Arts District

John Waters Talks Politics, Gender, and Equality At MICA

No topic was sacred for the Pope of Trash.

You’d recognize that pencil-thin mustache anywhere. Coupled with his trademark cackle and Bawl-mer accent, John Waters represents everything deliciously eccentric, grotesque, and oddball about Charm City.

Baltimore audiences are more than familiar with Waters and his films, art, and books—from the iconic Pink Flamingoes and Hairspray to his book CarsickCarsick, a chronicle of hitchhiking across the U.S. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less spectacular when the Pope of Trash—or the People’s Pervert, his newest nickname—makes an appearance in his hometown.

That was the case Tuesday night at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where Waters took to the stage to perform his gloriously dirty, and insightful, one-man show, “This Filthy World.” Delivered stand-up style, Waters wove biographical information with his insights on current events, pop culture, and, of course, his love for his hometown.

“Baltimore is the best place to live because it’s cheap enough that you can be bohemian,” he told the sold-out crowd. “Stay here, don’t leave.”

As is always true of Waters, no topic or material was sacred (and trust us, a good chunk of it was unprintable). Discussing presidential primary candidates, he said, “Even Cuba doesn’t want to be Socialist any more,” then continued that he’d “like Hillary to win so Bill can be First Lady, like Mamie Eisenhower.”

Turning to the state of the city after Freddie Gray’s death, he lamented that there doesn’t seem to be enough racial mixing. He brought up his own experiences of leaving the suburbs in high school to venture to North Avenue, where he “hung out with black kids. The cops hated it.”

He continued that, if black and white people interacted more, they would begin to realize that problems are more about economic disparity than race. “Pigtown and black communities should join together . . . then come to my neighborhood and burn down the country clubs. That’s how revolutions are made!”

In the second part of the evening, Waters took questions from MICA president Sammy Hoi—who said Waters’ films taught him about American culture when he arrived in New York after emigrating from Hong Kong—and then from the crowd. (Suffice it to say, his answers reddened some cheeks, but had people bent over in their seats.)

After a query about attending a burlesque performance, Waters floated a plan to turn The Block into a place for burlesque and punk rock venues. When asked where he goes to eat, he named Peter’s Inn and Rocket to Venus, though he really likes to cook at home. And he also declared his love for Justin Bieber.

But Waters kept coming back to his hometown. “This city has always been eccentric. Everyone has a sense of humor, it’s not pretentious,” he said.

“If I had to get rid of all the places I live, I’d keep Baltimore.”