Interview – John Waters: I’m more likely to be given a death sentence than a marriage proposal, but it’s fine

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Legendary director and comedian John Waters tells PinkNews about why he thinks he is more likely to get the death sentence than a marriage proposal, why he is fascinated with drag kings, and how he thinks comedy can change the world.

Speaking to PinkNews from Provincetown, Waters jumped straight into talking about the weather, and about hitchiking there when he was 17.

“It’s beautiful here today. It always reminds me of my favourite movie – A cold Wind in August and it’s got that Back to school feeling, even though I hated school – got kicked out of nearly every one I practically went to. To me the year starts in September where everybody comes back, where workaholism comes back and people are eager to come back to work – IF they like their job. But for other people who hate their job, it’s hell.”

He goes on to express an unusual feeling of exasperation with British weather: “I hate it when I’m in London when I‘m hot. There’s no proper air-conditioning. I like cold.”
When researching his new book ‘Carsick’, and stand-up show of the same name, Waters hitchhiked across the US, and joked “no gays ever picked me up”, but said he never had any trouble despite being picked up by those across the political spectrum, male and female and of various ages.

On answering the phone to PinkNews, Waters said: “I know what you are, a Communist paper… That’s what it meant in the fifties when you said ‘he’s a little pinkish’ it meant you were a red diaper baby or a Communist.”

Then, when asked what he expects to follow same-sex marriage across the US, John joked, the “autosexual movement” – which advocates for the right of people – ‘”who consider having sex with someone else to be cheating on themselves”, to be able to marry themselves, and which he said he had inadvertently become a spokesman for.

Waters said he thinks it is important that comedy is used as a medium to address serious issues, and “the best thing to do to your enemy is to make fun of them”. He says “comic terrorism” is the best way to handle situations like the anti-gay law in Russia.

He said he was just as proud to have campaigned against the death penalty in the state of Maryland, than he was to have helped secure same-sex marriage, adding: “I think I was more likely to get one of them [the death penalty] than a marriage proposal.”

As his parents were married for 70 years, Waters said he strongly supports the right of anybody who wants to to marry, but that its not for him, and said: “Single men who could get married but choose not to, are now up there with straight couples who could have kids but choose not to.”

On working with John Travolta in ‘Hairspray’, Waters said he is not a homophobe, that he loves his wife, and “they have a lovely marriage”. Continuing he said: “However [Travolta] experimented in his past is none of my business”.

Continuing, he says: “I love drag queens, but I’m more fascinated with drag kings. Women who dress up and have beards and chests like boys – because it’s confusing.” Talking about the “new minority”, he said he loved the idea of confusing audiences through cross dressing and gender confusion

On the show and the book, he said: “They’re separate. I don’t think I’m fair to my audience if I ask you to come see me speak and I say the same thing in the book – it’s completely different. We’re having a book signing afterwards. But it is not totally just about the book; just a tiny part is about the book because if you read the book I don’t repeat information. If I tell a story in parts of it I don’t tell that story in my spoken word show – it’s no longer eligible. Because I think you should get your money’s worth if you buy a ticket.

“When I was in High School they’d say if you wore green on Thursday you were queer, I think it was from Oscar Wilde and remember ‘The Boy with Green Hair’ I loved that and always thought it was a gay movies, but it’s not! But it could be….”

Asked whether he touches on LGBT issues in his show, he said: “Oh, plenty. But I stir up all the controversies within the gay community … I like all this trouble in the gay community, their fighting with each other and everything. I find it delightful and great material for comedy.”

Upon being asked about his status as an “openly gay man”, Waters interjects: “I love that term, what does it mean? That sounds like we are sashaying down the streets- Openly gay’, I know what it means. It just used to make me laugh because one time in The Advocate I was on the cover of it and it said ‘the most openly gay director in America.’ But they never asked me if I was gay… How do you know? It all makes me laugh and of course I’m openly gay or whatever it is – I never came out though. What would they think – a straight man made that? Even though my audience was never just gay.”
John Waters will be performing his stand-up comedy show ‘Carsick: This Filthy World Volume Two Live Comedy Monologue’ at the Royal Festival Hall on 11 November 2014. See here for more information.