John Waters’ last nonfiction book may be called Mr. Know-It-All, but he admits that title doesn’t necessarily apply when he travels abroad.
“I feel like an idiot when I’m in Europe and everyone speaks one or two or three other languages; I’m so jealous of them,” he recently confided to an entertainment reporter for a Hungarian news site, Telex.hu.
“I am an American, a member of the most stupid people, we don’t even speak English properly,” Waters said, according to an English translation of Telex’s transcript of the interview, which originally appeared in Hungarian.
“I learned French in primary school, but I can’t speak a word, even though the French have always been very kind to me,” he added.
Waters will visit Hungary when he stops in Budapest to perform his spoken-word show, “The End of the World,” at the MOM Cultural Center on April 4. It’s one of two European cities where he’s performing this week, after a show today at the Gartenbaukino in Vienna, Austria.
Waters last performed in Vienna in 2017, when he appeared at the Gartenbaukino as part of the Slash FILMFESTIVAL that year. He also had an exhibition of his visual art work at Galerie George Kargl Fine Arts in Vienna in 2000.
This is the first time he’s been to Hungary, he told the Telex interviewer, David Klag. Telex describes itself as the largest community newspaper in Hungary.
“I’ve never been there before,” Waters said. “I love going to places I haven’t been before. I’ve already been to Romania, because we shot the Chucky movie there, and I’ve been to Poland with a similar show not so long ago.”
Waters’ trip to Europe follows roughly 40 stops that he’s made in the U.S. since last fall (and one in London), in which he performed two spoken-word shows, “The End of the World,” a successor to his COVID-era shows called “False Negative,” and “A John Waters Christmas.”
According to the MOM Cultural Center website, “The End of the World” is a “fast-moving comic monologue about today’s despair and diseases, desires and desperation” in which Waters “welcomes all audiences into a new dawn of depravity.”
These days, “everyone is whining about how many things don’t work in this world, and I propose some funny solutions to these problems,” Waters said in the Telex interview. “I’m talking about movies, fashion, parents, crime, clothes, humor, political correctness, politics. So about almost everything.”
He’ll perform in English, followed by a Q and A session with the audience. Then he’ll have a post-show meeting with a smaller group of fans who buy premium tickets, called Group Therapy, in which he answers more questions and poses for socially-distanced selfies with his fans.
“I can’t wait to be in Hungary,” he said in the Telex interview. “I’m always amazed that anyone even remotely knows who I am. It’s amazing how far I could spread the seeds of my madness.”
Pink Flamingos on TV
In his newspaper interview, Waters touched on a number of subjects related to his career and his views of the film industry.
Known as the Prince of Puke, he said he liked the vomit scenes in “Triangle of Sadness,” one of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards ceremony this year.
He noted that Criterion, the home video distribution company, has restored some of his earlier films and that they now play on American TV.
“It’s a great honor to be a part of Criterion,” he said. “My movie “Multiple Maniacs” is on HBO in America…Many people are seeing Pink Flamingos for the first time on TV.”
He said he tries to speak more slowly when he performs abroad.
“I’ve been to Sweden, Greece, England, Germany with this; it worked everywhere,” he said of his performances. “Sometimes they try to have someone interpret, but they usually give up after a while. I…speak too quickly, the text itself is not written, no one can read it in advance, and there is also a lot of slang.”
He said he keeps up with the latest movies, even obscure ones, for his annual “Best Films” article in Artforum magazine.
“I like to mention films that don’t even have a distributor,” he said. “I love those French movies where everyone feels terrible and there’s nudity in it. And that usually means films by Gaspar Noé or Bruno Dumont…I’m always looking for weird movies.”
He has a theory about why his annual ‘Best Films’ list is influential:
“My best movies list always comes out in December, but the serious newspapers come out with their lists in January,” he said. “So mine is first and always gets a lot of hype. There are distributors who organize screenings directly for me, because they know that this is their only chance to get their film on any year-end list.”
Waters told Telex he has begun work on his next movie, a film adaptation of his 2022 novel “Liarmouth – A Feel Bad Romance,” about a woman who steals suitcases at the airport. He confirmed last fall that Village Roadshow Pictures optioned the novel and that he has agreed to write the script and direct.
“That’s what I’m working on right now. I’m writing the script for Liarmouth,” he said. “I hope it will come together, but it’s a long process. The novel is the craziest thing I’ve ever written.”
John Waters Easter
Waters’ trip abroad will be relatively brief. Next weekend he’ll be at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, to host the second annual “John Waters Easter.”
Activities include a 50th anniversary screening of “Pink Flamingos,” with commentary by Waters and his friend Mink Stole; an Edith Massey lookalike contest and a performance by the German “Electroclash” musician, Peaches.
After that, his visual art show at the Baltimore Museum of Art, “Coming Attractions: The John Waters Collection,” featuring items from his private art collection that he’s donating to the museum when he dies, will end on April 16.
On April 22, Waters will turn 77. Then he’ll start a four-city book tour to promote the May 2 release of the paperback version of Liarmouth, including a stop at Atomic Books in Baltimore on May 12.