John Waters: “This Filthy World”
The Carolina Theatre, Durham
Friday, Feb. 6

At 68, there are still many things that filmmaker John Waters (see the INDY‘s recent interview) wants to do with his life.

He wants to be a snobby GPS narrator—turn left, asshole—and he wants to open a bar with emergency room-style lighting and a claw machine game with expired prescriptions as prizes. He wants to be in one of the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies (and he’s working on it). He wants to open a movie theater called “Sinema One” that doesn’t show movies but instead offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of snacks, some of them turd-themed.

But at The Carolina Theatre Friday night, where he performed his one-man show “This Filthy World,” he served as a stand-up comic, sort of. He talked through his life and career, frequently veering off into bawdy quips and odd, quick insights into the mind behind cult classics such as Pink Flamingos and Hairspray. The show mostly felt like endless one-liners, loosely strung together by different points in Waters’ career. It was difficult to know what to expect, but Waters powered through an entertaining hour-long monologue with the entire audience wrapped around his little finger, managing to be crass and edgy and sweet and hilarious all at once.

Waters rarely offered explanation for his big declarations, but they often didn’t need it. He suggested that the US Postal Service could boost business if it hired people who looked like they should work at Whole Foods—dreadlocks, tattoos, stretched ears and other body modifications—reasoning that people would flock to mail letters and packages just to gawk at the oddballs. Among his sweeping solutions, Waters also shared bits of personal trivia: he loves Lana Del Rey, and he thinks the Jackass movies are the “closest in spirit” to his own early films. For an opening act, he says he’d someday like a Satanic Temple choir to “come up here and sing backwards.” Because, sure, why not? He also said that even he, de facto king of weirdoes, had limits to what he would tolerate: “Adult babies—lock those fuckers up.” Full stop. “I’m not marching for them.”

Even among all the laughs, Waters occasionally edged toward poignancy as he fondly recalled his friend and frequent star Divine. He said that he and a few other friends had bought cemetery plots near hers, and they’d dubbed the area “Disgraceland.” He noted that it was a radical notion to be buried among your friends, but it’s not all that far-fetched—wouldn’t you rather be eternally interred with the people you like the most, even if it’s not your family?

Early in the show, Waters said what he most wants to be is bad. How, at 68, can one be shocking in new ways? It’s not enough to smoke or be gay anymore, he said. Who knows what the answer is, but if anyone is bold enough to discover it, it’ll be John Waters.