You may think it’s too early to talk about Christmas, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Thanksgiving is in two days. In two days time, there will be Christmas songs on the radio. Miracle on 34th Street starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. You may be avoiding it, you may want to pretend it doesn’t exist, but while you’re hiding under a rock, pretending time isn’t passing and the world isn’t turning, we’re talking to John Water’s about his Christmas tour, which is coming to both Maryland and Virginia.
We’ve probably interviewed John Waters more than we’ve interviewed anyone else on this website. But like so many of our favorite things (chocolate, peeling the plastic covers off of electronics, good booze, etc) we’ll never get tired of calling this son of Baltimore up and chatting with about the weirdest things we can imagine. This year, we tackled vomit, revenge spells, and hooks for hands. Enjoy.
To start off, I’d like to ask you why you decided to start doing a Christmas show.
Well, I’d written this chapter in my book Crackpot about why I love Christmas. And then a promoter asked me if I’d like to do a show at the Castro about Christmas. So that was the first version of it that I had done. I had already done spoken word shows for 30 years before that, but do a separate one about Christmas started there. I did it a couple times there with Marc Huestis… and then it turned into something else and now I’ve been doing it for many many years. I mean, 11 or 12 or something. This year is the most I’ve ever done. I believe I have 18 cities! So oh my god I’m like Johnny Mathis at Christmas.
I was reading about your show and I know you cover a variety of Christmas related topics, but which one do you think is the most important?
I think the most important thing is people who are depressed by Christmas, or where it’s traumatic, or they have families that are abusive… I give them a lot of, well hopefully, advice that will save their life and show them how to get revenge! Really. I talk about criminals. I talk about people who are religious. I talk about Christmas fashion. I talk about how you can get cheap presents. How you can steal. I talk about everything. Christmas affects everything. You can’t escape it. It’s like a giant locomotive aiming right at you. Even I get confused, because I’m touring, so even though it’s my material that I’m talking about everyday, it always shocks me when I’m going to the next city and I think, “Oh IT IS Christmas, I too have to participate here.” I have to buy presents. I have to do all the stuff. It becomes a comedy material thing on one side, but I’m still a complete participant in it in my real life. So it’s schizophrenic to me.
What do you think is the best way to get revenge during the holidays?
Well there’s a curse that’s easy to do when you have a relative that’s been abusive, that you have to spend time with. Before you hand them the present you lick it and get some saliva on it and that will curse them and something bad will happen to them.
If they catch you it’s embarrassing. “Why are you licking my present?” “Oh you’re crazy! I wasn’t licking your present. You always like to cause trouble at Christmas” “I saw you licking my present” “Well then, you better get your glasses fixed” It can be a whole dialogue.
Has that ever been successful for you?
Fantastic. Speaking of Christmas… Are you angry about the Starbucks cups?
No. First of all, I think Syrian refugees are a little more important. Of all the controversies in the world that is the most stupid one I’ve ever heard of. As far as controversies go, I think gun laws are the most important ones and I don’t understand why colleges are not rioting about gun control, not about having trigger warnings about Starbucks cups. I like to go to Starbucks for one reason, because they have to show the thousands of calories that are in everyone of their little bakery items.
Inspired by your Christmas show, I’d like to ask you a couple holiday themed questions, if that’s alright with you?
Okay, Starting with Halloween, what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
This Halloween I answered the door and then… some, not all, mostly they were lovely… although all the men were dressed as Donald Trump and I kept thinking it was Andy Warhol. Anyway, they started taking pictures of me as soon as I opened the door! Like, wait, is this a paparazzi attack? And they’re just getting a shot of the back of their children! So that was kind of shocking to me.
That sounds terrifying. For Thanksgiving, what do you think of when you think of comfort food?
I love Thanksgiving. I go to my sisters, but then it immediately puts me to sleep. I’m the worst guest because I go in the guest room and I fall asleep. So we have it in the middle of the day and for some reason in Maryland I like that they always serve sauerkraut with Thanksgiving dinner, so I very much have to have that. I know that’s not something they do, I don’t think, anywhere else in America.
For Christmas, what are you looking for this year? What is your ultimate gift?
My ultimate gift is always a rare book I don’t have and I don’t know about. I have a giant library and it’s all in a computer, so people call here and ask my assistant if I have a book. Also, I have a bridal registry of books I want every Christmas, so it’s much easier. People can just call and ask if they want to get me something. But I like the ones who don’t do that… well they do it, but they find something I don’t have and never knew there was such a thing. Like a child’s book called Dad Is In Prison. Or Swallow the Leader, a porn book. I just like weird little obscure books that aren’t that collectible, except to me.
How many books are in your wedding registry?
This year… maybe ten.
That’s not as many as I thought it would be.
Yes, I want to make sure I get the ones I want. I don’t want to give them a lot of choice.
On to New Years, where are you going to be this year when the ball drops?
This year I’ll be at East Hampton at my friends house for dinner. Last year I was in Provincetown.
How was that?
It was great! I go different places. I was in New York the year before that. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Eve. It’s amateur night. Halloween, which used to be gay Christmas, is now amateur night too.
Do you think NYE is the most overrated holiday?
I think most people are wary about NYE. I like to go to someone’s house. It’s too scary to be out in public with the aerial vomiting and stuff.
That is probably the scariest thing that happens.
Hmmm… to me scary is… I think St. Patrick’s Day is scary to me because they have those horrible parades and people are yelling and drunk. I’m not a fan of any holiday where public drunkenness is big. That Santa tour they have in some places, where they all go and get drunk dressed as Santa? Those frat boy things are scary to me.
Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day. What’s the most regrettable drink you keep ordering?
I remember when I was young, probably the very first drink I had was sloe gin, which made you puke. Sloe gin and cokes. That was probably the first mixed drink I had at the Drive-In, where I probably did puke, forget to take the speaker out of the window, drive away, rip out the whole thing, drag the pole behind the car, which used to infuriate my father, and risk getting home without being arrested. I was arrested once at the Drive-In for underage drinking and that was really embarrassing. They took all of us away in a paddy wagon.
Do you remember what the movie was?
For some reason I think it was Robin And The 7 Hoods, but I could be wrong. I remember it was at the Carlin’s Drive-In which has been closed for decades. I remember they left the car there and the next day we had to go back and get the car and it was really embarrassing because around the car were these empty Ripple bottles that they hadn’t cleaned up. They said in the courtroom one of the girls was seen urinating beside the car. I thought “Well so what?” but my parents seemed to be especially horrified by that.
Moving on to Easter, do you think this is the most heavy metal holiday or the most heavy metal holiday?
Easter I hate the most, and I do talk about it in my Christmas show. The Easter bunny is Santa’s sworn enemy. It’s the most horrible thing for a child, that you make them where itchy suits, go to church, see Mel Gibson movies and then go home for what reward? A rotten hardboiled egg?
Do you have any personal Easter stories you’d like to share?
No, I’ve always hated it. It’s another way to humiliate women too. When they have the Easter bunny in the mall, it’s always a woman. It’s never a man. And there’s no mouth on the heads, so people vomit inside those heads, I read an article about it. And they don’t even clean the costumes. It looks like a Mike Kelley artwork. It’s really bad to be the Easter bunny.
No child believes in that. They know when they see that person in the mall that their parents are lying to them. I think the Easter bunny is child abuse, almost. The Easter bunny is partial to child abuse.
For 4th of July, have any of your friends or loved ones been injured in a fireworks related accident?
No… It’s hard because I’m writing a book now and there’s something about that in the book and I don’t want to give the same material away.
I do know someone whose hand was blown off by fireworks, but I always thought it made him sexier because he had a hook. I’m sure he prefers he didn’t have a hook, but I’m glad he did. For fashion. And I’m always kind of impressed when someone has an injury from fireworks. In Provincetown, when they have fireworks on the beach and people come from all over the cape to watch it, I must admit, I’m always secretly rooting for something to go wrong. Where it’s aimed into the crown and people are running and explosions are going off. Not that I want people to be hurt, but the idea of it going wrong is appealing to me.
One year, they had it, but it was so foggy and they went off, but you couldn’t see anything. I liked that one. That was my favorite fireworks display. You could hear it go BOOM, but you couldn’t see anything because they shot it above the fog. But they still had it. That was kind of a surreal one.
There’s nothing more wonderful than watching other people be disappointed.
I wasn’t disappointed, I just thought, well this is different. This is a new kind. This is a minimalist fireworks show. You hear them but you don’t see them.
Back to Christmas, what’s your favorite way to celebrate Christmas in Baltimore?
Well, I have a big party every year and that’s my favorite way to celebrate. I have everyone from the guy who plays the singing asshole in Pink Flamingos from my nieces and nephews. I think that’s the best way. I do it every year, and it’s a little exhausting because it’s two days after the tour ends and by that time I look like the big bad wolf on amphetamines.
When your agent, or whoever, reached out to BYT to do the interview, they described you as a ‘son of Baltimore,’ What do you think that means?
Baltimore is a character in all of my movies and it’s one of the few cities where you can be a bohemian and I think it’s better than ever here, even though we have some troubles.
If you had to lose one limb, any limb, what would you choose?
My left hand. I’m right handed so I could still walk and jerk off.