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Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,257 ratings  ·  358 reviews
[Just] like reading a description of a Waters film is nothing like seeing it on the screen, listening to him tell his own stories brings the context and inflection needed to truly appreciate his art. A singular experience. -- Booklist

This program is read by the author and includes a bonus conversation.

No one knows more about everything--especially everything rude, clever
Audio CD
Published May 21st 2019 by MacMillan Audio
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  2,257 ratings  ·  358 reviews

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Hank Stuever
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly enjoyable, especially when he brings us into the private, day-to-day details of his daily existence -- his thoughts on air travel, summers in Provincetown, the inevitability of age and death. I was less fascinated by recollections from his movie-making heyday, though I do believe he has an extremely healthy, realistic relationship to show business. I also appreciated that he has no hang-ups about sharing dollar figures -- how much was he was paid to make a certain movie, what the movie's ...more
Robin Bonne
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-and-essay
I listened to John Waters read the audiobook and his filth elder advice is hilarious. I recommend it to fans of his work. He chose to write interesting personal stories that include his famous crew, Devine, Edith Massey, Mink Stole, and all the rest. The chapter where he takes LSD with Mink Stole at the age of 70 had me howling. John Waters is an absolute treasure.
Kasa Cotugno
There is only one John Waters, and he chooses to present his memoir in the form of a "how-to-be-me" advice column. Life, death and "Chutes and Ladders board game known as show business." He covers it all. It's fair to say he doesn't suffer fools lightly, but is also the best kind of friend to those he holds dear, providing opportunity for what could probably be called outsiders and in whom he recognizes gold. Much as he likes to smash hypocrisy with his outlaw personna, underneath he really is a ...more
Amy Bruestle
Aug 27, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review...

I absolutely hate to “DNF” books, especially giveaways...but this just wasn’t going to cut it...I was suffering through just to get to where I’m at now. Very boring and repetitive. Plus, the author talks about all these different people as if we know who they are. Of course there are a few names that are widely known, but the majority aren’t. I just had a tough time with this one.
Seema Rao
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Irreverant ~ Well-written ~ Charming ~ Relevant

tl;dr: Memoir of John Waters is actually basically a book about life

John Waters is an old fav of mine. So, that his book would be extraordinary didn't surprise me. However, what surprised me was how relevant this book felt. That a man who started out making outsider movies in Baltimore could speak to me, an asian woman about 40 years younger, highlights the depth of the book. In a series of short essays, Waters talks about his career, but also about
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, here's the thing to keep in mind when it comes to Mr. Know-It-All by John Waters - the information in the book is profane and can be descriptively graphic, but what tempers that is Waters' writing does not appear to be of the style to demean or to humiliate with venom. It is more of a style of telling things like they are and not being shy about it.

Mr. Know-It-All is a humorous memoir by John Waters that covers almost any topic imaginable: From his growing up, movie making, his unapologet
DNF 20%

I stopped not because I didn't like the writing, but because I think I'm burnt out on autobiographies/biographies at the moment. Waters is funny and his wit is sharp. There's some interesting deconstruction of his own works about what worked and what didn't with a sleigh-full of gossip about the cast and crew. Might be TMI for some people or the juicy bits that others are looking for.

Anyway, no rating because I hope to give it a go again.
Dispatches from my spiritual leader are always welcome. This one was particularly enjoyable in terms of 1) a whole chapter on Cry Baby 2) lots of songs to look up on Spotify 3) the idea of buying cemetery plots with your friends. I will definitely be doing the Madison on your grave one day, John Waters, if I don't keel over before you do. ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to be able to give this book a better rating. I like John Waters. I have seen some of his work over the years, and enjoy his contributions on talk shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher. I purchased the audio book, as I like hearing people’s stories told in their own voices, and I was not disappointed with that aspect. I went into this fully aware of who John Waters is and his love of taking things too far. His writing did not offend me in the least. Worse yet, it was just plain ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ive been a fan or Waters from day one and have read all of his previous books. This one is a departure—more a how to guide to succeed in the modern world without sacrificing your individuality. Buttressed by tales of his movie making and home life, this memoir/how to is fascinating reading for anyone — not just Waters fans. Highly Reccommended.
Rob Atkinson
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Waters may be an acquired taste, but I’ve been a longtime fan even (and especially) of his earlier, most over-the-top films. His books are a bit uneven, ranging from consistently surprising and hysterically funny (“Crackpot”, “Role Models”) to only intermittently so (“Carsick”). This one falls somewhere in between.

For fans of his films, the book begins with behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the making of all of his films from “Polyester” (a favorite of mine) through his last to date, “A Dirty
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
After seeing John Waters deliver a really good graduation speech on youtube, I wanted to hear more of this "filth elder's" advice to outsiders: he's quirky, hilarious and yet keeps it real. The book is strangely motivating and always charming, for a book that is essentially a memoir about surviving the alternative lifestyle until age 70 (and living it large...there are a lot of surprising revelations in here, I think) and making (mostly underground/cult) movies. The audiobook is a fabulous treat ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Waters tells a lot of terrific behind-the-scene stories about the making his movies, then moves on to topical essays. A few of these are, I'm sorry to say, pointless and annoying advertisements for his own eccentricity. (The worst is a protracted whine about flying that reminded me of 60 Minutes' Andy Rooney). Fortunately, the bulk of the essays are either brilliant and/or amusing, and his analysis of Andy Warhol is worth the price of the book. ...more
Jim Cabaj
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever wanted the wisdom of a gay godfather? Telling you about sex, drugs, monkey art, and death? John Waters is your man. Giving you his wisdom that will make you laugh till your stomach hurts. I made the mistake of taking it on vacation with me making my friends listen to excerpts that caused them to laugh.

John Waters also dishes on his success and those that he has worked with. For this of you who have loved all the versions of Hairspray from the orginal movie to the Broadway Show to
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, audiobook
Went back and forth on whether I should give this 4 or 5 stars. My deep-rooted fandom won out.

I purposefully went the audiobook route on this one because listening to JW dish is one of my favorite pastimes.

If I were to nitpick, I'd say that the title is misleading. Imparting wisdom often felt like an auxiliary function of the book, while riffing on topics near and dear to the author seemed to be the main thrust. There were certain chapters ("Betsy" and "My Brutalist Dream House") that read a b
Ai Miller
I will say first that I received a review copy of this book through a GoodReads Giveaway, and I'm grateful to the publisher for the opportunity to read this.

This was kind of mixed; the first half is maybe interesting for fans of Waters's entire filmography, and the stories maybe around Hairspray were interesting. He's missed the boat on making fun of trans people, especially young trans people, which is a pity because I think if he stopped for a second to listen to any trans people make jokes,
Mar 11, 2019 marked it as dnf
I received a NetGalley copy and, unfortunately, DNF'd this about 15% of the way in. I read John Waters' book Carsick, about his weird and wild hitchhiking journey across America. And, although I'm not really a fan of his work, there's a part of me that can appreciate his counter-culture approach to life and art.

This book is a mish-mash of hyper-specific advice based on key moments in his career. They don't feel particularly applicable and didn't hold my interest. After a fairly fun and insane i
Beth Ann
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: film, memoir, humor
Out of John Waters last three books, this one is my favorite. MR. KNOW-IT-ALL is a true companion to SHOCK VALUE. It's part memoir, advice book, and fantasist imaginings. He covers the parts of his life and film-making career that SHOCK VALUE was written too early to include. There's more than a hint of mortality being on his mind. He acknowledges friends and loved ones lost, buys his own grave, and discusses his eventual decomposition, yet he is fully committed to living life the John Waters wa ...more
Morgan Thomas
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I mean I could spend forever gushing about how much I love John Waters. But I will save you the trouble of reading rambling paragraphs cataloging my devotion. Instead I will do my best and keep it short. He is dark and comedic and I laughed out loud so much. Whether he was describing making his later movies or the drugs people take. Please read, I'm sure you'll laugh ...more
Leo Robertson
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best bits are his lessons from making films and the stories behind them, as well as his opinions on fame and the best ways to live (always be touring, listen to new music etc.)
His comedic riffs on various topics--flying, death etc--amusing but less so.

Worth a read!!
Lana Revok
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oddly enough John Waters makes me want to be a better person.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
John Waters is one of my favorite people and this book is worth reading to hear about his LSD trip with Mink Stole alone. Some of the essays got kind of unwieldy, but in general I enjoyed this book.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
John shares stories from on-set of all his films plus his usual amazing advice. Great fun, easy read!
Stewart Tame
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Waters’ appeal is difficult to put into words. There's a certain point of view, a certain aesthetic to his work that I find irresistible. He revels in bad taste and trash culture, to the point where he manages to redefine it into his own personal brand of cool. His gleeful enthusiasm is contagious, and his books are compulsively readable. A world without John Waters in it would be much more boring and dismal indeed.

This book is something of a direct successor to both Shock Value and Crackp
I listened to this in the car and it was hilarious. Of course, because it is John Waters, he goes seriously off the rails in a few of the chapters but honestly what else would you expect? This provided the much needed laugh I really needed and I really enjoyed it. I always prefer listening to his books because he reads them himself and he is a fantastic story teller and honestly one of the last truly original artists still out there. So if you are a fan of John Waters, listen to this book. 4 sta ...more
Christopher McQuain
3.7, to split hairs. This very loose collection of rants and recollections is noticeably more slapdash and spotty than the equally funny but much better disciplined CRACKPOT. However, some ambitious bits do attain an inspired philosophical absurdity; and Waters's annoyed indignation at the whole decidedly unsatisfactory, mediocre world, articulated in his uniquely perturbed tone, is still enough to make me laugh out loud when he lets it soar. ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Isn't it great we live in a world where a 70-something can still gross me out? That's the genius of John Waters. He lulls you in and then blam! You're laughing and nauseated and then laughing again. Still love John after all these years. His books are always a reminder of his talent and Mr. Know-It-All is no exception. John discusses everything in his life from every film he's done to summers he's spent in Ptown. My two favorite chapters were his tribute to his son, Bill and imaging his funeral. ...more
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
I loved the first several chapters that were actually about his movies. Having grown up in the 1980s and 1990s in the suburbs just outside of Baltimore, my family has always watched his films over the years, and it was great being reminded of casting and absurd storylines from some of them. The second half of the book is just a series of essays/creative nonfiction type writing that were sort of hit or miss. I skimmed through most of these because I just wasn't that interested in reading about hi ...more
John Lamb
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Waters entertains with stories of how he made his movies, but then he veers into 1980s hacky stand-up comedy with airplane humor (flying sucks, amirite?). Ultimately, he saves the book with discussion of monkey paintings. More monkey paintings please.
Unlike many reviewers, I'm not a fan of John Waters' films. So I come to this objectively to tell you that this book is a pile of junk, with some moments of brilliance mixed in that are laugh-out-loud hilarious. The problem is that, like the Waters' films I am familiar with, there's way too much crap and nowhere near enough lucid intelligent humor.

The first part of the book reviews his biggest film projects blended with advice for those that want to go into entertainment. His sharp words skewer
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John Samuel Waters, Jr. is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, personality, visual artist and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films: Pink Flamingos and Hairspray. He is recognizable by his pencil-thin moustache.

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