A John Waters Christmas
The Coach House
December 3, 2014
John Waters has always been a champion of bad taste. If you read our feature story on him last week, then you know that the artistic polymath dubbed "The Pope of Trash" uses that sensibility to offer a few unique notions about Christmas as well. Last night at The Coach House, he explained them to a South County audience as part of his lauded one-man show.
His hour and a half long monologue of story telling, opinions, and wishes touched upon holiday traditions, gifting practices, and Santa Claus fashions. Waters also ventured beyond the holiday theme to discuss the Easter Bunny, airline travel, and gay culture. Each of his topics was suitably branded with Waters's spins, which range in flavor from profanely disgusting to delightfully grotesque.
Balancing ugliness with sheer delight has always been a trademark of Waters's work. Despite the inclination that polite society has to summarily dismiss off-color humor, deeper examinations of his material reveal brilliant social commentary. For example, during his show, he said that when he was much younger, he and a girlfriend used to take LSD and speed, break into people's homes, steal their Christmas gifts, and then drive around unwrapping them; each gift that they would unwrap, they found to be truly awful, and they would then toss the presents out the window.
At face value, a story like this reveals nothing but criminally insane behavior; however, the acts described can also be viewed as a spiritual rebellion against the prosaic paradigm of giving lousy and thoughtless gifts as part of a mundane tradition. Naturally, it is entirely possible that the story is a fabrication, but it is still just as effective in its social commentary as it was in eliciting joyous laughter from the audience.
After completing his set, Waters was given a respectable applause, for which he thanked his audience before interacting with them. He asked that the house lights be turned up, and he then took questions for about a half an hour. The audience contributions ranged from marriage requests to questions about his future work, and, in a serious turn, about his advocacy for the release of Leslie Van Houten. Van Houten, who was convicted of killing two people at the behest of Charles Manson, in 1969, has been a friend of Waters; he is one of her champions and has petitioned for her parole.
While Waters's skewered sensibilities are an instant turn-off for many people, those who get it will surely delight in his Christmas show. Additionally, he admits that his current level of celebrity no longer makes it appropriate for him to make low-budget, underground films, and since Hollywood was not impressed by the profits of his most recent film, he has turned to other media. Regardless, whether the medium is film, books, or spoken word, his subversive humor remains poignant. If you didn't get a chance to see it Wednesday, Waters is unwrapping his solo show all over again on Friday at the Comedy Store in Hollywood.