My Dad Wrote a Porno: "More Than One Baby Has Been Born to Our Podcast"

·16-min read
Photo credit: Acast
Photo credit: Acast

Jamie Morton waves a hideous brown piggy bank at his webcam. He and his old friends Alice Levine and James Cooper all got them from the same mysterious, mercurial benefactor: Morton's dad.

"He once got us all a little collection of mini copper pots and pans," says Morton. "Remember that one, guys?"

"I got a paella kit one Christmas," says Cooper.

"Oh yeah! I got fish seasoning," says Levine. "I don't think there was really any context to that, but do you know what, you shouldn't have to explain a gift should you?"

However unexpected Morton Sr's gift-giving is these days, he gave his son and his mates the greatest gift of all several years ago.

Very briefly, the My Dad Wrote A Porno story goes like this: at a party for his sister's birthday, Morton's dad presented his son with some very erratic erotica he'd written under the pseudonym Rocky Flintstone. Morton read it to Levine and Cooper in the pub one Christmas, they all had a massive laugh, and in 2015 they started a podcast doing exactly the same thing.

Flintstone's Belinda Blinked series mixes the improbable sex acts of the eponymous Belinda, a go-getting, Chardonnay-guzzling career girl at a London kitchenware wholesaler, with level-headed business and leadership parables.

There's a cast of indelibly strange supporting characters too: The Duchess, an ageing Panama hat-wearing aristocrat who also runs MI5; Jim Stirling, a stumpy American exec who got a penis transplant in Brazil; transparent but incompetent James Bond rip-off James Spooner. More than 250 million downloads, a world tour and a HBO special later, they're back for a sixth series.

Famous fans abound, and many – including Daisy Ridley, Elijah Wood, Dame Emma Thompson, Michael Sheen and Schitt's Creek's Dan Levy – have turned up to chat about the Belinda-verse.

"Lin-Manuel Miranda knew more about My Dad Wrote a Porno and Belinda Blinked than me, James, Alice and definitely dad," says Morton. "He knew everything."

Morton, Cooper and Levine met at university in Leeds, where they were all "geeky" about making TV for the uni's student station.

"Making stuff has always been part of our friendship," says Levine. "And we made a few things – often James' visions, and we were but bit players."

"Like cogs in the machine, weren't we Al?" says Morton.

"In the grand auteur's vision," nods Levine. "Yeah, I think that's why this didn't really feel very unusual to do."

Six series in, Morton's dad remains the gift that keeps on giving. Whether his gifts are anything you could ever want is a separate question.

"In the past if he's particularly liked someone's fan art, he's blown that up to the size of a large billboard and given that to us," says Levine. "Which is obviously a lovely thought, but a lot of them are quite graphic, so where you're going to put that in your house is questionable."

"Like, a picture of the Duchess with her tits out," Morton clarifies.

Levine grimaces. "They leave nothing to the imagination."

Photo credit: Acast
Photo credit: Acast

It's been a big break since season five. What have you missed about the podcast?

Alice Levine: Well, I miss being with them. Because you just can't really do it remotely, I don't think. Part of the joy of doing an episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno is us getting together and having a catch up. Which used to happen more, and then as different things have happened, getting together to the podcast has a function too because we get to actually hear about what's going on with one another when people insist on moving further away [Jamie looks slightly sheepish], etc. I've just missed that being a regular routine. And we do get into a routine with it. You start to get a withdrawal if you've not heard some of Rocky's terrible metaphors in a while. A week is about the right sort of recovery time. You're like, yeah, I've sort of forgotten the horror of that. What is it with childbirth, oxytocin or something? There must be a similar hormone that allows you to go back to it.

James Cooper: At the same time. It's been quite nice to have – probably for Jamie the most – a longer break between series and kind of come back. I feel like we've come back recording it, really excited to do it. Like Alice says, just to see anyone apart from the four walls of your own house.

Jamie Morton: What have I missed about being reading my dad's porn? Not that much. But I guess it's seeing you two and stuff. I kind of agree with James: it has been nice having this time away from it to kind of realise how much fun we have doing it, if that makes sense. Because when you're kind of in it, you sometimes can take it for granted. And we always planned to take 2020 off actually, even [with] Covid not happening, because we were on tour all year. It was really nice just to take a step back and just enjoy the fruits of it for a moment and then come back refreshed, like James says.

Levine: And our circumstances are different this time. We were talking the other day about how at the time that James had a nine-to-five, I worked weekends and [at] the BBC and stuff. And Jamie had a mad schedule as well. And so when we came to do a record, it was like, 'Okay, 8pm!' and, you know, leaving respective flats at midnight after we'd had a chat and done it and stuff. And so, there is something really nice about the fact that just coincidentally our schedules and everything means that we can maybe do a bit of daytime porn. That's been nice.

Morton: Yeah, it kind of took us a moment to realise, 'Oh, this is our show. We can make it work around us.' We don't have to feel like we're, you know, slavishly fitting ourselves into some sort of schedule that actually isn't there at all. Giving ourselves a bit more time, and it being the right time for us to get together and do it has been really nice. It's made this one feel, so far, really, really fun.

Levine: And you dad could be your dad for a bit again.

Morton: Yeah. Which, during 2020, it was important, you just want to be like, 'Dad – just be a dad, please just be okay and be safe. I don't want you to feel like you have to be mad Rocky all the time.'

Does reading your dad's porn hit different just after brunch?

Morton: I don't eat before a reading.

Levine: Like the swimming rule of two hours.

Morton: I don't wanna get cramp. But it is nice doing it, as Al says, in person. Because so much of it is us reacting with each other. And them supporting me through the more disgusting bits, even at this point. It sounds stupid, but there's still points where I'm like, 'This is rough.' The porn element hasn't dulled for me. I don't think that will ever get blasé for me.

Levine: When we do it in the daytime, I feel like we're more tolerant. If we've had a long day, we're like, 'What is he talking about?' Jamie's like, 'That makes sense'. And I'm like 'Yeah, to be fair, I'm just bringing my own baggage to the table.' Rocky is the straw that broke the camel's back.

Jamie and James, what does Alice bring to the podcasting table?

Levine: That's genuinely the hardest one because the boys have such defined roles.

Cooper: As far as the voices on the actual show, obviously the female perspective which neither Jamie and I can bring and, like, I just feel very lucky to have Alice on the show. I just think she's one of the funniest, wittiest people I know. To have her as part of the show... Nope, I'm gonna cry.

Levine: I've never heard him speak like this before. This is unheard of.

Cooper: I feel like Alice really shines when, as you hear on the podcast, we're just chatting and making jokes and kind of improvising. And I think the podcast really shows off that aspect of Alice the best, that wit, that really quick thinking.

Morton: Yeah, and showing everybody else the Alice that I think me and James have known for nearly 15 years. I think that's been the nicest thing to be like, 'Here's our friend Alice', not 'Here's Alice off the radio or TV'. Because she is slightly different on the show. And like James says she's so relaxed and so funny and so quick. I mean, she kind of puts us both to shame really with her witticisms. It's been nice for anyone who's been there from the start for career to see a whole different side to her. She hates this. [Alice has gradually curled into an embarrassed ball.]

Jamie and Alice, what does James bring?

Morton: My favourite thing about James is that out of all of us he's the most obsessed with Belinda Blinked, the world and the story. He is the one that knows what's going on. If me and Al don't know something, or we make mistakes, he'll be like, 'Excuse me, I think you'll find that in series one, chapter two...'

Levine: Incredible memory for detail. The first thing that springs to mind with James is he's just the quickest. He's always got the pun. The joke on the podcast is that I say the joke that James has just said, but in a different voice just after. I always feel like I'm like, no, gimme a sec, there's something with that, with vagina and gin and tonic, just wait, just wait... James has already got 14 of them.

Morton: Together, for me it's amazing to see them tee each other up and watch them go on a whole tangent and a riff is really, really fun for me. James does tend to find an angle that me and Al would never have thought of, and that kind of prompts a whole and hilarious new way of looking at the book, which is really fun.

Levine: Jamie and I probably are cynics and James just has eternal enthusiasm. And I think that's just in life as well. I think Jamie and I are quite sceptical and we err on the side of being a bit negative. And I think that James is forever upbeat. With the books there's a childlike enthusiasm every time. Sometimes, Jamie and I are like, 'Fuck's sake', and James is very celebratory about everything. You hear that in the show – I don't think you could fake that, and the show would just be three people sat around tearing down someone's work, and at the end being like, 'Yep, so I guess we hate it'. And I think that's a very good reflection of his role in our friendship group too. James is the up-er.

Morton: Because of that, James is my dad's favourite by far. He would absolutely rather spend time with James than me because James is very supportive.

Levine: That's an infectious attitude. I think Jamie and I get giddy from James' laugh.

Morton: James' laugh makes me laugh. Half the laughs on the podcast are probably just based on James laughing at something.

Cooper: God, this is nice.

Morton: It's gonna crash and burn right now.

Cooper: 'And Jamie reads the book. Okay!'

Levine: 'He's Rocky's son. So nice to meet you, Tom!'

Cooper: Jamie's literally the anchor of the show and the heart of the show, I guess. I feel like Jamie brings most skill to the podcast as far as like, he's got to manage reading this book – like, navigate the spelling and grammar of this book – read it in a compelling way, the voices he does now are just Oscar-worthy.

Levine: Jamie subtly directs us too, because James and I will go off on what we think is a hilarious 15 minute riff – as you've already seen – and so Jamie's thinking like, as much as I'm enjoying this, that's not gonna stay in. I think you do an amazing job of kind of pivoting between being a straight guy and a funny guy. And that's really tough. Like, you have to sort of be the foil sometimes and sometimes, to let James and I shine, be really straight – you have to be really malleable. Whereas I think James and I don't have to perform so many roles, and so we can just be the disgusting show offs that we naturally are.

Cooper: And also, like, he's got incredibly thick skin because as time has gone on, as we've found out more about Jamie's past, it's become a kind of big trope of the podcast. [Jamie's childhood was largely spent in youth theatre.] And bless him, he takes it on the chin. He's always very good about it. But I can imagine that can get annoying at times.

Levine: He thinks of the show first; he's egoless. It doesn't matter who says the joke. If he needs to be the person that says 'yes and', if he needs to be the person that sits back, or if he needs to be the person that goes with you down that riff... like he doesn't put himself first in that equation, he just thinks, 'What's going to end up being the best bit?'

Cooper: That was like therapy.

James and Alice, how early on in your relationship with Rocky did you get any inkling that he might be capable of this?

Cooper: I used to live with Jamie early on in London, so Rocky used to come around a few times to stay. And there's two things that stick out in my mind as early, early hints. One is that he loves the harmonica. He'd come around, and stay for the evening. And they'd be drinking in the living room – I'd stay for a drink, but they they can drink me under the table. So I went to bed. And then early hours in the morning, I just hear [very good harmonica impersonation] 'Fweeeeee!' Three in the morning, and he just starts playing. I don't even know if they were known songs.

Morton: It's a lot like his writing, he goes off on his own.

Cooper: 'Fucking hell. What is that?' I thought that was kind of unusual behaviour. I hadn't seen that before. But apparently, he loves to play the harmonica at a soirée. The second is once he came around, and he had a book in his hand, which was, like, edition 52 of this swashbuckling pirate series, and he thrust it into my hand and went, 'James, you should adapt that into a film.' Like I had any ambition to do that or any means whatsoever. He's just like, 'Make that into a film', and walked off. Odd moments where I was like, 'You're funny, aren't you?'

Levine: I learned much later about the great man. But you don't meet the artist known as Rocky and think that man's not capable of writing this. You immediately think, 'That's who I would have thought would write this'. He's just the life and soul, isn't he? Mad as a box of frogs.

What are the maddest things people have done in the name of the podcast?

Cooper: There are a few pomegranate tattoos. Sometimes you can kind of understand a band or a face of a big celebrity, but a pomegranate from a sex podcast? I mean, you really need to rethink your life decisions.

Levine: It's gonna age.

Morton: My friends recently had a baby and on their document from their midwife with all their recommended tips for giving birth, listening to My Dad Wrote A Porno was one of the recommended tips, which means that more than one baby has been born to the sounds of us shrieking and dad's crazy literature. That's kind of shocking, I think.

That's what happens when you go Bupa.

Cooper: I'm always impressed the amount of time people spend doing stuff – I know someone wrote their dissertation about Belinda Blinked recently. Someone made a website kind of detailing the timeline of the books and scrutinising the fine detail of it – it's a really dense detailed website, it's mad.

Morton: Someone in New Zealand said to me that they had friends who were a couple who every episode, they had to do the sex act from that episode. Or at least attempt it. That that was their kink.

Levine: I know we never kink-shame, but that's outrageous.

Morton: But good for them.

Levine: Probably not good for them! Probably very bad for them!

Photo credit: Steve Zak Photography - Getty Images
Photo credit: Steve Zak Photography - Getty Images

How long do you want to keep doing it? And how are you going to decide?

Levine: How long you want to keep doing it, Jamie?

Morton: It's one of those things – as Al said earlier, because we've always made stuff together, and because we're just three friends who have fun doing it, it doesn't really feel like a job. Well, it isn't a job. But like, it doesn't feel like we're doing it because we need to do it, if that makes sense. It isn't like there's been a production company and we're three comedians who've been put together to make a podcast. We'd just be doing this anyway. We would have made this if 10 people listened to it. It just makes us happy and it makes us laugh and we like doing stuff together. So it's a kind of hard one to quantify.

Cooper: Every series [we finish], we then have that conversation about whether we do the next. We certainly never thought we get six, Jesus. So it's just a kind of ongoing conversation. As long as we enjoy doing it, I don't think we'll ever be like, that's it, close it forever.

Levine: And I think it's just the way that we interact as well. We always loved watching bad stuff, like Tommy Wiseau's The Room. We like hate-watching stuff. And we like hate-reading stuff, apparently. So I think this isn't a massive leap from us kind of Gogglebox-ing something. Like Jamie says it's not exactly work because we just tear it to shreds, which we really adore. Which I think says a lot about us.

The sixth season of My Dad Wrote A Porno is part of the Acast Creator Network and starts 24 May, available anywhere you get your podcasts

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