Writer and filmmaker John Waters and the Sub Pop record label on Friday released a new recording, entitled “It’s In The Book/”Proud New Father.” Cover art courtesy of Sub Pop/Hardly Art.

As if he doesn’t have enough going on, writer and filmmaker John Waters and the Sub Pop record label on Friday released a new recording, entitled “It’s In The Book/”Proud New Father.”

The release comes one day after Artforum magazine published Waters’ Best Films of 2022 list, which includes “Bones and All;” “EO,” a film about a donkey that wanders Europe; and “Detainee 001,” a documentary about John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban.”

Waters’ new audio-only release, available digitally and on a seven-inch single pressed on gold vinyl, features Waters covering a stand-up routine recorded in 1952 by Johnny Standley, a comedian, actor and musician who was born in Milwaukee in 1912.

“It’s In The Book” is Waters’ attempt to portray, in his words, Standley’s “persnickety, droll, intellectually superior comic monologue,” a part song, part exhortatlon on the subject of Little Bo-Peep, in the manner of a revivalist preacher. According to Seattle-based Sub Pop, the original version of “It’s In The Book” was a surprise hit when it was released in 1952, rising to No. 1 on the Billboard chart and selling more than one million copies.

Standley’s follow-up, “Proud New Father,” is a nursery-rhyme-goes-wrong comic routine that was released as a record in 1953. According to Sub Pop, it did not do as well commercially as the 1952 record, “perhaps due to its gory details.” Says Waters: “It may be the first sick joke I heard as a child.”

“It’s In The Book” lasts three minutes, and “Proud New Father” lasts three minutes and 15 seconds. What listeners will hear is Waters covering Standley’s original routines, word for word.

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“It’s John’s voice,” said Frank Nieto, publicity director for Sub Pop. “The only thing he added was canned laughter,” mirroring the gratuitous laugh tracks on Standley’s recordings.

The homage to Standley was produced by Grammy-winner Ian Brennan.

Baltimore writer and filmmaker John Waters. Photo by Greg Gorman.

“That recordings of dead people prompt living people to laugh is one of the more surreal aspects of recorded medium,” Brennan said in a statement. “That often-identical canned laughter tracks have been used redundantly on countless albums and sitcoms for decades is all the eerier.”

Waters’ latest single follows the release of “Prayer to Pasolini,” his tribute to the legendary, controversial Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, which was recorded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic by Waters and Brennan at Pasolini’s murder site on the outskirts of Rome. That single was released by Sub Pop on Waters’ 75th birthday, April 22, 2021.

Waters has twice been nominated for a Grammy award in the ‘Best Spoken Word Album’ category but he lost both times, first to the late Joan Rivers and then to Michelle Obama. He jokes that he chose to press the new single on gold-colored vinyl so that he can at least be able to claim, “I’ve made a ‘Gold Record.” He is currently on the West Coast leg of his holiday spoken-word tour, “A John Waters Christmas.”

The digital version of Waters recording costs $2 and the vinyl version costs $9 plus shipping on Sub Pop’s website.

John Waters’ Best Films of 2022 list

Here is Waters’ Best Films of 2022 list, as published in Artforum magazine.

No. 1: “Peter Von Kant,” from France, directed by Francois Ozon. “By far the best movie of the year,” Waters said.

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No. 2: “EO,” from Poland and Italy, directed by Jerzy Smolimowski. A film about a donkey that wanders Europe, meeting good and bad people and experiencing joy and pain. Waters calls it “Au Hasard Balthazar meets Old Yeller,” with Isabelle Huppert popping up “for no apparent reason except that she’s the best actress in the world.”

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No. 3: “Everything Went Fine,” from France, directed by Francois Ozon. “Assisted suicide for the elderly has never been so madcap,” Waters said. “So I Love Lucy…With a cast to die for – literally.”

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No. 4: “Sick of Myself,” from Norway, directed by Kristoffer Borgli. “It’s not Female Trouble, but it’s just as nuts,” Waters said.

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No. 5: “Bruno Reidal, Confessions of a Murderer,” from France, directed by Vincent Le Port. “True crime, Gallic style,” Waters said.

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No. 6: “Detainee 001,” from the U. S., directed by Greg Barker. Currently streaming on Paramount+ and other platforms, this documentary examines the case of John Walker Lindh, dubbed ‘the American Taliban.’ “Was he an overhyped traitor or just a well-traveled kid caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?” Waters asks.

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No. 7: “Dinner in America,” from the U. S., directed by Adam Rehmeier and originally screened at Sundance in 2020. “A wonderfully nasty, politically incorrect punk-rock romantic comedy with great performances,” Waters said.

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No. 8: “Will-O’-The-Wisp,” from France, directed by Joao Pedro Rodrigues. Waters calls it “a racially risky, raunchy Portuguese musical about class and pyromania that will light you on fire.

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No. 9: “Smoking Causes Coughing,” from France, directed by Quentin Dupieux. “Brilliant performances and dumbbell dialogue equal a superhero movie for idiots that surpasses all the tedium of Hollywood blockbusters,” Waters said.

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No. 10: “Bones and All,” from the U. S., directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell. Waters describes it as the tale of a “butch twink”/”soft grade hetero cannibal” and his “flesh-eating girlfriend.”

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Waters’ complete review can be found in the December issue of Artforum, on newsstands now or on artforum.com.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

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