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The My Dad Wrote a Porno podcasters look back: ‘I wasn’t doing it against Dad’s will. He thought it was hilarious’ | Podcasts


Interactive image of My Dad Wrote a Porno crew showing a 2005 image which is duplicated in 2022
From left: producer James Cooper, director Jamie Morton and presenter Alice Levine in 2005 and 2022. Later photograph: Pål Hansen/The Guardian. Archive image: Ali Dickinson. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair, makeup, grooming: Sadaf Ahmad.

TV and radio presenter Alice Levine, producer James Cooper and director Jamie Morton are the creators of My Dad Wrote a Porno, the blockbuster comedy podcast boasting more than 300m downloads. Centred on readings of (and reactions to) Belinda Blinked – surreal erotic literature written and self-published by “Rocky Flintstone”, AKA Morton’s father – the show has amassed a cult following and celebrity fans including Elijah Wood. It is now in its sixth season and the trio are the guest curators for The Podcast Show 2022 Live from 23 to 29 May, and are touring until June.

Alice

Jamie, James and I met at the University of Leeds. I’d say this was taken “on set” of our student television studio, but that’s giving it too much glamour. We were based in the caretaker’s office under the stairs.

That kind of pixie crop suits 5% of face shapes, so the hair was a rogue move for my first year. Particularly when you’re mainly subsisting on jacket potatoes and cheesy chips, I didn’t really have the gamine bone structure to pull it off. I think that’s Craig David we were pointing at; one of the stalwarts of the time.

We became friends while making episodes of LSTV (Leeds Student Television), a magazine show that James and I hosted, and Jamie filmed. The show went out online, as well as broadcasting in the union and the communal hallway. Like any good show, we were primarily playing on mute as people walked from room to room. Nobody watched it, but we were geeks who liked making stuff. It felt like a little secret society.

My first impression of James was he was funny and seemed so mature. This is still true. Jamie seemed so skilled and competent, and was making actual films and TV. I was very impressed by them both. After uni we stuck together: ridiculously, we all managed to get the same internship for a TV company that made shows like Wife Swap. We couldn’t afford to live in London but my parents knew a woman who had a house in Surrey, so we stayed there while she was away. There was one caveat: she had a sick cat and we had to give it a pill every morning. James would crowbar its mouth open and I’d massage the pill down its throat. I was like: we are living the London dream! It’s just like Sex and the City!

It was Christmastime in a cosy pub in 2015 when Jamie first brought the chapters of Belinda Blinked to read to us. The more he read, the more hysterical we got. By the end we were so obnoxiously loud that we had cleared the pub. At one point he got a bit cross, saying: “You can’t keep interrupting or we’ll never get through it!” I feel like that moment formed the basis of the whole show.

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While our preferred currency is to make each other laugh and to take the piss out of each other relentlessly, there’s a lot of love and support, too. We’ve lived through some huge moments together – bad breakups and people dying. Even though we’re running a business together and the stakes of our friendship have been raised, somehow it still feels like we’re doing student TV; like it’s our own secret little thing.

James

I’m guessing we were doing something on indie music that day: it looks like in order to get into the spirit I put on a leather jacket and a jumper with five VW campervans on it. The hair is crap, too. It’s a look.

That period was very formative for me. I was in charge of this entertainment programme and needed a female host. I’d met Alice on a bus and thought she was really funny, so asked her to do it. We clicked and became this presenting double act. The tone we were attempting was Simon and Miquita-era Popworld, but I think we missed the mark. Then I met Jamie at a Halloween party – he was really smart and quite acerbic. People were in awe of him, so naturally I was jealous. But quickly we became friends. The three of us would go out together most nights: I was drinking a lot of snakebite and black, and Jamie would be on two litres of this really cheap cider called White Ace.

Jamie and I lived together when I moved to London and that’s when I first properly met Rocky. From the first moment Jamie read his writing to me, it felt like nothing I’d ever experienced. There are times I’ve nearly died laughing at Rocky’s words.

Early on we realised the podcast was getting an immediate audience. It was a shock for Jamie, but we told him we could stop whenever he wanted to. Even now, we only do one every year, because he needs a breather where his dad is just his dad and not Rocky.

You see old friends who’ve formed creative endeavours but eventually crumble. It’s smug, but I’m proud we’ve managed our relationship so maturely and respectfully. It’s what keeps us together – our love and deep roots.

Jamie

That hair – it was mad. I cut it off when I moved to London, scared I wouldn’t get a job with it looking so studenty.

When Dad retired, he was worried about being bored. I told him he should do something to pass the time. So he decided to write a book: great in principle until I realised it was pornography. He’s a bit of a wind-up merchant and sent me the first few chapters, probably to shock me. I thought it was horrific but the funniest thing I’d read in my entire life.

When Porno first came out, podcasts weren’t too popular so I wasn’t expecting much. Then it went to No 1 in the charts and I started to worry people would think I hated my dad or was doing it against his will, even though I knew he thought it was hilarious. I also found it tough making the transition from background to the front [Jamie narrates chapters of the book each episode]. I remember being in tears, telling Alice and James that I couldn’t do it any more. They were so brilliant and reassured me, saying: “This is just fun. But if you’re not comfortable, then we will stop.” That kindness was part of our relationship.

Walking out on stage to a sold-out Royal Albert Hall was a total highlight of our friendship. Backstage, Emma Thompson knocked on the door to say: “Guys, I’m so excited, good luck!” But most of all I love it when the three of us are hanging out in one of our flats and Alice is cooking an amazing dinner, and we are chatting and listening to music. Those are the best moments.

When that photo was taken we were so green. It was the start of everything and we had so many ambitions. Being where we are now, and not only having achieved so much but having achieved it together, is lovely.





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