John Waters promises new jeers and cheers for A John Waters' Christmas: Holier & Dirtier | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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John Waters promises new jeers and cheers for A John Waters' Christmas: Holier & Dirtier

“I think people should go trick-or-treating at Christmas. Just mix everything up.”

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John Waters
  • John Waters

John Waters returns to Pittsburgh for the latest installment of his gleefully provocative holiday spoken-word show, A John Waters' Christmas: Holier & Dirtier. Pittsburgh City Paper spoke to the legendary filmmaker, author, and all-around showman about holiday hybrids, naughty carols, and more. 

How does the new show compare to previous years?

Every year I write all new stuff because I go to a lot of the same cities. You can be lazy and call it a “command performance” — that’s a code word for “you didn’t write new stuff.” …So I’ve got lots of new material. I always do. I always feel that’s my duty.   

But certainly I talk about different ways I’d like to produce Christmas specials and concerts … I talk about different kinds of Christmas music and the kind I’d like to produce. That’s one of the subjects I talk about heavily. I talk on every subject, really. Well, I don’t have any sports jokes. I feel bad. I should think of one sports joke. 

What brought on doing these spoken word shows to begin with?

I always did them from the very beginning because when my movies first came out, nobody ever heard of us. The big circuit was the college circuit then for art movies, and we always did the best in art theaters. So we would go there and we would need some gimmick to get people to come, so I would come out and introduce the movies and then Divine would come out and we’d have a cop pretend to arrest us and Divine would strangle the cop. It was like a vaudeville act. 

The Christmas show came after my book Crackpot. There’s a chapter about why I love Christmas and the Castro Theatre promoter asked me to do a Christmas show and it has grown from that. 

I would imagine people think you’d be a much bigger fan of Halloween.

I used to love vandalism at Halloween! We used to do terrible stuff. My friend would pour gas all over the lawn … and he would ring the bell and throw a match and the whole lawn would light up. And then it became gay Christmas, which I kinda liked. But now there are just parades of drag queens for heterosexual families to come applaud and show their tolerance. Which, I don’t know, I think vandalism is more fun. 

I always say we should mix Halloween with Christmas because pretty soon the holiday season is going to start on Labor Day…. I think people should go trick-or-treating at Christmas. Just mix everything up … go Christmas caroling and shriek scary songs backwards when they open the door. 

I like the idea of combining trick-or-treating with caroling. Aren’t you supposed to give something to carolers when they come around?

No, I don’t think so. Are you supposed to tip them? Maybe you’re supposed to give them cider or something … I would hate it if carolers came to my door. I would call the police. If I opened the door and there was a bunch of people singing “Silent Night” I don’t know what I’d do.

What are your favorite Christmas songs?

I have lots of parodies of all of them — dirty versions, sacrilegious versions. I did put out a Christmas album that had “Santa Claus Is a Black Man” which is a great, great song. Actually, when the album came out, [then Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley] invited me to turn on the Christmas lights for the city downtown, and we played that as I came on stage. 

I hate “The Little Drummer Boy” more than any Christmas carol ever … My favorite Christmas carol is one called “Fat Daddy” by an African-American disc jockey [Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson] that I based Motormouth Maybelle on in Hairspray … And it was a huge hit in Baltimore only. 

What are you hoping audiences will take from this year’s show?

A sense of cheer about the holiday, even if they dread it. It’s tough politically now because you go home and if your family is like the rest of the country, split down the middle, it’s really hard to talk politics. And it’s almost impossible to bring it up even if everybody believes the same thing because everyone just starts ranting and discussing it. Maybe you should pass out whistles and every time politics are mentioned you just start blowing the whistle so nobody fights. 

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