Director, actor, writer, and owner of a badass pencil moustache. He spent much of the 70s-80s making low budget exploitation films, such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. He achieved relative mainstream acceptance with Hairspray, in 1988.
His films all take place in Baltimore, and are packed with as much sleaze as possible. They celebrate trashy Americana, with awful fashion and gaudy designs featured prominently. He has a regular group of actors, chief among them the late drag performer Divine.
Tropes common to his works include
- Alliterative Name: Tracy Turnblad, Francine Fishpaw, Dawn Davenport, etc.
- Alternate DVD Commentary: Provides it for Christmas Evil, of all things.
- Ascended Fanboy: A fan of the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis, especially Blood Feast, the sequel to which he got a part in.
- Camp Gay/Invisible to Gaydar: One of the few people who manages to somehow embody both aspects at once.
- Cloudcuckooland: Baltimore and it's suburbs.
- Creator Provincialism: All of his movies are set in Baltimore.
- Cringe Comedy
- The Danza: He voiced the Camp Gay John in "Homer's Phobia".
- On the episode's commentary he notes what an odd experience it was to voice a character whose name was John, who looked like him, and was gay, but wasn't actually him.
- Dead Baby Comedy
- Exploitation Film
- Gross-Out Show: Many of his movies would qualify. Especially Pink Flamingos.
- Identical Stranger: He looks so similar to Steve Buscemi that he once put a picture of Buscemi on his Christmas cards to see if anyone would notice.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Mondo Trasho has yet to see DVD release due to rights issues (Waters took the soundtrack from his own records collection), but was released on VHS, making it rare but available.
- Lost Forever: While not lost in the same way as, say, London After Midnight, Waters refuses to release his first three movies in any format, and they have not appeared since their original showings.
- Refuge in Vulgarity
- Self Deprecating Humour: Appears at the start and end of the Lonely Island's song "The Creep", as apparently, to be a certified creeper, you need to look like John Waters.
- Stylistic Suck: His movies are intentionally trashy