John Pendal talks about being anxious at the state of the world in his Edinburgh Fringe Show

Name: John Pendal
Name of Edinburgh show: John Pendal: We Are Family
Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot – Sportsmans
Performance time: 5.30-6.30pm
Show length: 1 hour
Ticket price: £6 to £11, depending on the day

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
My names John and I studied Civil Engineering at University. I found out I was allergic to gluten and got a job in TV for 15 years. Then in 2003 I won a competition in America called “International Mr Leather” making me a global kinky sex ambassador. I milked that for all it was worth, looked at any transferable skills I had left and my only option in 2010 was to become a stand-up comedian. Since then I’ve done 1,000 gigs and performed solos shows in Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Edmonton (Canada), Fort Lauderdale, Melbourne and Rome.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
I look back at my family tree to try and answer life’s big questions, such as “is it possible to get along with your Dad after Brexit?” The story covers mutinies in the 1800s, arson in the 1900s and autism in the 2000s. It’s aimed at anyone who is anxious about the state of the world, or finds that their family sometimes annoys them.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I’ve been working on it since Trump and Brexit happened and the world seemed to divide into tribes which are very angry at each other, especially online. I decided to have a look back at my past to see if there were any answers for the future.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Buy a big bag a spinach every other day and put a handful of it into anything you eat. It’s very versatile: cold in sandwiches or wilted into beans on toast. It’s how I get to the end of the month without falling ill. That and never putting a microphone nearer than 2 inches to my face. Microphone herpes is a thing.

What has been the embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Last year’s show was called “How to Escape from Stuff” and half-way through I let two audience members put my wrists in rope handcuffs and I showed the audience how to escape. Over the course of 27 shows I got cockier and cockier, encouraging the audience members to freestyle, until one day someone pulled my arms over my head down behind my back and tied them to my belt loops. Didn’t see that coming…

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
People who manage to still be nice to up-and-comers despite all the pressures of being on the road. Matt Price is responsible for putting more new comedians (myself included) back together at petrol stations on the way home than anyone else I know. (He’s at the Gilded Balloon at 7pm)

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I make sure the track “Boogie Shoes” gets played just before the show, as that always puts me in the right mood.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I go to see Jen Brister whenever I’m getting tired of comedy and she restores my love. I saw her show “Wishful Thinking” three times in a month and that got me through Edinburgh one year. This year’s Jen’s at Monkey Barrel 1.45pm

Anna Mann is a character created by Colin Hoult and makes me cry with laughter. Anna is at the Pleasance Courtyard for five nights at 11pm.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
I don’t pick on people. I was bullied at school so it’s just not in me to make fun of the audience. If you’re scared of going to a comedy show because you’re worried about being picked on, come to mine.

Also, it’s really funny. It may be about my family but you’ll see your family in it too. It’s a great comedy show, but it’s also therapy too.


Buy tickets to West End theatre shows (some great discounted offers)
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest theatre news, special offers and competitions