Born in Baltimore, John Waters rose to fame as a cult icon. He has wore many hats over the years including journalist, film director, author, screenwriter and, now, spoken-word comedian.
He has ignited the careers of such performers as Ricki Lake, Divine, Mink Stole, Traci Lords and Johnny Depp.
Known for his pencil moustache and his reputation the king of camp, Waters continues to push the boundaries of "normal" behavior with his sarcastic wit and biting sense of humor.
He brings all of that including much more with his one-man show entitled "This Filthy World" to the Harris Theater to entertain Chicago audiences.
Windy City Times: Last time we saw each other was at the Music Box book-signing for Role Models.
John Waters: Right, here I come again!
WCT: Coming back to Chicago.
John Waters: I'm looking forward to it.
WCT: I really loved the Christmas show at the same Harris Theater space. Tell people about This Filthy World.
John Waters: It is a spoken-word act that is completely updated and rehearsed. I update it all the time. It is about everything, not so much about my movies even. I use my movies and experiences of making them as a springboard to talk about true crime, fashion, what shocks me, how to get along with your parents even if you are insane or they are insane. It's about education and how to get through life these days, to be true to yourself and be a happy neurotic.
I always say it is a self-help speech for people that don't really need help. It is mainly to help everyone to be insane together. That has always been my message.
WCT: These stories go back through your whole life?
John Waters: Everything from kindergarten to yesterday will be covered, yes! [Laughs]
WCT: What will the set be like?
John Waters: It's just me and a stool. There won't be dancing kangaroos or anything! Sometimes I am lucky and they do some flowers. It is very sparse. Think of Lenny Bruce in the early days. Do people with a spoken word show usually have a set?
WCT: Sometimes they bring clips with a movie screen.
John Waters: No, none of that. I just have it memorized with no cheat sheets.
WCT: Will there be a Q&A?
John Waters: Yes.
WCT: I will tell people to bring their questions, then.
John Waters: Yes, tell them to bring some new ones. I don't mind the old ones but I will just try to think up a different answer. How many questions can people ask? I've been doing this for 50 years!
WCT: Do you talk about poppers in this show, like in the past?
John Waters: I might talk about them a little but I go into new drugs. I try to be up-to-date.
WCT: Who knew poppers would be so popular even today?
John Waters: They still are. You know I got a lifetime supply of them from a company. The most embarrassing thing is that I am almost out!
WCT: Oh no! I read that you knew you were gay since you first saw Elvis Presley.
John Waters: That is true. I don't know if that is in this piece but I do talk about the duties of being gay and the very fact that people are allowed to come in. I think we have enough gay people sometimes I think people should have to audition. I am sorry to get snobby about it but I think they should try out for the part of being gay. Then we could give a gay ID for the people that have been approved.
WCT: It used to be so rare and now everyone is doing it. So trendy!
John Waters: Now there is trisexual. They have to really be gay.
I am all for people falling off the wagon of heterosexuality. I think that is fun too.
WCT: What do you think about the current state of gay marriage?
John Waters: I'm for gay marriage. Why would anyone be against that? I want alimony! I've never been in love with a rich person unfortunately. That is something lacking in me. I want to start being a gold-digger at 67. Now people are my age; there is not even a stretch anymore. I wouldn't be like Anna Nicole Smith; I would be dating age-appropriately if I was a gold-digger. But a wrinkle queen I am not. I am still looking for one. If anyone asks you what a wrinkle queen is, it is someone with a sexual attraction to old people.
WCT: Is there a new celebrity that you are into?
John Waters: I always like Justin Bieber and I talk a lot about him. He's one that is lasting I think. I'm all for Justin. I am his top Belieber.
WCT: You have been called the "Pope of Trash."
John Waters: That is an old term but nobody has come up with a better one. The real reason is because William Burroughs called me that. That is like being ordained from the heavens above. It is a beatnikism. I don't think I will ever be topped for that.
WCT: What did you think about the new pope?
John Waters: I fucking hate him! He said that gay marriage is the work of the devil. Those are hating words to me. Move to Uganda then. That is where he ought to be living. Do you believe that shit? I think the church is our enemy. I am a catholic basher. They will bash me so fuck them.
WCT: With my last name being Nunn, I run all over the city being a gay nun.
John Waters: There are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence too. I don't think there has been anything still as rude as the scene in Multiple Maniacs with my rosary job. That is when I thought I had gotten Catholicism out of my systemuntil they keep rearing their ugly heads! They bait me with ridiculous statements.
Shrimping [toe-sucking] prisonersthat was my favorite picture of this year when he was washing and kissing the feet of prisoners. He's a shrimper. That is what we call it. He's allowed to shrimp and we are not allowed to get married?
WCT: Good point. Do you think it is harder to shock people these days?
John Waters: I never tried to shock people so I don't know. Hollywood does that now.
WCT: What has been the latest book that you have read?
John Waters: I am reading James McCourt's book called Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia. It is not out yet. I'm a huge fan of his. He's a great queer writer.
I just finished David Sedaris' new book Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls. He's the best selling comic writer there is so you better read him. I laughed out loud.
WCT: He was just in town. Traci Lords was, too.
John Waters: It is her birthday today.
WCT: Well, happy birthday to her! She told me that you were in a film with her recently.
John Waters: It was a film called Excision. I played a priest and she played an uptight mother, which really proves times have changed.
I also appeared with her at two different horror conventions. I have weirdly appropriated Vincent Price's career because now I appear at these conventions. People always ask if I made any horrors films and I say, "My mother thinks they are horror-ible!" I think that qualifies me…
WCT: What do you have on the chopping block this year?
John Waters: The main thing is my book Carsick, which is about me hitchhiking across the United States. I hitchhiked across America by myself last year.
WCT: Are people still hitchhiking these days?
John Waters: Well, no, but I did. [Both laugh.]
WCT: I bet you have some good stories.
John Waters: You have to read the book to get them, but yeah. I am on my tenth draft. I work on it every day.
WCT: Any movie projects?
John Waters: I have been trying to make this movie, Fruit Cake. I have talked about it for five years and you know what it is. I don't still go to meetings and waste my time. I can't do movies that cost a million dollars. I did that, and worked with unions and movie stars. I'm fine with my other projects.
WCT: It must be rewarding to see people you worked with in the past like Johnny Depp to have done so well with character roles over the years.
John Waters: Are you kidding? He's one of the best American actors we have today. He's a friend and remembers his past. He keeps in touch and is a great guy.
WCT: Anything else about the show?
John Waters: Come and see it. I love the buildings in Chicago. I want to jump off of them like Superman. People always complain about the severe weather there. I love cold weather. It is nice there.
WCT: If you need anything while you are in town just let me know.
John Waters: Alright. I am in town for 24 hours so my needs will be minor, but thank you.
Welcome to Waters World at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., on Tuesday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m.
A special afterparty with dinner and drinks follows with a limited $100 ticket. Visit www.harristheaterchicago.org .