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Showbiz Cheat Sheet
John Lennon Said The Beatles Weren’t Actually Funny ‘at All’
By Emma McKee,
Part of the reason The Beatles were so beloved by their fans, outside of their music, was that they came across as funny and charming. They joked around in interviews and onstage, their personalities only serving to fuel Beatlemania even more. While the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, said he never had to invent positive characteristics for the group, just emphasize their existing ones, John Lennon didn’t entirely agree. He noted that much of the band’s humor in interviews was part of the image they had invented with the press.
Brian Epstein said he didn’t want to invent any characteristics for the band
When The Beatles began reaching massive levels of fame in 1963, stories about them ran practically daily. Epstein wanted to push stories that highlighted the four member’s actual positive attributes. He didn’t want to invent anything for the media.
“In all our handouts and in all our press dealings,” press officer Tony Barrow said, per The Beatles: The Authorized Biography by Hunter Davies. “Brian only stressed what was good about them. He never created any nonexistent good points.”
Part of the band’s appeal was that they felt familiar to fans, even if they hadn’t personally met them.
“The Beatles were four local lads from down the street, the sort you might have seen at the local church hall,” Barrow explained. “This was the essence of their personal communication with the public. This was the appeal. People identified with them from the beginning. Brian realized this and never tried to hide it.”
John Lennon said The Beatles weren’t funny like they seemed in interviews
While Epstein said he didn’t want to fabricate any part of The Beatles’ charm, Lennon admitted that they were hamming it up during interviews. He didn’t believe any of the jokes they made to interviewers were actually funny.
“We were funny at press conferences because it was all a joke ,” he said. “They’d ask joke questions so you’d give joke answers. But we weren’t really funny at all. It was just fifth-form humor, the sort of you laugh at at school. They were putrid. If there were any good questions, about our music, we took them seriously.”
He admitted that with the press, The Beatles had carefully curated their public image.
“Our image was only a teeny part of us,” he said. “It was created by the press and by us. It had to be wrong because you can’t put over how you really are. Newspapers always get things wrong. Even when bits were true it was always old. New images would catch on just as we were leaving them.”
Paul McCartney said The Beatles had a funny way of writing music
Though Lennon didn’t think the band was organically funny in interviews, they had an almost comedic way of writing music. He explained that much of their writing process was like improv .
“We’d just split to our instruments and George [Harrison] would go, ‘Hey, what if I play this?’ He’d make it up on the spot,” McCartney told Hot Press . “Like ‘We Can Work it Out.’ He’d say, ‘What if I put a harmonium here?’ Now that’s a wacky idea, let’s try it. So you just tried everything on the spot and, like you say, we did that again with Wings and it’s always been my favorite way of working. It’s like improv, y’know, for a comedian. There’s something workshoppy about it that’s kind of exciting.”
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