Fab Fools: The last untold story of The Beatles
One of the guys from successful seventies Norwegian music comedy group, “Prima Vera” revealed a few years ago that their biggest source of inspiration had not been Monty Python’s Flying Circus or other music comedy acts like the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. No, they admired the comedy of The Beatles! And I can see their point; The Beatles was a very funny group. Remember those one-liners at press conferences? Or Lennon’s books? Not to mention what their Christmas fan club singles developed into, in 1965, 1966 and 1967. The Beatles, like the guys in Monty Python and most other brits their age listened to hilarious “Goon Show” on the radio, and that shaped their sense of humour.
The comedic aspect of the Beatles has largely been ignored by chroniclers of their career but now, for possibly the first time “comedy archaeologist” Jem Roberts, have gone to the task of correcting this with his upcoming book, “Fab Fools”.
Some of The Beatles’ comedy work remains familiar: for example, the critical and box office gold of “A Hard Day’s Night”, or the sub-aquatic psychedelia of “Yellow Submarine”. But less well known is the sheer scope of the Fab Four’s comedy output. And when exploring this work, Jem Roberts unearthed a fascinating new perspective on The Beatles.
As the official chronicler of “I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue” and “Blackadder”, and authorised biographer of Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, Jem Roberts has spent over a decade writing about comedy.
An avowed Beatlemaniac, when carrying out his research, he always made note of any reference to his favourite band. But it was only when reviewing his research for an earlier project that he realised something: The Beatles didn’t just pop up once or twice – they were everywhere.
In Jem’s words: “It was a great honour to be the official historian of huge comedy successes like ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Blackadder’, and when writing these books, it suddenly struck me – The Beatles were comedians too! No matter where you look, all these links between The Beatles and comedy history just spring out. Of course, there’s masterpieces like ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’, but then there’s also Sir George Martin’s work with the Goons on Parlophone, the boys’ famous sketch with Eric & Ernie, the endless Monty Python comparisons and affiliations, George’s Handmade Films, spoofs like Spitting Image… The Beatles even did panto! I’m not sure Jimi Hendrix ever did.”
“This idea of Beatlemania as a predominantly musical phenomenon is inaccurate,” Roberts continues. “Of course, their music was an utterly central part of their appeal, but to truly understand The Beatles, you have to look at the splash they made in every form of entertainment. And then you’ve got to follow the ripples – ripples that are still expanding and influencing comedy to this day.”
In a glowing review, Steven Fry praises Jem’s “flawless” research, which brings to life the breathless frenzy surrounding The Beatles when they first appeared on British screens and airwaves. From this research, Jem weaves together a chorus of scripts, interviews, coverage and quotes, telling the story of a group whose quick wits soon put them at the centre of showbiz.
The narrative takes us right to the present day, and features a staggering array of comedy greats: George Formby, Ken Dodd, Morecambe & Wise, Cook & Moore, the Goons, the afore mentioned Monty Pythons and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and also Harry & Paul, the Simpsons, Peter Serafinowicz, Tenacious D, Jimmy Fallon, all the way to Richard Curtis and his recent hit film “Yesterday”.
As the first celebration of Beatles comedy, this is also the story of Eric Idle and Neil Innes’ legendary spoof The Rutles, another story never told before. Roberts adds, “The support and friendship of Neil Innes, who was practically the 8th or 9th Beatle, a complete hero, was essential in telling this story, from the mouths of those who were really there. When Neil died, suddenly and heartbreakingly, during the writing of the book, Fab Fools had to become a tribute to this legendary comedy/musical genius.”
“Fab Fools” will be released on April 29th 2021, and is available from Candy-Jar’s web store (U.K.)