Nov 252008

This question might be answered sooner than I would hope, exposing an embarrassing oversight by my rock nerd powers, but I’ve been thinking about it for a few days and need your help, Townspeople!

In the years following the breakup of The Beatles, Paul, George, and Ringo had their moments poking fun at their time as Beatles. I think we’d agree that the greatest and funniest example of this is George’s role as a producer and actor in The Rutles documentary. How big of him to have a laugh at his own band’s mighty legacy and help foot the bills!

I can’t find the clip posted anywhere, but loveable Ringo appeared in a skit on Saturday Night Live, poking fun at himself for being the least valuable of items at an auction of Beatles memorabilia.

Even Paul, the most self-absorbed and naturally least-funny Beatle, had a number of giggles in celebration of Beatle Paul. The most significant example of Paul laughing at himself may be that brilliant SNL bit, where Chris Farley as Beatles Fanboy nervously interviews the bemused legend. Of course, SNL’s team of Web Wipers has wiped clean the clip I wanted to show, but there was Paul’s earlier appearance as 1963 Paul in the video for “Coming Up.”

Try as I may, the one former Beatle I can’t recall poking fun at his Beatle self in public is John…John, the self-aware, self-depreacating, caustic, cut-up extraordinaire! Am I missing something, or was John actually the biggest tight-ass among his bandmates when it came to his own legacy as a member of The Beatles?

For my own rock nerd credibility, I hope you’re as stumped as I am.


  19 Responses to “Did Post-Beatles John Ever Have a Laugh at His Beatle Self?”

  1. diskojoe

    Mr. Mod, I do remember reading Paul visiting John & they watched Lorne Michaels’ 3K offer for the Beatles to reunite on SNL & they actually were considering going down to the SNL studio to take him up on the offer, but they were too tired/lazy to do so, which was too bad.

  2. saturnismine

    I always thought of John as being pretty self-deprecating.

    One morning on the Sunday brunch edition of Breakfast with the Beatles, André Gardner played a tape of John from around 1973 joining a radio DJ on the air and singing along to the old Beatles songs they spun.

    Of course, he was making up lyrics and parodying his own tunes in “spaniard in the works” fashion (and yes, they *were* John songs, not Paul songs). I wish I could remember more details.

    Also, read “Skywriting by Word of Mouth”. It contains a very disjointed story called “the Ballad of John and Yoko” that makes the two of them seem by turns either heroic or completely worthy of being mocked.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    OK, so this obscure Breakfast with the Beatles tape is the best we can do so far? So far I feel like my observationi is holding water.

    Yes, Diskojoe, I’ve heard that story about John and Paul watching SNL that night. They even made a telemovie about it. It could be true but it’s not an example of John having a laugh at his Beatle self during his post-Beatles years. Come on, Townspeople, can any of you dispell the notion that John was the biggest tightass about his Beatles legacy? I want to believe John could have a laugh about it too.

  4. saturnismine

    Mod, I gave two examples.

    And if there’s only one, then your observation doesn’t hold water.

    does it HAVE to be a major media outlet?

    do you think i’m making this up?

  5. Mr. Moderator

    I don’t think you’re making the Gardner tape up. I’m pleased to hear about it, but now I’m looking for a better example to refute my keen observation. You’re telling me there’s no clip of him goofing around in moptop wigs with Charles Rocket and Tim Kazurinsky?

  6. Jeez, Mr. Mod.

    By the time the other Beatles were publicly laughing at their Fabness, Lennon was retired. He died shortly after re-entering public life a few years later. We’ll never know if it was on his to-do list.

    In fact, I’ll argue that he didn’t need to prove he wasn’t a tight-ass about The Beatles or anything. He was the wit of the group, the Smart One! I can’t help but wonder if it was a shock for people the first time George “My Sweet Lord” Harrison was seen doing comic “bits” with Lorne Michaels, Eric Idle, Michael Palin et al. And McCartney barely deigned to even play Beatles songs until halfway through Wings’ career. I’m sure it was a major shock when he started doing anything regarding the Beatles besides filing a lawsuit. (Ringo, of course, had nothing to prove in this regard and is thusly mostly unhelpful in proving my Points.)

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Oats wrote:

    I can’t help but wonder if it was a shock for people the first time George “My Sweet Lord” Harrison was seen doing comic “bits” with Lorne Michaels, Eric Idle, Michael Palin et al.

    You think so, Oats? Although George was the “Quiet Beatle” I think his comic timing is up there with Lennon’s in A Hard Day’s Night. I do agree that it was a shock that McCartney learned how to laugh at his past, which I acknowledged in my Points, but you’ve got to say he beat Lennon to the punch. You do make a good Point that Lennon died before he had a chance to clown around with Rocket and Kazurinsky (or would he have been a Fridays guy?), but before his late-70s years in privacy, he had ample opportunity to do more than sing nonsense versions of his old songs on some radio station. Beside, it’s not like there’s no record of his private years. Shouldn’t there be one of his minimalist sketches of the Beatles walking nude across Abbey Road, prefiguring that Red Hot Chili Peppers album cover?

  8. saturnismine

    I don’t understand why it has to be a 70s TV clip to qualify. Radio and literature aren’t good enough for this exercise? John makes an art out of making fun of himself in his books.

    Oats raises a good point. John was out of the media by 1976.

    And besides, as I say, I’ve given two examples.

    The ONE George clip you show from the Rutles movie can hardly be said to show George poking fun at HIS Beatle self. If anything, he probably felt that he was extracting some kind of revenge on those who had mishandled Apple with that scene.

    In their review of Anthology, entertainment weekly summed up the then present-day George of the mid 90s, and his chilly demeanor towards Paul and Ringo throughout the proceedings, with the following dead on observation: “All things must pass, but this guy holds on to grudges forever.”

  9. “I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition.”

    January 30, 1969

    I think this is as close as it gets.


  10. Mr. Moderator

    VERY CLOSE, Artslap, just a little too soon. This, however, is of the quality of self-deprecating Beatles humor that I was seeking in John’s public life following the demise of the band. Townspeople, take Artslap’s lead and find me a post-Beatles example from John of that magnitude.

    Sat, don’t think I don’t appreciate your finds. I stated up front that the courage it took me to bring this question to the Hall might backfire on me and make me look clueless. So far, I still feel as if my observation is basically correct – I have not yet missed some blatant, well-known example from John.

  11. saturnismine

    I don’t know why I even bother….

  12. Are you hoping to find some example of John applying the modern version of hipster irony to his past? Where you deal with anything real and worthwhile with a smug smirk of detachment. “I’m too cool to be serious about what’s important, and I mock anyone else who takes it seriously.” John was funny. He wasn’t and shouldn’t be Beck though. I’m glad I never saw him in a mop top wig doing some tired Milton Berle in a dress skit. I think doing a press conference hidden inside a big bag was a funny enough riff on his whole public persona role.

  13. Mr. Moderator

    OK, I see where this is going. Here I am, giving folks an opportunity to agree with my Points and instead I’m subject to ridicule and personal attacks. I GIVE UP. You’re right: Lennon was so funny in all other areas that he’s got a free pass regarding this question. His obscure radio appearance and a passage from a book no one but Saturnismine has read suffice. At the end of the day, I have no regrets for having given this thread my best effort. I need to put myself in a better position to succeed. Sometimes you’ve gotta take a step back to move a mile ahead…

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    I think the issue here is that John was actually a funny and clever guy. The Beatles mocking themselves as Beatles isn’t very funny, and isn’t very clever. So I guess I agree with you, Mod — there’s no substantive example of this post-Beatles thing you seek. But that’s a *good* thing. John’s reputation as the funny, clever Beatle is secured in the post-Beatle era by *not* being un-funny and un-clever!

  15. Mr. Moderator

    Hrrundi wrote:

    So I guess I agree with you, Mod…

    Some might say “Too little, too late,” but not I.

    Sat, Mad props to you for knowing two examples that drained the water from my argument. I’m surprised that no other Townspeople could cite examples.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Finally, John can rest in peace:

  17. BigSteve

    I think the self-mockery was always there while John was a Beatle. Those early press conferences were all about not taking the whole adulation trip seriously. And A Hard Day’s Night was a send-up of stardom too. I think the joke at the end of the set on the rooftop in Let It Be was just the last example of this. Except when he was looking back towards 50’s rock&roll, John was pretty forward-looking and -thinking, so maybe he felt like he’d done all that already. After the deluge, he took undermining the Beatles more seriously (on Plastic Ono Band album, especially God, How Do You Sleep, the Rock and Roll album, being a househusband, supporting Yoko’s art over his, etc).

  18. mockcarr

    I guess it’s John’s fault for never appearing on that SNL. Or is that a fault?

  19. “I need to put myself in a better position to succeed. Sometimes you’ve gotta take a step back to move a mile ahead…”

    cough..cough…We all have a piece of the pie…Times Yours…cough cough..

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