'My Dad Wrote a Porno' Podcast Team Talks Hollywood Fans and Movie Plans

Credit: My Dad Wrote a Porno
James Cooper, Jamie Morton and Alice Levine

The hit British comedy podcast — detailing the unintentionally hilarious sexual adventures of a female sales executive — counts Daisy Ridley, Elijah Wood and Michael Sheen among its many, many fans.

Despite Mumford and Sons being the headline band two days later, on the Thursday night at U.K.’s recently concluded Latitude Festival (like a slimmed down and slightly more sedate version of Glastonbury), there was no question about what the main attraction was.

Under a tent almost bursting at the seams, with crowds spilling out into the fields around, three unassuming figures were given a rock star’s welcome as they took to the stage to sit on three distinctly un-rock'n'roll folding chairs. Their act: reading out a chapter of a pornographic novel.

Introducing My Dad Wrote a Porno, the hit British comedy podcast that, since it first launched in September 2015, has gone from cultish guilty pleasure to global word-of-mouth sensation, with more than 60 million downloads across three seasons, a regular domination of the Apple iTunes charts and now a world tour of their live stage show. 

Porno's humble beginnings date back to the day London-based Jamie Morton discovered that his retired father — going under the pen name Rocky Flintstone — had written a book called Belinda Blinked, an adult novel focusing on the sexual adventures of an enthusiastic 30-something woman called Belinda Blumenthal as she navigates the exotic waters of the pots and pans industry (seriously). Along the way, Ms. Blumenthal climbs the career ladder by engaging in wild orgies at work meetings, sex-filled international business trips (including an unexpectedly public fling in an Amsterdam shop window) and erotic trysts with Duchesses in motels.

But it was the unorthodox language — which flits between elaborate metaphorical descriptions of sexual organs (“her nipples were now as large as the three-inch rivets which held the hull of the fateful Titanic”), crude and gynecologically questionable terminology during the frequent sex scenes (“he grabbed her cervix”), and the sort of dialogue that makes 50 Shades of Grey sound like it was written by Aaron Sorkin (“we just had good old-fashioned sex ... it was what we both wanted, and when you get what you want, you feel great!”), alongside hilariously dreary and overly descriptive passages dedicated to the corporate world of pots and pans — which gave Morton the inspiration to turn his initial disgust to his creative and comical advantage. And so he brought on board his university friends Alice Levine and James Cooper to sit around a kitchen table while he read aloud chapters for their amusement and dissection.

Three books on and Belinda and her cohort of regional sales managers (including the rather under-endowed Jim Sterling: "did the man know he was only tickling her?") have become literary icons. Along the way, My Dad Wrote a Porno has picked up a growing collection of celebrity followers eager to get involved, with the likes of Elijah Wood, Daisy Ridley and Michael Sheen popping over to record the special ‘Footnotes’ podcast spinoff (which essentially revolves around them drinking, reciting their favorite lines, discussing the motivations of Rocky Flintstone and falling about in hysterics). Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch, who joined via Skype from Puerto Rico where he was filming Replicas with Keanu Reeves, told them he had “never laughed harder.”

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter before the Latitude performance (which Levine describes as a “fully immersive live porn” experience), and the day of a sold-out show at London’s Royal Festival Hall (usual home to classical concerts), Morton, Cooper and Levine discuss their growing and unexpected U.S. fan base, being forced to kick Sheen out of the house after he refused to leave, and ideas to turn My Dad Wrote a Porno into a film (Tommy Wiseau, anyone?).

Any idea how big your U.S. fan base is?

Cooper: We get analytics about who’s listening where and obviously New York and L.A. are the big pockets. But we get emails from all over — Philadelphia, the Deep South, which always surprises me. So it’s definitely there and — I’m such a nerd — I love the data and stats so I keep checking the American chart and I think we’re top 10 or skirting around there in comedy podcasts. So it’s definitely growing.

Morton: It’s a bit of a hard sell initially — My Dad Wrote a Porno? But I think once you start listening and realize that it’s not what you might expect it to be and it’s more charming, shall we say, than visceral. And it kind of is a word of mouth hit. I think people share it quite naturally, which is nice.

The humor is very British. And rude. When you started did you ever envisage someone in the, say, Deep South, listening to it?

Levine: I feel like podcasts have that ability to transcend taste, because it’s such an intimate medium. I think if it was TV or something else, perhaps we would have to moderate it. But it’s quite an individual listening experience. People have this communal way of debriefing on it. Maybe it has that sort of culty, ‘if you know, you know’ feel. Maybe that’s why we get away with it.

Cooper: And I think as well, maybe people aren’t getting it on TV or elsewhere, we’re providing something quite unique in that you’d never seen this stuff on TV, as racy and sweary as it is. Its something you can’t find really find anywhere else.

What’s the most comical fan mail you’ve had from the U.S.?

Cooper: People like correcting us a lot. We’re often mispronouncing things or saying British things that Americans don’t know and they’re like, “what’s a tombola?”. We get people asking us what British-isms are. We’ve learned to explain as we go for everyone.

Levine: And people saying “that’s not a typical Texan. That’s not representative of all Americans.” Rocky paints a quite broad stroke sometimes. I think some people just wanted to clarify that their fellow countrymen are not unanimously like that.

I imagine that Rocky is delighted that he’s got an audience overseas.

Morton: Oh yeah. We can’t actually stop him from writing. We’ve tried. But he loves it. For a 60-year-old man who wrote something in his garden shed, to suddenly be enjoyed by millions of people all over the world … it’s been a crazy journey for him. It took him a while to kind of get his head around, a) what a podcast was, and b) how successful it’s been. When people like Elijah Wood came on the show he — well I think we all — realized the scope of the show and quite how far it’s come. Because when we record, it’s such an intimate thing. We don’t really think about who’s going to be listening to it or where they’re going to be listening to it. We just focus on what we’re making. But it’s nice to realize people are enjoying it all over the place.

You’ve had Daisy Ridley, Elijah Wood, Michael Sheen and — recently — Mara Wilson on the show’s spinoff, Footnotes. Is there a long queue of talent lining up to appear?

Cooper: We’ve got a couple more lined up. We really like just dropping them and not announcing that they’re happening until they come out. Until they actually turn up at our front door, we never know that it’s going to happen. There’s definitely some that have come out of the woodwork recently that we’re really excited about.

Levine: Can we give a clue … one of them is an Academy Award winner.

Do they get in touch directly or is it via their publicists?

Cooper: No, I don’t think a publicist would go near our show! It’s very much them working on their own. A lot of times they’ve reached out to us on social media or people that they know do and say, just so you know ‘x’ is quite a big fan and we pick it up from there. But that’s what’s been so nice about the show — it is very organic the way that we get people on. Daisy Ridley turned up to James’ flat with two bottles of Prosecco and said, “I am so excited, let’s do this.” It is that kind of relaxed. And I think that’s why they do it. If it was a bit more produced they’d probably be more wary.

Didn’t Michael Sheen stick around until 1 a.m.?

Morton: We couldn’t get rid of Michael. We literally had to ask him to leave. He had our food and drink and we were like, you really need to go, we’ve got work tomorrow, mate.

Have any pulled out after checking with their publicists and been told that this isn’t suitable for their image?

Cooper: Not yet. And if Daisy Ridley can come on after being in the biggest Disney film, I think we’re alright.

Have you been approached about making a film? Seems perfect material given that you’ve already got such a big fan base. 

Cooper: We’ve had really exciting conversations actually. I guess like anything it’s about how we go about adapting someone like this to a different medium. And to be completely honest, from the beginning we had really exciting chats with film people and it's certainly something we’re looking into. But the show is doing so well as a podcast and we feel like we’re really in the middle of a resurgence of the medium of podcasts. And being a part of that evolution has been really exciting. So I think at the minute we’re really focused on making the show the best that it could be. Yes, we’re definitely exploring options down the line, but are just very much enjoying being podcasters at the minute.

What sort of ideas came your way? How would you adapt Belinda Blinks for screen?

Morton: Many, many ideas! Some people were just saying, let’s just literally make Belinda Blinks: The Movie. Let’s get Tommy Wiseau on. How amazing would that be?

Levine: Rocky would probably really love that route.

Cooper: And Thomas Middleditch, from Silicon Valley, who came on last year— he messaged us recently saying, guys, we should really seriously start to think about a movie, all these people want to be in it. We should do it.

Levine: People get territorial too, like, that’s my role, but I’d still like to audition for it. And we’re saying: guys, it’s a joke, you need to calm down. Or people are like, I just don’t think it’s fair that just because they were on first … I’d read for it. Is this in jest or not?

Who did Michael Sheen want to go for?

Cooper: Actually Michael Sheen and Thomas Middleditch both wanted Dr Robbins from season two, the slightly creepy Dutch man. I don’t think we ever settled who finally got the role.

Levine: There’s a rivalry now there.

Any idea who could play the lead? Daisy is probably a bit young.

Levine: She wants to be the Duchess.

Cooper: So she can have that role. Nobody has really gone for Belinda.

Levine: It’s the role of a lifetime. Quite literally it would probably be the last role that you ever have.


 

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