“I'm busier in my career than I have ever been in my entire life,” says Baltimore septuagenarian John Waters, the author, stand-up comedian, satirist, paradigm smasher, movie auteur and, not least, his hometown’s Statue of Liberty. He styles himself as “The People’s Pervert.”
Waters brings his annual, one-man Christmas show to the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 2. Tickets are $30 to $110 at rialtotheatre.com. The show’s parental advisory portends laughs guaranteed to up-end taste, decorum and firmly held beliefs of all kinds.
“I just want people to fear Christmas. It's extreme! It's coming and you can't escape it, no matter what religion you are or what your politics are or anything. You have to have an opinion about it. You have to spend money!”
Just in time, Make Trouble
, Waters’ 2015 commencement speech to the Rhode Island School of Design has been released in limited edition, 7” red vinyl by Jack White’s label, Third Man. The speech earlier went viral online, then became an illustrated gift book published by Algonquin.
“I've lived my life to be a stocking stuffer!”
The joke is that he devotes his Christmas show to subverting the season’s excesses. He works up to the minute on timely content for each performance, writing with hilarious and pan-themic irreverence for the season’s tropes. Regarding dangerous toy lists, e.g.: “My friend used to give her daughter plastic bags to play with from the cleaner, and the child loved it. ‘You just watch them,’ she said. You have to watch your children.”
When he’s not touring, Waters’ days are filled with other creative pursuits and live appearances. He has made a dozen movies and published nearly as many books but, like the commencement speech, he says, “I love to get all my work re-invented all the time.” He notes that his 1970 film Multiple Maniacs came out again this year, restored by the Criterion Collection—another stocking-stuffer alert.
Waters’ career would have made history had it ended with his 1972 film, Pink Flamingos
. That movie, his second, at once defined and subverted the exploitation genre. His Hairspray has been a megahit in every medium, from the Broadway stage to children’s books and multiple internet sites. While the HBO sequel hasn’t yet been financed, it’s written, and production may be inevitable.
“I'm still participating in that business,” Waters says. “Hollywood's been fair to me. My movies satirized all the things that used to be in movies. But I don't really satirize special effects.”