John Waters on Christmas, caroling crack heads, holiday traditions

John Waters on Christmas, caroling crack heads, holiday traditions
Photo: Greg Gorman

John Waters loves Christmas. He just celebrates it in his own unique way.

"This year, I'm having everyone over to my house, and it's actually going to be very traditional," the actor/director says of his holiday plans for this year. "Well, sort of. It's my own version of what's traditional. Like I have an electric chair decorated instead of a tree, and one of its legs is in a Christmas-tree stand. I have lots of things like that; it's just my version of tradition."

It's because of that unique sense of humor that Waters's hilarious, off-center, and slightly uncomfortable one-man holiday show has been going strong for the past 10 years. This weekend, the "Prince of Puke" comes to town to spread holiday cheer with A John Waters Christmas.

Before his triumphant yuletide return, the man who brought us classic films such as Hairspray and Cry Baby sat down with City Pages to explain why the holidays make him feel like "a drag queen on Halloween." 

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You've got a busy month ahead of you. Are you excited about the tour?

Absolutely! I'm going to 16 different cities this month; I feel like Santa Claus himself.

Are you a fan of Christmas?

I love Christmas, but I just get so busy that I don't have time to really get into the spirit right away. This year, I'm actually cooking Christmas dinner for the first time and having everyone over to my house, which is very exciting. I'm like a drag queen on Halloween I'm so excited.

What exactly is Christmas dinner like in the John Waters household?

It's very traditional. We all open presents. But no one plays Santa, and we don't all gather around the electric chair or anything like that.

Speaking of gifts, what's the worst Christmas gift you've ever received?

Anything that's re-gifted is the worst. Especially if you can tell it's some cheap, tacky gift you got from a business. That being said, I've probably re-gifted at some point, but I only do that if it's something I already have.

You've been doing the Christmas show for the past decade; does it still have the same magic for you?

I love the Christmas show. I always update it a little bit, but I never come to the same town two years in a row. So it's like I get to perform for a brand-new audience each time, which keeps it fresh.

By now do you think everyone knows what to expect from your performance? Or do you still get some people who are a little taken aback?

I don't think anyone walks in expecting this to be Johnny Mathis. I like making people nervous though, and then I get to take them into a new world. But even if they aren't prepared, I never have walkouts -- unless they're going outside to shoot up or something. Because even junkies love Christmas.

You're known as a very open-minded guy, especially when it comes to the holidays. But is there anything that you think crosses the line of poor taste when it comes to Christmas?

People who dress up as Santa Claus when they weren't asked to do so. If no one asked you, don't do it. And if you have a fat friend, do not immediately ask him to be Santa, either. Anyone who does that deserves to get punched right in the nose.

The Christmas show is your take on the holiday, but I'm curious if you have an idea of what your "perfect" Christmas would look like?

I wish I could take a group of crackheads Christmas caroling. Wouldn't that be great? Just a group of insane crackheads singing "Silent Night." It would horrifying.


A John Waters Christmas
Mill City Nights
111 Fifth St. N., Minneapolis
Friday, December 14
6:30 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show
$45-$100, $50 day of show

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Mill City Nights

111 N. 5th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55403


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