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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 lie in John Lennon's (in)famously controversial remark to a reporter in 1966 that The Beatles were "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 is Borrowing the Beatles, but it can be also found in any sort of narrative 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.


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  • 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.
  • In Chick Tracts, "Four Angels" has a variation. After Lew Siffer (aka Satan), the one responsible for offering the Green Angels a chance at stardom through a Deal with the Devil, tells Bobby that he can't marry another man, lest he destroy the image of the band, Bobby says, "Face it, Lew. I'm famous now. I'm bigger than you are, so shut up."

     Live-Action Film 
  • 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.
  • According to Lake Placid, crocodiles have been worshipped by more people throughout history than Jesus.
  • The film Music and Lyrics opens with a music video of the fictional 80's band Pop, and closes by replaying it with VH-1-style trivia popups. One of these says that the group once controversially claimed they were "bigger than the Beatles".note 

  • 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".
  • The Beatles-parody novel Paperback Writer has John make his famous statement and cause the same uproar he did in real life. After consulting with advisers, John publicly apologizes, saying that what he really meant was, as modern European men, the Beatles were taller than a first century Israelite like Jesus would've been.

    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.

  • 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".
  • Chicago's former bassist, Jason Scheff, wrote a song called "Bigger Than Elvis" as a tribute to his father Jerry Scheff, who was Presley's road bassist for many years. (Jerry even played on the track without realizing he was the subject until he heard the finished song.)
  • Marilyn Manson had an official T-shirt that featured the slogan "Bigger Than Satan."
  • The Kalahari Surfers had an album in 1989 called Bigger Than Jesus.
  • Audio Adrenaline takes the humbler route with "Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus".

    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.
    • Jesus also used this when saying that only God is good, and comparing the Trinity's role in things, with one Person being the Father, the other being the Son, and another being the Holy Spirit.

    Print Media 
  • British music periodical NME put Andrew W.K. on their front cover in late October 2001 hailing him as "The Saviour of Music" and "Bigger Than Jesus!"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Parodied by the British women's wrestling promotion Pro Wrestling EVE, who titled their April 13, 2019 event Bigger Than Shesus.

  • In the Amélie: The Musical song "Goodbye, Amélie", an Elton John parody sings that Amelie is "nicer than Oprah, bigger than Jesus".
  • Indirectly referenced in Heathers: Heather Chandler's ghost exclaims gleefully that she's "bigger than John Lennon", in the number "Me Inside of Me", when she sees students upholding her as a saintly martyr because of her suicide note (which was, in reality, forged by J.D. and Veronica to hide that they killed her).

    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."
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth: Befriending half of South Park on Facebook will net you the "More Popular Than Jesus" achievement. Befriending all of South Park nets you the "More Popular Than John Lennon" achievement.

    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 
"We would like to apologize for stating last week that The Onion is 'bigger than Jesus'. What we meant to imply is that The Onion is more important and influential than Jesus, not that our newspaper is in any way physically larger than He was. We regret any confusion."
  • Musical Hell is hosted by a demon, so she puts a spin on the (actual) original quote when reviewing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:
    They cut a successful album and bam, more popular than the opposition's kid."
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-3933 was a famous band called "Tyrannosaurus Flex," whose lead singer is claimed to have said "if The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, we're bigger than God." No one remembers them because, as if by divine retribution, hearing a particular song of theirs causes one to completely forget that the band and its members ever existed.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
  • 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 "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 "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, like every identical lizard alien before him.
  • Parodied in Robot Chicken, where God decides to check his banking account after hearing that Notch has "more money than God".
  • 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.

    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 boast 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 the Evening Standard as part of a series of feature articles by Cleave entitled "How Does a Beatle Live?" which had seen her interview all four of them (by that point, she had known them for several years). At the time, church attendance in Britain was decreasing, and the clergy in all denominations had difficulty reaching out to younger generations. This decline in popularity of Christianity was a common conversation topic among British intellectuals (to the point where even Church of England bishops were becoming critical of traditional Christian theology), and most readers there understood that this was part of the actual context behind the quote. The interview actually reached America shortly afterwards and didn't attract much attention at all at first, despite several highly-read publications (notably the New York Times) re-printing it. Then the pop music magazine Datebook reprinted it and sent copies of the issue to radio stations in the Bible Belt, where Christians interpreted "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 apologized. 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.


Video Example(s):


Bigger Than Sliced Bread

Norb and Dag's manager tells them that they're more popular than sliced bread. When Daggett says this to a press conference however, angry bread lovers proceed to burn their albums. He has to clarify a little so they could change their minds on them.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / BiggerThanJesus

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