Blue blood

When Jamie Morton’s dad retired he turned his attentions to long-suppressed passions – literally. That spawned the cult podcast My Dad Wrote A Porno

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Picture the scene: one Christmas, like a smutty Santa, your father gifts you three chapters of a work-in-progress erotic book to read. What would you do? Invoice him for the subsequent years of therapy you’ll inevitably require? For Jamie Morton the answer was to turn his mortification into My Dad Wrote A Porno, the most talked-about podcast since Serial.

Upon retirement at 60 and inspired by, as he calls it, “50 Colours Of Grey”, Morton’s broad-minded dad wanted to write a dirty book badly – and he did. Self-published under the pseudonym Rocky Flintstone, his bizarre magnum opus, Belinda Blinked, details the sexual shenanigans of Belinda Blumenthal – a randy pots and pans saleswoman who is just as much Alan Partridge as she is Jenna Jameson. With prose that’s by turns creepy, clumsy and hilarious, the effect is akin to the written equivalent of having a three-way with the Chuckle Brothers.

“My dad redecorated the hallway with pomegranate wallpaper. It took my mum a while to realise what the reference meant.”

Each episode of the podcast finds a squirming Morton read a chapter aloud to his best friends – digital producer James Cooper and Radio 1 presenter Alice Levine – around a kitchen table, giggling and boggling over the baffling plot and toe-curling metaphors. Does Rocky, for instance, really think the sentence: “Her nipples were now as large as the three inch rivets which had held the hull of the fateful Titanic together” will induce paroxysms of ecstasy? Anything can – and does – happen. One minute Belinda will be having a topless regional sales meeting, the next she’ll be handcuffed to a trellis in a “medium-sized maze”, or at a kinky tombola for the “Asses and Donkeys Trust”. Sometimes Rocky will abandon the lascivious material altogether, and dive deep into kitchenware sales figures or suchlike. It’s telling that he originally tagged the tome on Amazon as “erotica”, “lesbian” and “business and leadership”.

But from the moment it launched in 2015, My Dad Wrote A Porno has been a runaway word-of-mouth success. Despite iTunes refusing to promote it because of its NSFW title. “The title is a double-edged sword in a way,” reflects Cooper. “It works as clickbait so people will listen, but I worry people will think it’s going to be puerile or laddy – which it’s not.”

It’s the number one podcast in the UK, downloaded over 50 million times and has even spawned a spin-off book, live stage shows, merchandise and an army of dedicated fans dubbed “Belinkers” – who hang off Rocky’s every (frequently ill-chosen) word. Each Monday of its release, the hashtag #pornday will trend on Twitter.

“Two of our listeners actually used the podcast to help them lose their virginity,” says Morton. “They were so intimidated by sex and had put it on a pedestal. When they realised that sex was something you can laugh at and it’s fun and not scary, they had the courage to copulate for the first time.”

“People have given birth to it,” adds Cooper. “They use the podcast in labour to help with the pain.”

Fans have even taken to yelling “Pomegranates!” at the trio in the street, in tribute to an early memorable simile of Rocky’s: “Her tits hung, freely, like pomegranates”.

“My dad redecorated the hallway with pomegranate wallpaper,” recalls Morton. “It took my mum a while to realise what the reference meant.”

Preparations are currently underway for the hotly anticipated third series. The podcast boasts additional “footnotes” featuring celebrity Belinkers, such as Elijah Wood, Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley and The Great British Bake Off’s Dr Tamal Ray – who not only immortalised Belinda in a pomegranate-flavoured cake, but also dispensed his professional medical opinion over Rocky’s anatomically-questionable writing (like “he grabbed her by the cervix”). “If my three sisters and I didn’t exist, I’d genuinely question whether my dad had ever had sex,” quips Morton.

“What I love is the range of different people it’s resonated with,” beams Cooper, rattling off high-profile names like musician George Ezra and rugby flanker James Haskell. “Helen Glover won gold at the Olympics for rowing and she said: ‘Belinda got me through it!’”

My dad wrote a porno podcast
The podcast is recorded around the kitchen table

Still, by turning his dad into the erotica equivalent of William McGonagall, you might presume that Morton would find himself written out of the will. In fact, it’s improved filial relations. “On paper, it could have been challenging for the family but it’s actually brought us closer together,” says the 29-year-old writer and director. “Getting his blessing was crucial for us, and being able to share this incredible success together has been really special.”

Rocky’s identity is shrouded in mystery, and he hasn’t appeared on the podcast – yet. “He’s the Banksy of porn,” laughs Morton. “He doesn’t want to be the face of it, he has the best of both worlds – he has his anonymity but still gets to engage with the fans over Twitter.” Will the Northern Irish ex-builder appear one day? “Maybe,” replies Morton. “Who knows? Despite what he writes, my dad is actually a very private person.”

Has Rocky’s fame inspired any of their other parents’ creative juices to flow? “I hope not,” recoils Cooper. “My mum can’t even say the word ‘porno’ when she talks to me about it. She says: ‘Oh, how’s that project My Dad Wrote A Playyyyyyrawwww going?’”

Despite its streak of quintessentially British saucy seaside postcard sense of humour, the show appeals to listeners in places as far-flung as Saudi Arabia and Vatican City.

“The Pope is obviously a huge fan!” deadpans Morton.

“It’s surprising because it’s such a British show with our eccentric humour,” adds Cooper.

“Well,” points out Morton. “She is the international sales director of Steele’s Pots and Pans.”

Live shows across London sold out within eight minutes, with fans cosplaying Belinda and the assortment of oddball characters who pepper the pages. Communal drinking games were established, whereby you swig every time Belinda blinks – which she does more than a faulty pilot light.

“People like feeling like they’re part of a secret club,” reckons Morton. “We always wanted it to be like the listener was the fourth friend around the table with us. It’s too graphic to be on broadcast television and too dirty for the radio, so a podcast is the perfect medium for it to exist.”

“It’s like the filthiest book club in the world,” adds Cooper.

Morton claims the ineptitude of Rocky’s writing is its charm and its charm is its genius. Yet while Belinda Blinked is funny in itself, what makes the podcast is the quick-witted verbal annotations of Morton, Cooper and Levine who met a decade before, in the TV department of Leeds University. Belinda Blinked – a little-read e-book – was published to a greater audience as a My Dad Wrote A Porno spin-off book, with comments from Morton and co. “It’s a dream come true for him,” admits Morton. “He never communicated any desire to be an author when we were growing up but he retired and reconnected with the greater part of his brain – as suspect as that turned out to be – and he really embraced that side of him. Seeing the book in the shops was a big moment for my mum. She turned to him and said: ‘I’m really proud of you.’”

Discussions abound of a possible TV series and potential musical. “I want to see it on Broadway, it’s the next Rent!” semi-jokes Cooper. “As we’ve gone along, we’ve just realised how much you could do with it.”

Season three – covering the third of Rocky’s Belinda Blinked franchise – is tentatively scheduled to drop in spring. Rocky has already written five books. “He’s the fastest author in living history,” says Morton. “It’ll be interesting to see whether he’s got better – if he can spell.”

“It feels like he wrote one big book and then decided to turn it into separate books to up his revenue stream – a bit like Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows part one and two.”

Series three is scheduled for spring. Before that, catch up with seasons one and two of My Dad Wrote A Porno at mydadwroteaporno.com

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