The Legend of Leeroy Jenkins

Page 5 of 8

A few minutes later, I notice a familiar guild name attached to a green-haired elf strolling across the city square: "PALS FOR LIFE." Realizing that the character, Nantosuelta, must be in Leeroy's guild, I corner her to ask for her take on the man and the myth.

"This server has been overrun by many people enrolling here because of Leeroy," says Nantosuelta. I'm about to say I've heard that when she continues. "It's pretty annoying to see 'LEEEEROOYY JEEENNKINNNS' in trade or general chat all the time." I begin to respond, only to be cut off. "24/7." I can't get a word in. "Or to see people running around as 'leeroysappren' or 'iluvleeroy.'"

Poor Leeroy. Even his own guild seems sick of his fame. I realize it's going to take drastic measures to get the residents of Stormwind to open up, so I mosey into a nearby auction house and insert myself into a group of characters involved in an in-game auction. When the time seems right, I furiously type a holler into my chat window: "LEEROOOOOY JEEEEENKINS!" I jump up and down and flex my digital muscles. When no one responds, I try again. "LEEROOOOOY JEEEEENKINS!" This time, a well-armed man turns to me. "Shut up!" he yells into my chat window. His words are red with anger.

I run away.

Four business types get into an elevator. One of them starts giving the others inane elevator-riding instructions. "Most of us have to get off on 21, but Stacy has to pick up a package on 7...Stan, can you do some number crunching about the time efficiency of this whole thing?"

"Yeah, we're at about an 88.8 percent efficiency," says Stan. "Repeating of course."

"Of course," says the order-giver. "Well..." He never finishes. The fourth rider, whose unbuttoned shirt exposes his flabby chest, jumps forward. "Time's up!" he yells. "LEEROOOOOY JEEEEEN-KINS!" He slaps every elevator button, plants a wet one on Stacy and runs out of the elevator, scattering employees and paperwork like bowling pins. Stan hangs his head. "Goddamn it, Leeroy!"

Spike TV created this commercial to promote its 2006 Video Game Awards. There are numerous Leeroy-inspired works all over the Internet -- some made in World of Warcraft, some not. Leeroy versus the wolves. Leeroy bungee-jumping. Leeroy, for some reason, committing suicide. Leeroy folk songs. Leeroy techno remixes. And one disturbing and confusing movie combining the voice track from "A Rough Go" with Iraq war footage to suggest that Leeroy killed Cindy Sheehan's son. Leeroy in the elevator is probably the most popular of all. Something about Leeroy in the working world cracks people up.

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.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner