Interview with John Pendal

John Pendal takes some time to talk to Voice about the show, inspirations, and to give advice to young people.

Interview with John Pendal

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

My name's John, I'm a stand-up comedian who likes telling stories and in 2003 I became the only British person who's ever won the annual International Mr Leather contest in America.

How would you describe your show?

It's called How to Escape From Stuff and it's the true story of a hobby that I kept secret for 10 years: amateur escapologist. It starts with me being tied up by missionaries on a Welsh beach and ends with me tying up Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed. I'll also show you how to get out of rope handcuffs during the show. And it's a comedy. What's not to like?

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Two reasons: it's the annual trade fair for comedians, and it's a great place to hone your craft. You'll get as much experience performing for one month in Edinburgh as you will in six months touring the rest of the year.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

It takes over the whole of the centre of Edinburgh. Every shop, bar, alleyway and empty space is either turned into a performance space or accommodation. Other cities have fringe festivals but unless you're inside a venue you can miss that it's happening. In Edinburgh, it absolutely takes over. For which I sincerely apologise. It's a beautiful city the rest of the year and we ruin it for 4 weeks!

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

I wanted to do a job where I could pay my bills and not hate myself. I'm still working on both of those.

If you didn't have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

It would be anything where I'm helping people: massage therapist, sexual health educator, relief work co-ordinator, bed bug inspector. So long as I'm making situations better I'm happy.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

There's nothing to beat stand-up comedian after a good gig. But if I couldn't do that I'd be a sports physio for the England rugby squad. For entirely altruistic reasons.

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

Tipping out my giant tin of Lego every morning and waking my parents. Why they didn't they give me a big drawstring bag to keep it all in I'll never know. Maybe they liked being woken up at 5am?

Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?

I'm 46 years old with opinions and a microphone. It's not so much as pressure as an inevitability.

Equally, do you think there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?

Since Brexit I've chosen to do far fewer mixed bill gigs where I'm unknown to the audience. There's a section of society which has become far more comfortable telling people who are different to get away from them. I've no desire to put myself on the receiving end of that, so I've stuck to places where there's more chance people know who I am in advance and have made a choice to see me. Financially I'm worse off but psychologically so much happier.

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Crazy stressful worrying political madness.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

I'm really happy with the team I've got around me. I have a very supportive husband, The Stand are a perfect venue, wonderful friends helping with directing, PR and previews. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else.

Why would a performer opt to do either a ticketed event or participate in the free fringe? What are the benefits and limitations of both?

The free fringe is a great place to experiment and build a following without too much financial risk. But I've been burned on the free fringe booking my show into a venue that then changed hands and I ended up not going.

Paid venues are good if you want to be reviewed or seen by the industry – but there's a constant pressure of box office sales or you'll lose a lot of money.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Consider going up the first year to do open spots in other people's show and work out how the fringe works, the next year do a gang show with friends, then do a two or three hander for the full run. You get a lot of attention for your 'debut solo hour', so don't rush it.

When and where can people see your show?

How to Escape From Stuff is on every day from Weds 2 to Sun 27 Aug (except Thurs 3 and Mon 14) from 4.45-5.45pm at The Stand Comedy Club, Stand 4, 28 York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EP. Tickets available from

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

My website is:, I'm also on Facebook at ... Instagram: … and YouTube:

John Pendal: How to Escape from Stuff is performing at The Stand Comedy Club 4 at 16:45 on 2nd – 27th (not 14th). For tickets and more information visit the Ed Fringe website.


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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