John Pendal: Monster (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

John Pendal: Monster

A gentle hour with a nice man which still covers some radical ideas

Witnessing this former Mr Leather International with a penchant for kink, the uninitiated might not expect a trigger warning at the start John Pendal's set. But that's exactly what he serves while refreshingly explaining that he understands what it's like to be picked on. What follows is a highly emotional and chucklesome hour, exploring the power that guilt and shame can have over someone's life.

Starting from his first perceived mortification (dealing with undiagnosed coeliac disease), Pendal uses a shame thermometer to assess the rating of those personal ignominies. From being subjected to 'gay conversion therapy' as a religious teen, self-diagnosing himself with autism, navigating the world as a gay man, and realising he's just not the type to enjoy penetrative sex, Pendal exposes the barriers in place for those who subvert the norm, with a warm, emotional wit.

His show could be viewed as formulaic but when you understand that it's just part of his autistic traits, it then makes sense. It illustrates the open, matter-of-fact way he navigates through life. Sometimes the jokes teeter away from the realm of traditionally funny, hitting deeply emotional chords instead; but don't fret, he whips out pictures of his cats when it all gets a bit much. It could be easy to overlook John Pendal's gentle and wholesome storytelling as a tad comedy-lite, but beneath the niceties is a message of radical self-acceptance and evolution not often seen from white-male-cis comedians.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 26 Aug (not 16, 23), 7.45pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).

John Pendal: Monster

A celebrated comedy about sexuality, shame and guilt by John Pendal.