We Interviewed John Waters, and It was Great
John Waters talks about gum snapping, Baltimore, and online dating.
John Waters could do anything, ANYTHING, and we'd freak out about it. Collectively, as an office, we've contacted him about 4,231 times about writing something for us, or just, you know, agreeing to be our friend. He's always been too busy to give us the kind of attention we need and crave, until now.
In our obsessive internet searches about who knows what, we came across a listing for a show that John has coming up at City Winery in NYC on June 22nd (with another one on the 23rd). While begging for free tickets, we were offered a 15-minute phone interview with the king of filth, which ended up being a 25-minute life orgasm. An actual orgasm, of life.
VICE: So the last bit of news we heard about you was the thing about you being picked up by that band Here We Go Magic while hitchhiking.
John Waters: Well see, I'm not gonna talk about that because that's all gonna be in my book. I'm working on it every day so I really don't wanna go into it that much.
Understood. Well without getting too much into book stuff, was it hard getting picked up by people? Like in general? Because even if people didn't recognize you as John Waters, you kinda look like a perv.
Yeah. It was very hard. And some people knew who I was, some didn't. Some people didn't know till I got in the car. It was all varied. I mean, no one would think it WAS me. Why would they think I was just standing there?
Do you have any sort of specific travelling outfit?
Well I don't wear hideous things like tracksuits or shorts. I'm always shocked by what people people wear at the airport. The only thing that really makes me mad though when I'm flying is people who crack gum right in my ear. Then I'll say something.
Or people who fart. I always sit next to the farters.
But how can you even hear a fart on an airplane?
I mean, you don't. You're just in it all of a sudden.
Oh, like an SBD. Well I haven't had too many problems with farters. But I used to smoke so many cigarettes that my sense of smell is permanently damaged. I'm always amazed when people get on the plane almost nude. And they're never the cute ones. I just try to look ahead. I always have a book. I'm not trying to get into any fashion fights on the airplane. Plus people are so touchy these days, you can't get into any kind of fights! You can't even talk!
So a long time ago I wrote you this insane letter, care of Atomic Books, and I'm sure you've gotten many similar, but I'd be so embarrassed of it now.
Did I answer it?
No, of course not.
Well it's not too late. I may still. I have them all, I don't throw any out. I read them all, but to be honest I answer about one percent. Fred Armisen, you know him, right, from SNL? He wrote to me once as a kid and said "why is it that you can say the things you say and get famous, while I end up at the school psychiatrist?" I wrote back and said, "You'll get there." And now he's a great success. If you want people to answer a letter, you gotta include postage so it's easy and they can just throw it in the mail, and don't make it too long, and don't send scripts. If I open an envelope and it's a script, I put it right back in. Plus my lawyer says, "don't read those! People will sue and say you stole their ideas!" What did you say in your letter that you're so embarrassed about?
Well basically I just said that whenever you needed, or wanted, I'd drop everything and work for you as your assistant. Forever.
Well that's very nice! But the problem is that my assistants always live in Baltimore.
When you started out making movies, did you ever think it would come to this? That people would be sending you letters and stuff?
Well I used to write letters to Russ Meyer and Herschell Gordon Lewis. I used to write them letters like you did to me! I feel nice about people who write me, and I always take time out to take pictures and sign things. It's like being a politician, being in the public like this. I mean, why get into show business if you're just gonna be mad about it?
My friends and I went to your Christmas show this past Christmas, and we both became insane with laughter. Like, laughing so much that we were then insane. And that made me want to ask you, what do you think makes something funny? Like if you had to try and teach someone how to be funny, where would you start?
I don't think you can teach them, but the one thing is to be prepared. For that Christmas show you mentioned, every word was written and rehearsed and prepared. And I memorize it. I don't come out with any notes. I test jokes and see if they work. I read a lot. It's about timing. Brevity is important too. And I keep updating it all the time. What makes things funny? Hmm. Well I don't say mean things, I'm not mean spirited. Even when I say rude things, nobody ever gets mad, because I'm not being MEAN about it. I'm just asking people to notice other people's behavior which might be a little insane, but I'm always genuinely fascinated by people's behavior that I can't understand. But I don't hate those people. I look up to them in a weird way for having extreme lives. So I think I'm not mean. I think that's the main thing. I might be appalling, and I might take you to a world you'd never want to go to, and I apologize for teaching people about some of the things I talk about in my shows, but I feel like I HAVE to, that's my job.
So this City Winery show. There's a dinner attached to it, which I think is funny.
It really is like singing for your supper. It's a real meet and eat. You know, the country and western world started that. It's like a lap dance! And I deliver, baby. I'll be grinding on ya when you're trying to eat.
My co-workers and I coined this phrase, "pre-shitting." Meaning that basically when you eat with people, or watch people eat, you're watching them pre-shit. So you're gonna be sitting there, pre-shitting with strangers.
Well that's true, isn't it? As soon as the food comes out, it's begun. And I resent having to shit. I'm mad about it. I didn't think it up, so why do I have to do it?
So do you still live in Baltimore?
I do still live there. Mentally I live there all the time, physically I live there sometimes, and sexually I for sure still live there. I'm not there all the time, I've got an apartment in San Francisco, and one in New York, but Baltimore will always be my home. If I had to pick one, that would be it.
I went to Baltimore for the first time for NYE and stayed at The Tremont because I read online that that was the hotel you recommended.
Well it USED to be the place. That's where everybody stayed when we did Crybaby, but actually some of the most fun places are in terrible neighborhoods.
That's what we wanted to see. All the grit and grime, like in Pecker.
Well Hampden is the place to be now. It's got the hipsters and all that, but it's also got rednecks, so it's an uneasy mix. You would like Hampden. I'd say that's the closest we have to Brooklyn. It's like Brooklyn meets Appalachia.
Talk about no segue, but how do you feel about online dating?
Well I've never done it because I CAN'T. I've seen some profiles though, even sex ads, that'll say something like "Come on over and we'll watch some John Waters movies" and I always wanna answer and say "I got 'em all! I'll be right over!"
Tickets are still available for John's City Winery shows on 6/22 and 6/23 HERE.
- Vice Blog