John Pendal: International Man of Leather

If you think you have seen and done it all, try John Pendal on for size. The former champion of Chicago’s International Man of Leather, the equivalent of the fetish Olympics, regales you of his life and what led him into the world of kink through a well-seasoned blend of comedy and narrative. If you haven’t gathered by now adult content is rife throughout, especially when Pendal reads out the audience’s fetishes on stage; so get comfy and enjoy listening to the mechanics behind pegging and fisting.

An elusive hallmark of Fringe brilliance.

It helps that Pendal has an instantly attractive demeanour: happy-go-lucky, but wholly informative; playful, yet serious when demanded of him, all facets of his character that ultimately earns him the respect he deserves. However, it is his nuance and appreciation of his audience which is by far his most cherished ability, where the Watford comic is conscientious of the awkward dialogue that stems from discussing what goes on in the bedroom. But these conversations are necessary for a rounded education of sex and consent, something Pendal expressively puts forward as the quintessential lynch pin of any sexual encounter. And what Pendal’s show shines light upon is the surprisingly little amount of understanding of sexual etiquette.

As he so rightly puts it, kink is an accent: we grow accustomed to what is the norm in our own culture and community, then find ourselves astonished at what our peers enjoy. Kink is a difficult concept to define. One man’s idea of hell is another man’s fetish, and it is only through recognising these differences that we accept not everyone thinks and feels alike. To illustrate, Pendal takes on the church in a derisive manner to condemn the damning problem of religious brainwashing which the openly gay comedian experienced in his childhood and adolescence, a problem that persists for many to this day. At times he risks becoming long-winded, but he never makes it into ramble territory. And without diluting his comedy, he successfully restrains his political angle without jarring with the thematic content, a hard balance to strike especially when dealing with ineffable topics such as the fetish world. The jokes aren’t laboured at all, but flow naturally from the act in such a way that seems effortless. And just when you think he has run out of steam, he hits you with an absolute cracker.

But behind all of the humour, Pendal’s concern for the youth of today and the importance of active consent shows the wise musings of a man hoping for society not to repeat the mistakes of his generation. And through a captivating performance, we see the necessity of kink in our own lives to leave feeling richer for the experience. Incontrovertibly, the comedic prowess of the leather comic combined with the storytelling, notwithstanding the less refined elements at play, see’s John Pendal arrive as an elusive hallmark of Fringe brilliance.

Reviews by Stuart Mckenzie

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The Blurb

This groundbreaking debut solo stand-up comedy show is the true story of how a shy Baptist boy from Watford became an unlikely international sex ambassador when he won the 25th annual International Mr Leather contest in Chicago in 2003. Armed with a love of spreadsheets, he set out to tour the world representing every kink and fetish – regardless of whether he liked them or not. 'John Pendal was in top form and had the crowd roaring with laughter' (Windy City Times).