'A John Waters Christmas' Interview

by Jerry Yelton


Saturday December 9, 2017

Acclaimed and renown filmmaker John Waters ("Female Trouble," "Hairspray," "Pink Flamingos") brings his annual holiday show to Asheville, N.C. on Dec. 18 at the Diana Wortham Theatre, 18 Biltmore Ave. Known famously as the Prince of Puke and the People's Pervert, this twisted performer is sure to delight, repulse and keep audience members in stitches. Not for the faint of heart, Waters describes the miracles and atrocities of the holiday season and ensures that attendees will have something special to talk about at the dinner table this year.

Why a Christmas show? What does this type of queer and subversive performance have to do with the holiday season?

Well, I would do a Groundhog's Day one, a Mother's Day one - I would do every single holiday tour if you'd book me. [I do this show] because Christmas is the most extreme holiday. It's the one [that] frightens people, scares people, delights people, offends people, and so, everybody in the world has to put up with Christmas no matter what your religion, race, sexual persuasion, anything - and, it's extreme, you can go either way with it. It's gonna be even harder this year because of politics.

What's different for the Christmas show in the current political climate?

I always write most of the show over every year. I'm always updating because a lot of times I go to the same cities. I always add new material, and this year, I'll be adding it up until the day I go on stage because it changes so much. I think we're in a civil war, so when you go home with relatives, it's the only time you might meet someone that you don't agree with. So I'm telling everybody just bring whistles, and if anybody talks about politics, blow the whistle. That way you won't get in fights and knock over the Christmas tree, which I believe will happen more than any time else this Christmas.

Are there any stories you hope to tell particularly tied to North Carolina?

Well, I tell many stories - it's 70 minutes of stories and 20 minutes of questions. I talk about music, politics, crime, families. I talk about "Is Santa gay?" "Is Christmas turning into a gay holiday?" and how to avoid Christmas or how to shoplift at Christmas, or what you shouldn't give people. Believe me, I go into every aspect of Christmas mania.

What are some of the worst gifts that you've ever received?

I like that idea, I think maybe we should have a theme with your family where you make an agreement to give everyone the worst present you think they'd hate the most. I remember one year someone gave me the soundtrack to "Rocky" and I threw it out the window of a high-rise, which was irresponsible. But, I remember it.

What should you avoid doing around the holidays?

Re-gifting. You can always tell when it's re-gifted, and it's so blatant, and sometimes you wanna ask, "Can I get a receipt please?" Because that is such a completely re-gifted look or something that you got from some advertisement. Unless it's really a good one, it's really something you should avoid. No one would dare give me a re-gift. Or if they did, it was something that I kind of liked. I don't think that happens with me - I'm like the worst bride - I have a registry in my office, so when people call, I have a whole list of books that I want. Sometimes it's just easier for people to buy them and give them to me.

What recommendations do you have for how folks should celebrate the holiday season this year, aside from seeing "The John Waters Christmas Show?"

Well, I think if you want to scare yourself, go to living Christmases because they're incredibly frightening. I think taking drugs and going Christmas caroling is kind of fun because you can't be arrested, but you can scare people when they open the door by looking especially freakish when you start shrieking "Silent Night" while you're on pot and laughing. Christmas Nativity Scenes - I visit like haunted houses. I find it so alarming that people put their babies to be in there with mules, and straw and candles, and their baby is going to catch on fire for Christmas.

What are some of the weirdest traditions you've heard around Christmas time?

I think the tree falling over, which happened to my grandmother. Trees fall over all the time, and it's liquor or dogs. I hear stories everywhere about families Christmas that are ruined.

I used to have a boyfriend once - well, he wasn't my boyfriend, I wanted him to be, but he wasn't. He used to take me in his muscle car, and he would go out two weeks after Christmas when all the dead trees are in the allies everywhere, and he'd set them on fire with a video camera on the hood. It was a really good date, even though he never put out. I thought arson would at least make him horny.

What are your favorite parts of the holiday season and how do you bring them to your show?

The holiday season, I'm at work. I'm in the airports, looking at their bad Christmas decorations, but I like Christmas and right when it's over, I have a huge party, and I go to my family for Christmas. So I think I like the idea of making fun of something and embracing something, and I like it for all the wrong reasons sometimes. It is part of the economy - I always have to buy so many presents every year, and it seems like every year I ask, "Why do I do this?" Because you have to. You have no choice, but to do that.

What are some of the gifts you have planned for family and friends this year?

I usually get everybody books. So we'll see. Books are the best Christmas present. Always.

In your upcoming show, what are the big things we can anticipate this year?

I'm not going to [give] you the new material, but I certainly talk about politics, unsafe toys, amusement parks, presents that I want to get, what I would do if I were president, the new activism that I think we should have for Christmas, Christmas movies. I have a friend who told me he used to go to graveyards, and when people would go lay flowers on gravesites, he would steal pocketbooks. I thought, "That is terrible. Talk about bad karma."

Is there anything that you think people should know about celebrating Christmas the John Waters way?

Whatever kind of good parent you are, don't ever for stocking stuffers leave your children sensible things like deodorant and toothbrushes and stuff. You should be arrested if you do that.

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