Former International Mr Leather, John Pendal compares organised religion with the fetish world. And finds plenty of overlap.
What unites us is far greater than what divides us, so treat everyone with respect. For some reason, in 2016, that seems more relevant than ever.
My Edinburgh show this year is the true story of how I went from a conservative Christian upbringing to being the only British winner of a competition in America called “International Mr Leather”, which made me an ambassador for kinky sex around the world. I didn’t know much about it so I had a very steep learning curve – and this show reveals how I won the competition and some of the things I discovered on my travels.
My upbringing actually helped me win, as the speech I gave to a crowd of 3,000 people at the final was all about the similarities between organised religion and the fetish world. ( “Some parts of our community have choirs … and a large number of you enjoy spending time on your knees.” )
Both groups are broad communities that welcome people from any background. At a church or a leather club you can find people with right and left wing political beliefs, wealthy mixing with poor, and people who are so disorganised they could be anarchists working on committees with others “who are a bit spreadsheety”. That makes them both susceptible to discord and splits.
A decade on I’m using those skills developed working with different people in my comedy career. I have a spreadsheet of jokes divided into seven columns: international audiences, young people, stags & hens, nice people in village halls, big lumps at the bar, normal people and the last column is “gay, kinky or American”. Come to think of it, I may be one of those people who are a bit spreadsheety.
At the end of my competition speech I suggested that the solution was to remember that what unites us is far greater than what divides us, so treat everyone with respect.
For some reason, in 2016, that seems more relevant than ever.
John Pendal: International Man Of Leather
Venue: The Stand – Stand 4 (Venue 12)
Dates: 4th to 28th August 2016 (not 15th)
Time: 4.45pm (5.45pm)