John Waters’s comic genius lit up D.C.’s Howard Theatre last night. Appearing a half hour ahead of the scheduled 8:00 start—in the Q&A afterward, Waters said he was surprised to hear himself introduced at 7:30 and had to hustle onstage—he immediately paid tribute to the venue’s storied past and cited the many iconic African-American musicians/bandleaders that played the Howard back in the day. He noted the restored theater’s upscale look, comparing it to the dining room in The Poseidon Adventure, and mentioned attending shows at the Royal in Baltimore. Looking around the Howard, in its present state, makes it even more baffling that our city tore down the Royal, but that’s a rant for another day.
Over the next 90 minutes, Waters delighted the crowd—a great mix of young/old, black/white, gay/straight—with a deft mix of bawdy humor, sharp observations, and intellectual bravado. I can’t think of any performer who gives his audience more credit for being smart and open-minded. It's a winning combination that allows him to riff about sexual fetishes, race relations, Justin Bieber—who once told Waters, “Your ‘stache is the jam”—and Susan Sontag. Waters gets extra credit for working Cy Twombly and obscure D.C. hip-hop artist Michael Ivey into his routine.
When he talked about hitchhiking across the country last year, the person seated next to me—a grandmotherly, African-American woman—leaned over and said, “Everyone should do that at least once in their lives.” She howled with laughter throughout the show, just like the tattooed hipsters on the other side of me, and the gay couple across the table. The entire experience made me proud to be an American. No kidding.
And after the show, I met Gore Vidal’s sister, and we talked for 20 minutes about Baltimore’s dirt bike culture—a fitting end to a perfect evening