We couldn’t think of a better way to say Happy Holi-gays and farewell to 2022 than sitting down with the ever-spry John Waters.
Since speaking with us in April, John Waters has had an incredibly busy year on the road. In May he went on tour in support of his acclaimed first novel Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance, appearing at a number of book signings and discussions nationwide. He followed that up by traveling around to screenings of Pink Flamingos in honor of its 50th anniversary and adoption into the prestigious Criterion Collection, all the while performing intermittent dates of his ongoing one man show False Negative.
You would think that all of that touring would be enough for any man, but, as we all know, John Waters is no ordinary man. No, there will be no rest for the Sultan of Sleaze, especially not on the holidays. So, as he hits the road yet again with A John Waters Christmas, we sit down with the legend himself to talk about all things filthy, merry and bright.
Queer Forty (Q40): Hi John! Thanks for joining us. We’re already hearing rave reviews about your 2022 Christmas Show. I was wondering, what is it about the Christmas show, in particular, that makes you want to update and tour with it every year?
John Waters: A lot of the audience is the same people every year, so they expect it to be a new show, and it also keeps it up to date. For the last show I did a lot of COVID stuff, people are sick of talking about it, but it had to have some of that in it. My show is often related to current events, politics, taste in movies, things like that. It has to be constantly updated I think to keep me interested and the audience interested.
As for why I do the tour: A) So I can make my living and B) So I can meet my audience. To see my audience all over the world, that’s very, very important, and they’re getting younger and younger, which is incredibly encouraging! I saw that when I toured with Pink Flamingos this year. The kids had never even seen it. They were twenty years old, and it was great that I had a chance to spread the disease to them.
Q40: A blessing from the Pope of Trash himself! Those kids don’t know how lucky they are! Now I know you want to keep details of this year’s show under wraps, but is there anything about it you can tell us?
John Waters: Well, it’s about how everything is broken! Nothing works anymore. So, is Christmas part of that?? I talk about the despair, and then I talk about my insane optimism and how we’re going to fix up that despair. I would say that would be the overall high concept of it.
Q40: Sounds intriguing! Why do you like Christmas so much? What does it mean to you?
John Waters: Well, to me, it’s so changed. I liked Christmas when I was younger because I was in a functional family, and it was a pleasant time; but it was extreme even then. I knew that people’s emotions were high and even if bad things happened like when the Christmas tree fell over on my grandmother; I embraced it and I used it in one of my movies. And because of that, throughout the rest of my life, people told me stories about the Christmas tree falling over in their house; and it was always because of the dog or liquor was involved. It was neither of those for my grandmother, I think somebody just put the tree up badly.
Christmas is extreme, you could be living in the most foreign country and still you can’t escape Christmas. Really, it’s there for everybody. Love it, hate it, you can’t escape it. It’s coming at you like an out-of-control bulldozer. You can hop aboard and take a ride on it, or you can be crushed!
It’s like taxes in that way. You have to die and pay taxes and I guess experience Christmas!
Q40: That’s probably true, yes. (laughs) Is there any way that you would describe your perfect or ideal holiday?
John Waters: Well, the thing is, with Christmas now, I’m like a drag queen on Halloween. If it’s Christmas, I’m working. Any holiday now, I work. It’s the same way that if anyone dies, I never get to grieve at the funeral, they call me to be the speaker; so, I always have to start writing something as soon as I hear someone dies.
To me, my real holidays are just like a Tuesday in June or something, you know? But generally I try to have a normal life during my off time. I’m not sure what that is but, I do what everybody else does. I have friends. I go out to dinner, I go to the movies, I do what everybody does.
Q40: Normal can be fun sometimes! (laughs) So, the Christmas show typically features you delivering your set for about an hour or so and then a Q&A portion. Would you be able to share with us one of the most out there or entertaining questions someone ever threw at you?
John Waters: Yes! There’s two recently that I got. Someone asked, ‘how did you avoid cancer?’ And I thought, well, that’s an odd question. But then I thought, well, maybe not so odd. I smoked cigarettes and I’m 76 years old, so I’m going on about how much I regret smoking and how I mark down the days. I was saying how I hadn’t had a cigarette in, something like 7251 days and people start laughing. And they’re laughing more and more because I’m hard of hearing. I heard ‘How did you avoid getting cancer?’ and the question actually was ‘How did you avoid getting cancelled?!’ (laughs)
But then I got a question recently that really stumped me.
That person said, ‘how do you feel about batteries?’
And I thought ‘what?’, I must have misheard him, you know, like I did the cancer thing. So, I kept asking.
And he said ‘No, what do you feel about batteries? That’s what I’m asking.’
I said, ‘I don’t know, like I hate AAA, but I love the other kind’, you know?
I don’t know what they expected me to say. It wasn’t even a Christmas show. I guess if it was a Christmas show, I could have worked it in. “Well, they should come with whatever product, you give as a present if they’re needed.”
But I still don’t know why he was asking what I thought about batteries… Maybe a battery queen I guess?!
Q40: You never can be sure! (laughs) I’ve heard you talk about how all the holidays need a reinvention. Which holiday do you feel is in the most dire need of a makeover?
John Waters: Well, I talk about all the remakes I should do, but how to do them in a ‘Christmas way’ since every holiday’s broken now. But the one that needs the most fixing is definitely Columbus Day, because Columbus was a monster, and a racist, and a terrible person.
Q40: Good answer. Changing topics, but I just have to ask– about your long-awaited return to filmmaking! Is it happening and are you excited?
John Waters: Sort of, but everyone thinks I’m starting tomorrow! Yes, a big Hollywood company optioned the book to hire me to then write the screenplay and make the movie, but do you know how many green lights there are between optioning a book to the first day of shooting? It’s exciting, but people are calling me for jobs and stuff like I’m starting tomorrow! But yes, it’s true and it’s real and it’s a great company, so I’m excited about it.
Q40: That’s fantastic!
John Waters: I’ll start writing the script the day after my tour is over, no, maybe I’ll wait until January 2nd.
Q40: I think you can afford to take a few days off. Are you concerned about returning to Hollywood in this current culture and political climate?
John Waters: No, because if they optioned this book, which is the most insane thing I’ve written since Pink Flamingos, then they know what to expect. In it I do make fun of political correctness, but I only make fun of things I love, so that’s why I don’t get cancelled.
So no, I’m not scared about going back to it at all. I’m eager to.
Q40: And we’re eager to see you go back as well! To wrap up, do you have any words of wisdom as we head into 2023?
John Waters: Let me think, if I have any words of wisdom, they’re in the show. But I’m trying to high concept it…
Yeah– Have no fear, Norman Lear is still here, and he’s 100 years old and he has six projects in the work. We’ve got to keep going.
I’ll retire when I drop dead on stage and when I do, you can take selfies.
Q40: You know what? That’s the perfect end line for the interview. (laughs) Thanks for taking the time to chat with us and best of luck with the rest of the tour!
For a full list of tour dates and to purchase your tickets click here.