Arts » Comedy

A conversation with John Waters


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Waters will perform his one-man show on Saturday.
  • Waters will perform his one-man show on Saturday.

Not long ago, John Waters acted out an airplane crash with a room full of first graders. The kids loved it. It was the same presentation he gives at prisons. Waters states he is proud of the fact that his work has no redeeming social value. "Strive for art in reverse," he once said. William S. Burroughs dubbed him "The Pope of Trash." With his unworldly smile, coupled with a pencil-thin mustache, he looks like a character out of film noir or the stereotype of a child molester.

Working out of his beloved hometown of Baltimore, Waters has shocked and entertained audiences since the '60s with films ranging from Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble to Hairspray and Serial Mom. He also writes books, creates wonderful music compilation albums and is a sought-after speaker. This Filthy World, his one-man show, comes to Madame Walker Theatre, Saturday at 7 p.m. Waters revises the show on a regular basis, but it's safe to assume he will talk about his films, his influences, his fascination with true crime and his encounters with the famous and infamous. Expect tales of scandal and debauchery, delivered with impeccable comic timing. There will be a Q&A session as well. You'd be crazy not to attend.

Waters was in Baltimore for a few days between tour dates when we talked by phone. With a career spanning over four decades, he has encountered a stunning array of colorful characters. Given the wide range in age and experience of NUVO readers, I was concerned that all the names and references might be dizzying for some. Accordingly, each time we begin talking about a new subject, I've included a paragraph identifying the references from that part of the interview. To those of you with enough pop culture savvy that you don't need the annotations, congratulations — just don't start acting all hipper-than-thou about it.


REFERENCES: Pecker is a 1998 Waters' comedy starring Edward Furlong. Teabagging is the slang term for placing one's scrotum in the mouth, or on the face or head, of another individual.

NUVO: Back in the '90s, when I finally succumbed and bought a DVD player, the first DVD I ever bought was Pecker.

WATERS: Oh good! Well that's nice and thank you. That just played on TV this week. Who would have ever thought? It plays on TV a lot, actually. It's found a new audience. It's kind of amazing.

NUVO: I've got fond memories of it. And of course, there's the teabagging. You introduced that to the world in Pecker.

WATERS: Yes. And that went on to have its revival from the Republicans who didn't know what it meant and they since found out, and they don't use the word teabagging anymore. They use Teabag Party for fear of ... because they finally did figure out what it meant. Some Democrats knew what it meant, but the Republicans didn't. Now I'm generalizing here. But – what's her name from MSNBC? - Rachel Maddow - she showed the entire scene from Pecker where they explained what teabagging is and you could see the entire crew in the background and she got criticized for that heavily. Even by Jon Stewart, I believe. But I was honored.

NUVO: Oh yeah. There was a week on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show every other word became a teabagging reference.

WATERS: It became so popular that I got weary of it. I even stopped using the joke. I talk about in my show about how we can go beyond teabagging into new sex acts, which I'm going to leave for the audience. But that's my coming attractions I just gave you.


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