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The phrase “cool story” used as a sarcastic response to a narrative was first seen in the 2001 film Zoolander, where actor Owen Wilson’s character Hansel tells a long winded story about a drug-induced hallucination. In response, a background character named Olaf yells out from across the room, “Cool story, Hansel” while laughing.
“Cool Story, Bro” began on 4chan’s /v/ (video games) board, used as a response to posts containing personal or lengthy stories as early as July 18th, 2008 in a thread for sad moments in a person’s gaming life. Image macros followed, initially paired with a panel from Marvel Comics’ The Incredible Hercules #122. The issue was inked by Clayton Henry and Salvador Espin and published on October 29th, 2008, showing Hercules during a flashback right before he finds out his friend Queen Hippolyta had been killed.
“Cool story, bro” was first defined on Urban Dictionary on January 5th, 2009. In July of that year, the first Yahoo! Answers inquiry about the phrase was asked. The phrase was discussed on Slate in May 2011 as useful tool in commenting on wordy posts. A Twitter account, @CoolStoryBro, was created on October 17th, 2011 which reposts tweets that are deemed deserving of the sarcastic response.
“Cool Story Bro” spread to real life as an expression of one’s complete indifference towards someone else’s remark through the MTV reality show Jersey Shore. Sometimes paired with the phrase “Tell it Again,” the phrase has been made into t-shirts at the store where the cast members are employed. There are two Facebook fan pages for the phrase, with over 133,000 likes between them as of March 2012.
There are a number of similar derivative expressions based on the phrase “cool story, bro” that take the Hercules portrait and photoshop it to fit the new phrase.