Lisa: I can't believe you're not still popular.
What did you do? Screw up like The Beatles
and say you were bigger than Jesus?
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 popularity as musicians (or for anything else). 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
Not to be confused with the Web Comic Bigger Than Cheeses
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
- Issue #30 of The Savage Dragon featured 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 featured 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.
- 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.
- British actor and comedian Rik Mayall titled his autobiography Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ.
- On 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."
- At one point on The Naked Brothers Band, a member of the titular band tells the press that they're "Bigger than Santa Claus."
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- A Running Gag in Mitch Benn is the 37th 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.
- 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."
- 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."
- In more specific detail, regarding the trope defining incident with The Beatles, John Lennon's original comment that his band were "more popular than Jesus" was intended as a lament of how youths were interpreted as holding greater enthusiasm for the Beatles, opposed to religious and moral figures. 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 interpreted it as a boast. 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 issued an apology at a press conference and explained what he had originally meant all along, diffusing the situation.
- In The Nineties, 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.