What happened when Jamie Morton’s dad wrote a porno? Find out on March 7 at The Chicago Theatre!

When Jamie Morton’s dad retired, he retreated to his garden shed and did something his family never expected. No, he didn’t develop a new hybrid tulip. But he did bloom in a way. He took on the nom de plume “Rocky Flintstone” and began to joyously turn out a sort of hybrid the world had never seen: volume upon volume of pornographic fiction/business manuals titled Belinda Blinked. When he got to a stopping point, he shipped the manuscript off to Jamie.

“I was like, ‘What the hell is this, then?’ My dad had recently retired. He told me that he was going to write a book, but I naively thought it would be a pirate story or a James Bond rip-off thing,” Jamie recalled.

The thing that stood out about his dad’s tour de force was not simply that it was a sexy-time tale of a pots and pans saleswoman named Belinda Blumenthal who spent her days absorbing boardroom strategies that would quickly turn any H.R. office into a war room.  What stood out was Rocky’s astonishing turns of phrase, such as “he grabbed her by the cervix,” “her tits hung like pomegranates,” “vaginal lids” going “pop” and other agonizing constructs clearly designed to be erotic but hilariously missing the mark.

And no doubt, there is legit business counsel. As one of Belinda's colleagues tells her,

“Meet me in the leather room in twenty-three minutes to clear up a few loose ends please … I’ll write a job description and send it to Bill in H.R. so everything is official."

Jamie, who is a respected British television director, did the sensible thing. He changed his name and entered the British equivalent of the witness protection program. No! That is not what he did! He did something much smarter. He enlisted his long-time friends, BBC radio host Alice Levine, and television producer James Cooper, and together they created the megahit U.K. podcast, My Dad Wrote A Porno (MDWAP).

Each episode features Jamie reading his dad’s latest chapter while Alice and James provide comedic commentary. Fans who stop Jamie in the street have told him that MDWAP listeners identify each other in public by seeing who is wearing headphones and laughing hysterically.

Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper

Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper

Since it began in 2015, the podcast has been downloaded an astounding 100 million times by listeners across the world, from Vatican City to the set of Star Wars. Celebrity fans include Elijah Wood, Michael Sheen, Daisy Ridley, Rachel Bloom, Thomas Middleditch and Adele.

Jamie, Alice and James’ live tour sold out Australia’s Sydney Opera House twice and in June will become the biggest podcast gig in history when they perform at Royal Albert Hall. In the meantime, they are touring stateside with a limited number of appearances in the U.S. and Canada. On March 7, you can experience the phenomenon in person when Jamie, Alice and James bring MDWAP to the Chicago Theatre for one night only.

Jamie kindly spoke with me by Skype about turning an awkward family situation into an international blockbuster.

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THE PODCAST IS BORN

Teme:  When did you realize that your dad’s book had comic possibility?

Jamie: Comedy was there in the first sentence. The title is hilarious. "Belinda Blinked: A modern story of sex, erotica and passion. How the sexiest sales girl in business earns her huge bonus by being the best at removing her high heels." I never in my wildest dreams thought he'd write pornography in the garden shed without my mother knowing. When he sent it to me I was floored. I couldn't believe this is what he'd been doing with his time.

As I read it, I realized it was comedy gold. I was serendipitously having dinner with my friends that night, so I brought it along thinking it would be fun to dissect over dinner. James and Alice were at that dinner and that’s where the podcast was born. I was reading out of the book and we were all laughing and we thought, "There's something in this. We should do something with it."

Teme: That sounds like a wonderful dinner.

Jamie: Yes, it was great … for us. But we actually cleared the pub. People were like, "Why are they shouting ‘nipples’ and ‘cervix’?"

Teme: When did your mom find out what your dad was doing?

Jamie: She found out the same time as me. I guess he was waiting for the big reveal, as it were. She's been really cool with it. I was surprised that she's been so chill. She doesn't listen to the show, but she's proud of him in her own way.

Teme: Did I read that you have three sisters? What do they think?

Jamie: Yes, three sisters. It's a lot, isn't it? They can be a bit of a rabble, but they're really great as well. They all listen to the podcast and they think it's hilarious. I'm very lucky with my family. They are all brilliant people and if any of them at any point were unhappy with it, we'd stop doing the show.

ROCKY IN PERSON

Teme: What is your dad like in person?

Jamie: He's a little bit mad which you could never tell from what he's chosen to do with his life! I love him. He's got a great sense of humor. He's a bit of a wind-up merchant, my dad. He likes to play pranks on people, and I think in a way that was what he was doing with this book with me. Sending it to me, I think he was like, "Oh, this'll mess with his mind," and I just played him at his own game really. Just read it out to the world.

Teme:  I do admire him. He could have retired and gone on cruises or puttered around the house, but he’s not doing that.

Jamie: He's certainly not doing that, no!

I agree. I think it is brilliant that he did it. We always try and make sure that the show is warm in tone because it's a great thing that he's done. His books sell all over the world and we're now touring the world with what he's written, so he is a success.

mdwap-1Teme: You all are loving in your comedy. You have him in on the joke.

Jamie: Yes, exactly. I think it really helps that James and Alice have both known my dad for so long. We've been friends for fifteen years now, so they've known him for as long as they've known me. They've grown up with him as well, so they know exactly what he's like and he can trust them.

 

ROCKY'S WRITING SECRETS

Teme: Your dad doesn't seem to be plagued by writer's block or lack of ideas. Does he ever share his writing strategies?

Jamie: I'm not sure how much strategy there is with writing Belinda Blinked. He enjoys going away somewhere to write, so when he's at home he writes in the garden shed at the bottom of the garden which he calls his “pavilion.” He often writes when he's on holiday as well. He said once that he likes to write in the heat, which is kind of disgusting when you think about it. He probably just sat there with some board shorts on and a huge Hawaiian shirt with a big cocktail in one hand and a pen in the other, making up these crazy adventures of Belinda.

Teme: What does his pavilion look like?

Jamie: He built it himself out of wood and concrete. It’s kind of a glorified shed. He made the windows with old wine bottles and put cement between them to make it look like the sun drips in. It's as bizarre as he is as a person.

Teme: On the podcast you’ve talked about who might play the Belinda Blinked characters in a movie. Who would play your dad?

Jamie: Brendan Gleeson would be a great Rocky Flintstone. Maybe Dustin Hoffman. If you want to know what my dad's like, imagine Dustin Hoffman in Meet the Fockers.

WHAT IS ROCKY LIKE AS A PARENT?

Teme: Did you have any indication growing up that your dad might do something surprising like write Belinda Blinked? You mentioned that he's a bit of a prankster. What kinds of things did he do when you were a kid?

Jamie: Nothing really gave me a signpost to him one day writing porn. I don't think you could ever prepare for that. He was always just really embarrassing in the way that is unique to dads. They have a real knack at finding your weakness to embarrass you. He was always telling really awful jokes.

But this has surprised me. James is not surprised at all that my dad started writing pornography. He says, "I just knew it was in him somewhere," but I never did. You don't ever really want to think about your dad doing that sort of thing.

Teme: Was he a parent that you could talk to about sex?

Jamie: Yes, actually. Both my parents are very liberal and progressive. They brought us up to be really open and we talked about it a lot actually as a family growing up. They've always been quite sex positive, which is pretty cool really. You appreciate that a bit more as you get older and you realize not everyone had that.

Teme: What's something about your dad that audiences might not know?

Jamie: He is very good at playing the harmonica. I've got quite a large Irish family and whenever we're all together Dad gets out the harmonica and he is the life and soul of the party. He is constantly playing songs and drinking games. He is a real party animal, my dad.

WHEN READING ROCKY GETS ROCKY ...

Teme: Has there ever been a time when you’ve received a new chapter from your dad and thought "I just can't read this" or dreaded reading it aloud for the podcast?

Jamie: During the live show it happens a lot. In the books there's a bit where the American character, James Sterling, gets a penis transplant and it goes wrong and it's kind of falling off a bit and then he cums blue semen. I was like, "Dad, this is absolutely repulsive." It made me question everything. But onwards.

Teme: What is the most outrageous turn of phrase you've discovered in your dad's writing so far?

Jamie: I love how his way with words is so uniquely him. He describes someone's nipples as being "as large as the three inch rivets which held the hull of the fateful Titanic together." That is just so bizarre. I don't think anyone else's mind works like that. How do you even come up with that? That's my favorite Rockyism, I think.

FACTS ABOUT FANS

Teme: Where is the most surprising place the podcast has been downloaded?

Jamie: There have been downloads in Saudi Arabia. I hope those people are okay if they ever get found out. Daisy [Ridley] listening to it on the set of Star Wars was pretty incredible. Vatican City was just bizarre. If the pope's into porn, then I don't know what to say. He is only human, I suppose, so he has to have a release. Not that Belinda Blinked would ever do that actually. Maybe he was just listening to it for research purposes.

Teme: You have a lot of celebrity listeners. I heard a story about Michael Sheen coming on stage during a show …

Jamie: Yes. We knew that he was going to be in the audience because we had invited him. But when you're onstage you can't really see who you're picking out. We suddenly heard, "Hello," in this booming Welsh voice and we were like, "Oh my god, is that Michael?"

Daisy Ridley came to the show in L.A. and we were like, "We've got to get her onstage," but she didn't put her hand up, which is understandable. That's been the most amazing thing about the podcast. All these people who we love and have admired for years, we get to meet them and hang out.

Teme: Being American, I'm obsessed with the royal family. Do you know if they listen?

Jamie: We would love Prince Harry to listen because Prince Harry is the best royal ever. We haven't heard anything, but that doesn't mean that they don't listen. Knowing our luck it would probably be Fergie or someone who's no longer really part of the family or who's been disgraced.

Teme: I bet they are listening.

Jamie: I bet so. They love a bit of smut, I reckon.

Teme: What is your most memorable fan encounter so far?

Jamie: We got an email from someone who'd lost their virginity because of the podcast. We were like, "Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing?" She was really intimidated by having sex. Then from listening to our show she realized that it wasn't that scary and that you can laugh about it and it's not this big thing that people build it out to be. That was actually a really lovely email to get. It made us feel like even though we just want to make people laugh, sometimes people take more from it.

WHEN LIFE GETS AWKWARD ...

mdwap-cover-artTeme: I really admire your ability to use humor to handle something that could be awkward. What is your advice on how to do that?

Jamie: My experience with Belinda Blinked was, okay, my dad's written this thing. Yes, it's weird and a bit uncomfortable, but it's always healthier to see the funny side of something and to embrace it as opposed to suppress it. Almost take the power away from it and be like, "This is hilarious." What I never wanted to do is let it eat me up inside and be embarrassed and then never talk about it with anyone. That would be unhealthy.

My advice is embrace [the awkward] and try and find the funny side because everything has a funny side. You might have to look quite deeply to find it sometimes, but I think owning it and trying your best to make light of it is a good way to live your life.

MDWAP's COMMUNITY-BUILDING MAGIC

Teme: Do you find a difference between British and American audiences?

Jamie: Yes. I think you guys are way more up for it. In L.A., we thought the crowd might not be the most vocal, but they loved it and were whooping and hollering. We've been pleasantly surprised at how much people want to see us here. It's really touching because we never expected it. All of our audiences are brilliant. I think that's something to do with my dad's work. It brings out the best in people.

Teme: It does! Why is that?

Jamie: Sex is one of those things that people don't really talk about. Even with your friends. Well, in Britain anyway. I don't know what it's like over here.

But we're having this open conversation and James, Alice, and I are really honest about it. There is an authenticity to our show because we're so comfortable with each other. People respond to that. We always wanted people to feel like they’re the fourth friend around the kitchen table with us. That was always our goal. The thing we’re most proud of is that people say that's how they feel.

We've heard stories of people on public transport laughing with their headphones on and someone coming up to them and saying, "Are you listening to My Dad Wrote a Porno?" and them saying, "Yes." Then they've gone and grabbed a drink and become friends. It brings people together in the most lovely way and it breaks down those inhibitions of people feeling like this is a topic that's off limits in society.

Credit: Royal Albert Hall

Credit: Royal Albert Hall

NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED ...

Teme: What is a question that no one has ever asked you about the podcast?

Jamie: People don't ever talk about my dad's past in sales even though there's so much about sales in this book. He used to work in sales and he thinks that these books are actually vital sales tips. People don’t ask about that aspect. That always makes me laugh a lot because it isn't an erotica book, really. My dad thinks it’s a business and leadership manual.

Teme: Was his strategy that people would be more likely to read about business if it had all these characters and a story?

Jamie: Yes. Entice them by the pornography, but you can stay for the business and leadership tips.

Teme: Party in the front, business in the back.

Jamie: Exactly, there you go.

CHICAGO

Teme: What will happen at the Chicago show?

Jamie: Well, the show is amazing if I may say so myself. My dad has outdone himself. We’ll read the lost chapter of Belinda Blinked. I’d asked him, "Is there anything else that you have?" and he said, "Well, there's this, but it's awful." I was like, "Right, I'll be taking that then. Thank you very much." It’s a chapter that he thought was too bad to put in any of the Belinda Blinked books, which gives you an idea of how terrible and amazing it is.

We read that and it's all about Belinda taking the regional sales managers on a team building weekend. It is so hilarious. It's so much more than just a live podcast reading because you'll never hear this chapter on the podcast. You'll only hear it when you come to our live show.

There are video elements. There’s audience participation. Alice does this amazing TED-like talk on the female reproductive system because obviously my dad knows nothing about that. It's a really raucous fun night and no one needs to have heard the podcast to join in.

Teme: It sounds like one of those rare shows where the audience feels connected to each other as well as to the people onstage.

Jamie: Absolutely. It's a real sense of community. That's what's so lovely about it. People have come to the show on their own and made friends with the people around them.

Teme: Absolutely anything else you would like to add?

Jamie: We're so excited to be in Chicago. The Chicago Theatre is iconic the world over. It's literally a dream come true. It isn't even a dream come true because we never dreamed that we'd ever be in this position. We feel so lucky that you guys are having us and that you're letting us come and spread the gospel of Rocky Flintstone and read this terrible pornography around your country. We feel very blessed.

Teme: Thank you for making us all feel like part of the family.

Jamie: Thank you. That's lovely to hear.

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Jamie, Alice and James bring My Dad Wrote A Porno to the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets here.

My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast and web site here.

The annotated edition of My Dad Wrote a Porno and all three volumes of Belinda Blinked by Rocky Flintstone are available here.

 

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