The Legend of Leeroy Jenkins

Ben Schulz issued the battle cry that echoed across World of Warcraft.

In real life, Leeroy's job -- or, more accurately, Ben's job -- isn't that funny. He works at an industrial lighting company in Denver, and right now, he's fixing a malfunctioning dimmer light switch at a local high-school theater. He's wearing work boots, and his beard shows several more weeks of growth. He works quietly, intently, carefully prying wires from the wall and rummaging through his toolbox. A member of the school's maintenance staff watches Ben work; he says the Farmers' Almanac is predicting another forty inches of snow. Ben nods; he's not one for small talk. There's no manic glimmer in his eye, no abrupt hollering of "LEEROOOOOY JEEEEENKINS!," no mad dash into the band room next door, sending schoolgirls and clarinets flying.

After that stop, Ben drops by a nearby grocery-store Starbucks for an apple cider. This isn't his dream occupation, he says, staring into his cup, but hell, it's a job, and it allows him to play with electricity, which he likes. Plus, it's not easy finding work in his field; after he graduated from CU, it took nine months, several rejection letters and a few unattractive job offers before he decided on this gig. He's saving money living with his folks, but it gets tough seeing all his computer-science buddies living on their own, buying fast cars, making big bucks. "Everything doesn't go as you want it in life," he says. "And that's the way it is."

He sounds like any other struggling post-grad trying to figure out what to do with his life. But any other struggling post-grad isn't the alter ego of Leeroy Jenkins. "People told us, you guys could have been millionaires," says Ben Vinson, the PALS FOR LIFE member who recorded "A Rough Go" from his computer. "I don't really think so, because there's no way to capitalize on it."

Ben used to agree that there was no way money could be made off Leeroy. But then things happened that suggested otherwise. Leeroy T-shirts started appearing online. Since PALS FOR LIFE was powerless to stop them -- they couldn't trademark "Leeroy Jenkins" because it's not associated with a product or service, and they can't make money off the movie because Blizzard hasn't given them a licensing agreement -- they made their own clothing line: T-shirts, hoodies, even thongs featuring Ben double-fisting 40s. The venture never made money, although someone did buy a couple of thongs. "I laugh my ass off thinking that my face is underneath some girl's pants," says Ben.

Then GGL, an online game publication, tapped Ben to produce content -- but that didn't last. "I guess I'm not that good at pumping things out creatively," he shrugs. The magazine did fly him to BlizzCon, a Blizzard convention, where he met the people behind World of Warcraft. He thought they might give him some work, but nothing came of the connection. "The feeling I got from them was like, hey, thanks for the free publicity," he says. Finally, this past summer, Legendary Pictures, a film studio working on a World of Warcraft movie, flew Ben out to Hollywood to meet the staff. Ben is still hoping for a walk-on cameo, but lately Legendary hasn't been returning his e-mails.

"One of the things I thought was hardest for Ben was PALS FOR LIFE weren't ready for the phenomenon they created," says Marcus Graham, head broadcaster for GGL. "As a result, a lot of other people took advantage of the Leeroy Jenkins name before they could."

"Leeroy Jenkins definitely has helped the community grow in World of Warcraftand undoubtedly has helped us get more subscriptions," says Shane Dabiri, the game's lead producer. Some World of Warcraft machinima filmmakers have even landed jobs at the company. Could Ben become one of them? "Who knows?" Dabiri responds. "Yeah, there's always a possibility."

Just in case opportunity knocks, Ben has created a business -- Leeroy Jenkins Entertainment -- and copyrighted sound clips and the script of "A Rough Go." But so far, no one is knocking. "His is almost a joke fame, where everyone is laughing at him," says Carlos Villar, Ben's friend and PALS FOR LIFE teammate. "If Homer Simpson was real, people would think he's funny because he messes everything up, but no one would offer him a job. It's all the annoyance of being famous without the benefits."

"That's the thing about Leeroy. The myth is a lot more fun than the actuality of it," says Ben. He can't make "A Rough Go II," he explains, because "There's no way I can top this -- anything I do will be totally ripped on."

But that's no big deal, he insists. "I never really wanted to be famous," Ben says. "I don't think I'm going to wake up when I'm forty and say, 'God, why didn't I do something?'"




It's customary to start a celebrity interview by profusely thanking your subject for deigning to speak with you, as if his time is inherently more valuable than yours. I can't help but do this when Leeroy Jenkins agrees to meet me in the game.
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