5%. But he spends time, on and off the clock, thinking about where AI is headed and what his role will be. He often wonders if there is some technology that could blend together his two passions, AI and comedy.
His life has landed him in the middle of a fascinating intersection. On one hand, he developed an entire humor genre that swept the internet. On the other, he spends his work weeks at the cutting edge of technology. Those two things -- the humor creator and the robot maker -- sure seem at odds with each other. We've all cringed watching Elon Musk try to be funny, and we don't want to see Bill Burr develop a new app for monitoring heart rates. Spector is trying to straddle both realms.
But here Spector sits, in Boston's North Station, a long punt away from his apartment building. He lives with his girlfriend and works from home most days. He has well-thought-out opinions and shares them. But he's quiet and shy, and the juxtaposition of that guy with the person who gave the world "Chuck Norris drinks a coffee mug full of nails every morning" is quite funny by itself.
He actually has an unexpected opinion about the future of AI that isn't so surprising when you factor in his life experience. He believes AI has all the potential in the world, that all the robots-now-run-everything hype is conceivable in theory. It's possible that the trajectory of AI will continue, that automated machines produce products that computer-driven forklifts load onto trucks to be driven in driverless cars to deliver directly to your door, which is opened by a robot who signs for the package.
But he also believes that there is a chance that AI becomes very uncool, very quickly, the same way that memes can turn the world against something. He points to some of the other technology that has ascended and ascended ... and then became LOL on the internet, which made it become LOL in real life. He specifically mentions how fundamentally promising the concept of cryptocurrency was, and how the hype built -- then the bottom fell out and people piled on. There is a long line of tech that suddenly becomes a punchline, and that's the end. The Segway. AOL. Google glasses. Blackberry. NFTs.
With Chuck Norris Facts, the internet never really turned on them. Just a rise and then a slow fade into internet history. Almost like a great athlete who walks away after an All-Star season. Toward the end of telling the story of Chuck Norris Facts in Boston recently, Spector is given a hypothetical. If he were paid $1 million to spend an entire year on an island with one mission, to come up with something as popular as Chuck Norris Facts, could he do it?
He thinks about it for a second.
"Could I have help?" he asks.
Sure, dig into that ROFL Rolodex to invite five of his brightest meme-making friends. They each get $1 million for the year, too.
"Can we use AI?" he asks.
Yep, it's all on the table.
Finally, he can only say, "I don't know. But I think we'd come up with some really good ideas." He's asked if he ever thinks that AI could be programmed to produce viral stuff, and he pauses. "Maybe."
But could AI ever consistently understand humor, and the mood of the times, to be able to generate stuff that truly captures the public's attention on a regular basis? He starts to smile and says, "That's making an assumption that humans can."
Touché. That's probably the right answer: AI will never fully comprehend what makes a great meme and how to mass produce them ... and neither will humans. Just like low pressure and heavy rain don't always equal a hurricane, brilliant minds -- and some tech to help -- can't plan to make a zeitgeist.
On the way out of North Station, Spector grabs some Greek food. He walks toward the exit, holding a bag of takeout food like every other person wandering the corridors. Nobody there has any idea that an internet legend and AI innovator, a little bit of Mr. Beast mixed with some Zuck, is among them.
He's talking about the mixed feelings he has now about Chuck Norris Facts. It's probably about 70-30 positive-negative. He loved doing them. Loved writing a book. Didn't love Chuck Norris himself all that much.
He also can identify with all those people, from athletes to musicians and everything in between, who have had a tremendous hit thing at a young age, and then been both burdened and attached to it forever. "A lot of the interviews I do have been about the thing that I did, not how I felt about what I did, about the entire experience," he says.
Toward the end, Spector shifts his food bag into his left hand and extends his right. We shake hands but it's a wet fish handshake on both sides. It's not a strong farewell. Spector hesitates for a moment.
"Let me actually give you a real handshake," he says, extending his right hand. For this one, he locks on and clamps down. It's a firm, semi-painful handshake, and it feels like something Chuck Norris -- and his beard -- would be proud of.