Bigger Than Jesus

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Lisa: I can't believe you're not still popular.
Bart: What did you do? Screw up like The Beatles and say you were bigger than Jesus?
Homer: All the time! It was the title of our second album!

A Stock Phrase for any good Blasphemous Boast as well as a Stock Shout-Out and Stock Parody to be found in any story about characters becoming famous.

Its origins, of course, lie in John Lennon's famous controversial remarks to the press that The Beatles are "more popular than Jesus" but have since come to be remembered a little differently.

Bigger Than Jesus is a staple for any story about a band that closely mirrors that of The Beatles but can be typically found in any story about characters gaining sudden celebrity status. Use of the phrase, or a variant thereof, is typically something that is conveyed to be met with shock by the public at large and lead to widespread protests and rallies to destroy the characters' merchandise followed by whoever originally invoked the phrase explaining that he meant something completely different, just like what happened with The Beatles but Played for Laughs.

If a character really does have a level of fame that approaches this, then they're Famed In-Story and/or a Living Legend. Sister Trope to Like a God to Me and Answers to the Name of God.

Not to be confused with the Web Comic Bigger Than Cheeses.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comedy 
  • A Running Gag in Mitch Benn Is The37th Beatle, whenever Mitch "forgets" to switch off the "John Lennon effect" on his microphone: "When I said we were bigger than Jesus..."
    "...a car had just backfired outside. 'We're bigger than ... Jesus!'"
    "... I meant Jesús, the cleaner. He was a little fella, everyone was bigger than him."
    "... I meant if we all stood on each other's shoulders."
  • Also at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe, Jonny & the Baptists called their show Bigger Than Judas.

    Comic Books 
  • Issue #30 of The Savage Dragon features a guest appearance of the, at the time, mega-popular Spawn, the issue was one of the best-selling issues of the Savage Dragon to that date. Issue #31 of the Savage Dragon features a guest appearance of God, and did not sell nearly as well. Creator of the Savage Dragon "Erik Larsen" suggested to the creator of Spawn, Todd McFarlane that he create a new ad campaign saying: "A lot of people have claimed to be more popular than God, but Spawn is the first with documented proof." McFarlane declined using it.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Soul Music, Buddy says, "We're more popular than cheeses," in a dairy-oriented village. Buddy's band is run out of town.
  • The Mockumentary The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, which parodies much of The Beatles' own history, includes one segment about a controversy caused by Ron Nasty claiming that The Rutles were "bigger than God." Ron, speaking to a slightly deaf journalist, actually said that they were "bigger than Rod," as in Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart would not make it big for another eight years. The protests and album burnings that were sparked by Ron's comment are said to have seen the sales of Rutles albums and merchandise skyrocket as people were buying their products just to have them destroyed. While the movie plays this for laughs, it's actually very reflective of the Real Life protests against The Beatles.
  • Non-band variant: In In the Mouth of Madness, Sutter Cane claims several times that more people read, and believe in, his novels than the Bible. This allows him to shape reality to his will.

    Literature 
  • British actor and comedian Rik Mayall titled his autobiography Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ.
  • Played with in The Cornelius Chronicles novel The Condition of Muzak. When Jerry Cornelius is crowned King of England, another character describes him as being "bigger than the Beatles".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Near the end of a short film about industrial workplace safety, there's a camera shot where the pastor narrator looms larger than his church in the background. One of the bots chimes in, "I'm bigger than Jesus."
    • Also done in the Santa Claus episode when Santa marvels at how many letters he's getting.
  • At one point on The Naked Brothers Band, a member of the titular band tells the press that they're "Bigger than Santa Claus." He was looking at the band's poster that was next to a (much smaller) poster of Santa Claus and he happen to be leaning toward a microphone when he said it.
  • Mr. Show has the Beatles parody "The Fad Three," in which a trio of mop-topped teen heartthrobs get famous for being photographed. One of them says that they've been photographed more times than Jesus Christ, which everyone agrees is true and there's a noted lack of controversy.
  • In "Weird Al" Yankovic's Mockumentary The Complete Al, he merely claims he is taller than the Osmonds.

    Music 
  • The chorus of the song "Guns And Cigarettes" by the band Atmosphere sees Boastful Rapper Slug profess how he wants to be bigger than Jesus and The Beatles, among other things.
  • A song by band What I Like About Jew (now Good For The Jews and Jewmongous) describes how they are physically taller than Jesus.
    The Beatles said they were bigger than you,
    But I've got the height on The Beatles too.
    If genes determine the size of your bod,
    Then my dad must be taller than God!
  • Source of the name for rockers Joe Christ and the Bigger than God.
  • Metal band S.O.D. has an album "Bigger Than The Devil".
  • Country artist Joe Diffie had a song in 1995 titled "Bigger Than the Beatles".

    Myths & Religion 
  • Strangely enough, Jesus himself used this trope, at least in the eyes of the Jewish priesthood at the time. From Luke Chapter 11:
    Jesus: The Queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom; and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now one greater than Jonah is here.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom of Loathing has a quest in which you have to advertise for a band by pasting fliers to monsters. One of the messages you can get if you go back to the concert arena before you're done advertising says that the band has become "more popular than cheeses."

    Web Comics 
  • Fanboys puts a twist on this with the Beatles Rock Band Game in a mini strip.
  • Sin Fest inverted the trope in a strip titled "Agent" where the Devil offers to become Jesus's personal agent and make him "Bigger than the Beatles."

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • On The Simpsons in the episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet," Homer's titular band with a history that very much resembles that of The Beatles is alleged to have frequently boasted to be "bigger than Jesus" and even titled their sophomore album as such with a cover that shows the band Walking On Water in the Abbey Road Crossing pose.
    • A later episode referenced The Beatles controversy when it turns out that Ned Flanders has a huge collection of Beatles memorabilia. Why? Because they were bigger than Jesus!
  • One cartoon short on The Angry Beavers saw Norbert and Daggett become famous for a hit song, and at one point their manager tells them that they're "bigger than sliced bread," showing them a graph chart that proves this. When Daggett repeats this to the press, people start burning their albums, leading to Daggett explaining that he meant that they're physically larger than sliced bread. Upon hearing this explanation, people burning their albums are seen putting their hands into the fire to retrieve them.
  • One Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon formatted as a documentary on the rise and popularity of the group shows one segment where Alvin shocks everyone at a press conference, including Simon and Theodore, by shouting, "We're bigger than Mickey Mouse!" People start destroying their Chipmunks merchandise as Alvin is forced to make an apology to the press soon after.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "Brian Writes a Bestseller", after Brian does exactly that, he remarks about his new-found fame by sharing his thoughts on The Beatles' controversy.
      Brian: I used to think that John Lennon was kind of a jerk for saying The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but now, I mean, I'm not saying that I am, but I get it.
    • Also played with in the episode "I Dream of Jesus". When Jesus becomes famous, one newspaper ran the headline "Jesus Is Bigger Than Jesus!"
    • This bit from "And I'm Joyce Kinney":
      Lois: And more importantly, are you all better than Jesus?
      Parishioner: I'm better than Jesus.
      Lois: Okay, yes, Tina Fey, you're better than Jesus.
  • In the Tripping the Rift episode "Cool Whip", Whip becomes an instant celebrity on a planet, and the king proclaims him "Bigger than Jesus" but not the Beatles. Though he learns that he is going to be hunted and mounted.
  • Parodied in Robot Chicken, where God decides to check his banking account after hearing that Notch has "more money than God".

    Real Life 
  • In the trope defining incident with The Beatles, John Lennon's original comment in a March 1966 Evening Standard interview with Maureen Cleave was that the band were "more popular than Jesus". This has been widely retconned by many people to have been part of a general lament that the Beatles were more popular than traditional religion, but in context, it reads a bit differently:
    "'Christianity will go,' [Lennon] said. 'It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first — rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.'"
    • The initial quote went without controversy when it was first published in British and European press, but when the quote reached America, it sparked an uproar among Christian communities who took "more popular than" to mean "better than". This led to public protests, burning rallies, disc jockeys smashing Beatles records on air, and even the KKK getting in on the scene, until Lennon spoke at press conferences and apologised. However, the Beam Me Up, Scotty! effect works both ways: Lennon never claimed in the original that the Beatles were better than Jesus, but neither did he argue that it was a pity that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The closest he came to saying that was at a press conference in August 1966, where he commented "But I never meant it as a lousy or anti-religious thing, or anything." It was McCartney, at the same conference, who did the original piece of retconning:
      Reporter: Do you personally believe...?
      John: I think that... My views are only from what I've read or observed of christianity and what it was, and what it has been, or what it could be — it just seems to me to be shrinking. I'm not knocking it or saying it's bad. I'm just saying it seems to be shrinking and losing contact.
      Paul: And we all deplore the fact that it is, you know. That's the main point about it all.
      John: Nothing better seems to be replacing it, so we're not saying anything about that.
  • In The '90s, music periodical The New Music Express (NME) spoofed Oasis's thrall to The Beatles and their tendency to plagiarize with a fictitious interview in which Noel Gallagher claimed to be "bigger than God." Just one year later, in Real Life, Noel Gallagher made exactly the same claim, though the entire point of John Lennon's original remarks in 1966 were completely lost on him.

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