Crash your car into a life-sized nativity scene, gift a recalled toy and host a 4th of July cookout while everyone else is carving a ham — these are just some of the holiday tips John Waters offered up during his stop at the Kessler Theater last night. The raunchy, hour-long show, which lived up to Waters' nickname, "the pope of trash," was part of an annual Christmas tour that the director of Pink Flamingos and numerous other cult films now brings to 17 cities every year.
It wasn't your traditional holiday production in that there was no song and dance, nor any gaudy props; the one-man-show played more like a themed stand-up comedy set. Waters found a way to tie all kinds of current events into Christmas, railing on everything from Hollywood to our "hair hopper” president-elect, but the show was largely structured into two segments: gifts he'd like to receive (at Atomic Books in Baltimore, where he takes all of his mail), and gifts he'd like to give.
The multi-hyphenate artist-writer-director-comedian proves that as a show business veteran, all you need is a big personality and a vintage statement blazer to carry a show. Within the first five minutes, he was throwing packets of anal bleach in the air toward the audience. He'd once received a few from Johnny Knoxville and held them up as an example of an interesting, albeit perplexing, gift. "Who cares about the color of your anus?"
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The only gift that Waters roundly despises are gift cards. He said they indicate you think the recipient is boring and has no interests. And don't bother trying to make a few pears look fancy with some tissue paper. "I can buy a pear!" he said. If you're set on a gift basket, he suggested you instead fill it with unfiltered Kool cigarettes — the kind you only win at a backwoods carnival.
Waters' discussion of politics was lighthearted, advocating the use of humor as a means of retaliating against the looming Trump administration. “Mike Pence wouldn’t want me to be straight,” he said. “What would I be doing now? A Santa pub crawl?” His references pulled from high culture (Proust) and low culture (RuPaul's Drag Race) alike and his comedic timing was impeccable. The set often appeared to be off-the-cuff rather than memorized, although this could also be attributed to skillful delivery.
In attendance were all the fellow artists, weirdos, punks and misfits of Dallas. When the show was over, I surveyed the crowd to ask what they thought would make a good Christmas gift for the man of the hour. The responses included rosary anal beads, a glass dildo filled with a deceased lover’s ashes and a big turd. “Do they make rosary anal beads?” I asked the fan. “I’m not sure, but I would make them,” he said. Custom-made anal beads — now that’s the kind of following befitting of a cult hero.