This interview almost didn't happen. It turns out that when your podcast is named My Dad Wrote a Porno, most office email servers will sort correspondence straight into the spam filter.
What our IT department doesn't understand, though, is that MDWAP is a very special breed of smut. Yes, the British show (now five seasons old) dives deep into some, er, explicit fiction written by host Jamie Morton's dad, but you would likely never describe it as erotic, exactly. Protagonist Belinda Blumnthal is an insatiable vixen who is also the head of sales for a company that sells pots and pans, but between her indiscriminate lovemaking and international jet-setting, author Rocky Flintstone (a nom de plume, surprise) takes the loose plot and bewildering comprehension of the female anatomy to hysterical places.
As Jamie gives life to his father's work, friends and co-hosts Alice Levine and James Cooper chime in with cheeky commentary and the occasional break to dry-heave. Is it insane? Absolutely. Is it a smash hit? You'd better believe it—the podcast won a Webby for Best Comedy Podcast last year and were named Podcast Champions at the latest British Podcast Awards.
In advance of MDWAP's stop in Vancouver next week—part of its 2020 World Tour, which brings a brand new Belinda story, all about her big 30th birthday bash, to delightfully horrified audiences across the globe—we picked up the phone (where no spam filter could stop us!) for a highbrow call with Team Porno.
From left to right: My Dad Wrote a Porno hosts Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper.What gives this show such international appeal?
Alice: I feel like it’s a few things. At it’s heart it’s about embarrassing dads. Most people have an embarrassing dad, and don’t want to talk to their dads about their relationships and definitely don’t want their internal fantasies unloaded. The three of us are pals and sit around and, for lack of a better phrase, shoot the shit. It’s what everybody does at the pub or after school, and I think they can picture themselves as the fourth friend at the table.
James: I think people also forget it’s porn half the time because we read in in British accents. I think it softens the blow of what you’re listening to, hearing British people read dirty books.
Have you seen any differences in how audiences react in different countries?
Jamie: We thought that we would more than we actually have. Admittedly we were a bit concerned. Were the Americans going to get it? I feel like Canadians and Aussies and Brits share a similar sense of humour. But what we found was people who come to our shows listen to the podcast and know what to expect, so there isn’t a massive change. It just goes to show there are perverts everywhere, I think.
Alice: In New Zealand, everyone said, “In Auckland, there might be a muted response and that’s just how the audiences are like.” It was one of our most raucous shows. Were they sex starved or were we uninformed?
Jamie: It was a Monday night, too!
Any favourite moments from the tour so far?
Jamie: We were lucky to play the Sydney Opera house earlier this year. Hearing the noise coming from the iconic stage was extraordinary. It was our first show of the tour, so we didn’t know how people were going to respond, but they were as loud as we ever heard. That was a special moment for us.
Alice: Anything that involves the audience is our favourite part of the show. That’s the bit that’s really spontaneous. We have no control over it and how it’s gonna go. They’re always above and beyond what we would’ve hoped. They’re always so much funnier, and more up for it, I think that’s what makes it really exciting for us. That’s the bit every night, “where’s this going to go?”
You’ve been touring this show—Belinda's 30th birthday—for a while now. How do you keep it fresh?
Jamie: That’s the beauty of this show, it’s different every night. My dad—I still can’t believe he’s been this ambitious—he’s tried to write kind of a ‘Pick Your Own Porno’ so there are various points where the audience chooses which way the story goes, basically. Which means it’s completely different every night, we never know where it’s going to go.
Does Rocky come to any shows?
Jamie: He unfortunately won’t be coming to Vancouver, but he tries to come to as many as he can. But he also likes to just go on holiday.
He seems like a good sport about the whole thing, but how did you get him on board in the first place?
Jamie: I remember saying to him, he showed me the books and I found them hilarious and I said, “I’m thinking of maybe doing a podcast about this with James and Alice,” and he said, “That’s fantastic, what great news! …. What’s a podcast?” So I explained what it was, and he’s been on board from the word go. Which is why we’re doing it: we would never do it if he was embarrassed or didn’t like it. The fact he’s been so up for it has kind of egged us on a little bit. We like to test his threshold.
How can we all develop Rocky’s thick skin to criticism?
Alice: Be in your mid to late 60s and have lived a life.
James: Nothing to lose!
Alice: He just has a healthy sense of humour about stuff. It’s coming from a warm place: we are taking the piss out of him, but that’s how he bonds with people too. So if it was coming from a nasty place or was genuine criticism [that would be different], but I think he feels part of our culture of friends and your culture as a family.
Jamie: He’s known James and Alice for years, they’re like an extended family, so he’s comfortable with the dynamic. And let’s be honest, he was writing this to try to make a quick buck. He hasn’t always dreamed of becoming a writer, he doesn’t really care. So we’re not stamping on his dreams of being taken seriously as an author.
If someone hasn’t heard the podcast before, what can they expect from the live show?
Jamie: People come on their own, it’s a lovely atmosphere. Fun, it’s like a party, everyone gets drunk. Come and celebrate Belinda’s 30th.
Alice: People bring their moms, their dads, their sisters, their colleagues… we don’t recommend all those things but they’re welcome.
My Dad Wrote a Porno World Tour 2020
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Thursday, March 12, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Tickets on sale here