Best Graduation Advice Ever: ‘Go Out Into The World And F*ck It Up Beautifully’ (VIDEO)

Artists aren’t like you and me. That may explain why Yale’s class of 2015 had Vice President Joe Biden deliver their commencement speech, while Rhode Island School of Design graduates got. . . John Waters, the creator of transgressive films who is best known for his 1988 cult classic, “Hair Spray.” John Waters’ career and life tips for new grads sound crazy (we’ve listed 13 of them and added the video below), but do we really need more “successful” people?

Yale and other elite colleges aim to educate our future “successful” people, who become the ultimate insiders. Meanwhile RISD trains artists, who tend to be outsiders whose powerful works of art can change how we see the world forever. Over and over again, we see political and business leaders start out wanting to change things, and we then get discouraged as we watch them get absorbed into the system. Meanwhile, even well-known creatives like Waters keep their outsider’s perspective, and never quite manage to become fully assimilated.

The main point of Waters’ startling and hopeful speech is that creating positive change means bringing the outsiders inside without changing who they are. As someone who was not the Dalai Lama once wisely explained, perhaps we need to redefine “success.”

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.”

First, Waters introduces himself with his dubious qualifications as a “prince of puke,” and “the people’s pervert.”

“I should say right off that I am really qualified to be your commencement speaker. I was suspended from high school, then kicked out of college in the first marijuana scandal ever on a university campus. I’ve been arrested several times. I’ve been known to dress in ludicrous fashions. I’ve also built a career out of negative reviews, and have been called ‘the prince of puke’by the press. And most recently a title I’m really proud of: ‘the people’s pervert.’I am honored to be here today with my people.”

Other commencement speakers assume the college students sitting before them will become our nation’s future political and business leaders. Waters assumes the graduates assembled before him want to work in their pajamas.

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“OK, I’m supposed to inspire you. How’s this? Somehow I’ve been able to make a living doing what I love best for 50 years without ever having to get a real job. ‘But how can you be so disciplined?’ friends always ask when I tell them my job is to get up every day at 6 a.m. Monday to Friday and think up insane stuff. Easy! If I didn’t work this hard for myself, I’d have to go work for somebody else. Plus I can go to my office one room away from my bedroom in my own house dressed in my underpants if I want to.”

Other graduation speakers tend to fondly reminisce about their college days, but Waters is more forward-thinking.

“Never be like some of my generation who say ‘We had more fun in the ’60s.’ No, we didn’t! The kids today who still live with their parents who haven’t seen them in months but leave food outside their bedroom doors are having just as much fun shutting down the government of foreign countries on their computer as we did banning the bomb.”

And while other commencement speakers dish out the usual platitudes about hard work, perseverance, and building a future, Waters’ advice is more about following your muse, staying engaged, and shaking things up. Many creative types see themselves as outsiders, but why settle for that? Walker declares that if you blaze a path, the world will catch up eventually.

“Today may be the end of your juvenile delinquency, but it should also be the first day of your new adult disobedience. These days, everybody wants to be an outsider, politically correct to a fault. That’s good. I hope you are working to end racism, sexism, ageism, fatism. But is that enough? Isn’t being an outsider sooo 2014? I mean, maybe it’s time to throw caution to the wind, really shake things up, and reinvent yourself as a new version of your most dreaded enemy – the insider. Like I am.”

Ha! The final irony: A creatively crazy person who finally gets power. Think about it: I didn’t change. Society did. Who would have ever thought a top college like RISD would invite a filth elder like myself to set an example to its students‽ See? There’s hope for everybody.”

Waters even explains how “Hairspray” — his 1988 classic that got remade with an all-star cast in 2007 — was a subversive “trojan horse” that helped pave the way for society’s increased acceptance of mixed-race relationships and gender-nonconforming folks.

“You need to prepare sneak attacks on society.Hairspray is the only really devious movie I ever made. The musical based on it is now being performed in practically every high school in America – and nobody seems to notice it’s a show with two men singing a love song to each other that also encourages white teen girls to date black guys.Pink Flamingos was preaching to the converted. ButHairspray is a Trojan horse: It snuck into Middle America and never got caught. You can do the same thing.”

Waters’ advice may sound crazy, but it actually makes sense.  Think about it for a moment: Generations of Americans have given up their dreams to pursue careers that would provide economic security. But where has that gotten us? Since the 1980’s, we’ve been smacked down by one recession and sluggish recovery after another. Which begs the question: Why bother selling your soul if no one’s buying?

If you don’t have time to watch Waters’ entire 12-minute speech, here are the top 13 take-aways.

  1. Get used to rejection: “Hopefully you have been taught never to fear rejection in the workplace. Remember, a no is free.”
  2. Find your partners in crime: “A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip. All you need is one person to say “Get in” and off you go. And then the confidence begins.”
  3. Stay inspired: “If you’re a visual artist, go see the shows in the galleries that are frantically competing to find the one bad neighborhood left in Manhattan to open up in.”
  4. Ask you’d make something better: “Watch every movie that gets a negative review in theNew York Times and figure out what the director did wrong.”
  5. Keep informed: “Read, read, read!”
  6. Learn from your enemies: “Listen to your political enemies, especially the smart ones, and then figure out a way to make them laugh.”
  7. Hone your sense of humor: “Humor is always the best defense and weapon. If you can make an idiot laugh, they’ll at least pause and listen before they do something stupid – to you.”
  8. Use the world for artistic inspiration: “Watch people on the streets. Spy, be nosy, eavesdrop.”
  9. Stay open to new things: “As you get older, you’ll need youth spies that will keep you abreast of new music that nobody has heard of yet.”
  10. Don’t hate rich people: “They’re not all awful. Believe me, I know some evil poor people, too. We need some rich people: Who else is going to back our movies or buy our art?”
  11. Use technology wisely: “Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living.”
  12. Screw what others think: “Design clothes so hideous that they can’t be worn ironically.”
  13. Do something fabulous: “Go out into the world and f*ck it up beautifully.”

Watch John Waters’ awesome RISD 2015 commencement speech.


Photo with John Waters:Composite/video screen grab via RISD and Nathan Lawson/IMDB.