INTERVIEW: My Dad Wrote A Porno’s Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper

INTERVIEW: My Dad Wrote A Porno's Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper

What would you do if your dad wrote a dirty book? Ignore it? Not Jamie Morton. He reads it to the world. Along with his best mates James Cooper and Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine, Jamie reads the ‘lost chapter’ from his dad’s notoriously brilliant Belinda Blinked saga.

With over 100 million global downloads, spawning a best-selling book and converting Hollywood megastars Elijah Wood, Michael Sheen and Daisy Ridley into mega-fans, My Dad Wrote A Porno has become ‘a cultural phenomenon’ (The Sunday Times) and recently scooped the prestigious European Lovie Award. Series 4 will be released later this year and TV and motion picture adaptations are all being developed.

As they prepare to take the global hit podcast on the road, Jamie Morton, James Cooper, Alice Levine tell us more about what you can expect from the show.

How did you first meet?

We all met at Leeds University 13 years ago – we were on different courses but were involved in the student TV station together so learnt all about how to use cameras / edits back then. Since then, we all decided to move to London around the same time and have stayed close ever since.

What were your first impressions of each other?

JC: I just remember thinking how funny they both they were – I was jealous of how confident and witty they both seemed. Jamie also had HUGE curly hair back then so I’ll always remember catching sight of that first. There are people you click with very quickly and it was definitely the case with both of them.
JM: I think we immediately bonded because we saw little bits of ourselves in each other. I was drawn to their humour and creativity almost the moment I met both James and Alice. I knew that we could have a huge amount of fun making things together which we’ve done consistently ever since.

AL: I think you know instinctively when you’re going to be friends with people for a long time and that’s how I felt with the boys. We just had the same sensibilities, and we enjoyed spending time making creative things together straight away which is quite rare. To be on that same wave length is really special.

Jamie, why did your father decide to write erotica? What does he think of the podcast and the show? What has been your mother’s reaction?

JM: This is one of the biggest questions I have in my life: why did my dad start writing porn. It’s a good question and I’m still not 100% sure on the answer. Neither is he to be completely honest! He was a recently retired builder so I think he was pretty bored and was looking for something to pass the time. He’d heard about the success EL James had with 50 Shades (which he calls Fifty Colours of Gray) and thought ‘if she can do it, so can I.’ It turns out he can’t. Saying that, he’s created an incredible and arguably iconic world and cluster of characters, so credit to him. He’s the biggest fan of the podcast. He’s the biggest wind up merchant himself, so I think he loves the fact that we rib him every week. He has the best sense of humour and takes a lot of happiness from his work being enjoyed by millions of people around the world. As for my mum, she has been overwhelmingly supportive of the project from the beginning. I played the first episode to my whole family to make sure they were happy before we released it. She’s so busy with her whole life, that she doesn’t take much notice to be honest. I think she’s just grateful that dad has a project that gets him out of her hair!

Did the overwhelming success of the podcast take you by surprise?

JC: We thought the book was funny but we were never sure if anyone else would find it that funny. We were hoping we’d have a small, dedicated audience but never dreamt that the audience would be so large – we’ve just passed 100 million downloads – and that people would be so evangelical about Belinda and her antics. It was one of those things that spread by word of mouth. The first time we realised what we had on our hands was our first London live show about just over a year ago, which sold out within minutes and crashed the venue’s website. It’s been amazing to spread Rocky’s work so far and wide and see the response. People dress up at live shows, and we get so many emails from people saying the podcast has helped them through difficult times

JM: I don’t think you can ever expect something you make to be a hit, and this certainly took us by surprise. That’s been both utterly shocking and thrilling. I never dreamed that people all over the world would find my dad’s erotica as funny as we did but it’s so wonderful that they do. It’s like we’ve created a creepy underground society and that really becomes apparent when we walk on stage and see thousands of people dressed up as the characters.

AL: The boys tell me off for saying this, but I listen to the podcast quite often! What a saddo. But I think if you like something and find it funny that is a great first test. You have to make something you are proud of and you think has merit, that way if no one listens or people don’t like it, you can stand by it. The fact that people took to it was such an amazing thing.

How would you describe the live show? What can audiences expect?

JC: Apart from anything else, it’s just a FUN night out – you’ll definitely have a laugh but you might also need a shower afterwards. We read a ‘Lost Chapter’ that you will never hear on the podcast but it’s a proper show rather than a straight podcast read. So, there’s loads of audience participation, videos, a very useful presentation on the female anatomy – we’ve tried to make the most of the opportunity to be visual rather than just audio. It’s also a totally different experience listening with a roomful of people and it’s great to see the response – the audiences are always brilliant and seem to really enjoy it. Some people even dress up as characters – one couple came dressed as a pair of breasts. We can’t wait to hit the road!

AL: Eye opening. You definitely google “cervix” at work the next day

JM: It’s so much fun and there is no need to have ever heard the podcast before. My dad’s books famously make no sense so even if you’re a Belinda virgin, you’ll be starting at pretty much the same place as everyone else. We’ve found that it’s the kind of universal humour that appeals to pretty much everyone. Bad sex writing is just really funny to dissect, and add to the mix the ultimate embarrassing dad dynamic and three best mates making each other laugh and you’ve got the recipe for a really inclusive evening of fun.

You now have a lot of celebrity fans. Have you had any feedback from them?

JC: Our celeb fans have been AMAZING and so generous. We’d never met them before recording with them but they all just come round to our flats and chat like old friends. Daisy Ridley came with two bottles of Prosecco in tow, George Ezra stayed until 2am gossiping and drinking red wine – we’ve had Elijah Wood, Stephen Mangan and others. Some have seen the live show – Michael Sheen came and ended up playing a character in the show. He even met Rocky backstage. He’s the nicest man in the world. As far as feedback, they’ve just told us not to stop reading the books and offered to play different roles if we ever make a film adaptation so we’ve already got a pretty decent cast in place.

JM: What’s really amazing is they all want to come on the show and geek out with us. And how diverse they are. There are Hollywood A Listers like Nicholas Hoult, pop stars like George Ezra and sports legends like Rebecca Adlington. Even the scriptwriter of The Devil Wears Prada, Aline Brosh McKenna and the Oscar nominated director of ‘Room’ Lenny Abrahamson are fans. Daisy Ridley recently got in touch and said she thought Series 3 is the best one yet, so it’s great that they continue to be as obsessed with my dad’s books as we are.

Is there any essential you will be packing for the tour?

JC: I’ll be packing Berocca and lots of water. We do a drinking game as part of the show and it can get quite messy!

JM: Yahtzee is a must. We play it incessantly on tour and get quite competitive. Well I do.

AL: The Polaroid is coming with me – I want to capture these bucket list moments.

What are you looking forward to the most?

JC: I’m looking forward to the travel. It’s just a big holiday really and I feel very lucky to be spending it with two of my closest mates (cheeeesy.)

JM: Yeah, as cheesy as it sounds, I’m looking forward to hanging out and travelling around America and the U.K. with my best mates. The show is so fun to do in of itself, but to get to do it with James and Alice is what makes it really special for me and I can’t wait.

AL: What they said, best friends, blah blah blah, obviously but we are also getting to play some insane venues – the adrenaline rush is going to be mega.

Will you be changing the show for the American dates?

JC: No but every night is a little bit different – there’s always room for improvement in the show and it’s always fun to try new jokes to make each other laugh. Plus every audience gives each show its own energy and excitement. When we played Perth in Australia, we had two stage invaders who had to be wrestled out by security so that was fun! We’ve worked really hard on the show and we’re really proud of it so we just want to bring it to as many people as possible.

JM: When we were doing our sell-out Australian tour last year we were surprised at how much of the show landed. There was a concern that they would miss things or that our humour would be a bit ‘too British’, but the opposite was true. Because it’s an international show and can be listened to anywhere on the globe, audiences tend to know what they’re getting. That of course doesn’t mean that audiences in different countries all have the same feel – they are different. But that’s part of the fun of it for us – I’m really looking forward to see how the Americans react.

Favourite lines?

JC: It’s not a line so much as a bizarre scenario Rocky created. The glee team (Belinda and her best friends) go on a hen do to Spain and their chosen mode of transport is the cargo hold of an old war plane which is chartered to deliver weekend supplements of The Guardian to the Costa Del Sol. WHERE did Rocky pull that one from?

JM: There really are so many but I think my all-time favourite has to be when dad describes a characters nipple as being ‘as large as the three inch rivets which held the hull of the fateful Titanic together’. Literature doesn’t get much better than that.

AL: Describing someone’s member as the ‘flesh of mankind’ will never leave me. Whether that is good or bad, I’m not sure yet.

So what is in store next for the Belinda Blinked saga?

JC: It’s hard to know because Alice and I only hear the book for the first time when we record the podcast – I have no idea what’s going to happen next. Book 3 was left on a massive cliff-hanger, which I’m hoping will be resolved in the next book but you never know with Rocky. He’s an unpredictable genius! We’ll be doing the fourth series of the podcast later this year and we’re having a lot of really exciting conversations about the future of the project so there’s a lot more to come. We’re not ready to say goodbye to Belinda just yet.

JM: As James said, Series 3 ended on the mother of all cliff hangers. People were genuinely comparing it to the season finale of Game of Thrones – hilarious. Suddenly it appears that dad has learned how to write. At least a little, so I’m intrigued to dive into book 4 and see where he goes with it. Will we learn who The Special One is? Probably not.

AL: My wildest guess would still be tame compared to what Rocky would come up with. Some things are guaranteed – pots, pans and a lot of nakedness.

How would you describe Belinda to anyone who has not encountered her stories before?

JC: On a basic level, Belinda is the global sales director of a pots and pans company. Her methods to secure big deals (basically, having sex with anyone and everyone) are unorthodox but effective. Plot-wise, you might think that nothing really happens…and you’d be right. But as you delve deeper into the book, you soon realise that there’s more than meets the eye and Rocky might actually be smarter that we all think.

As a character, I’ve never met anyone like Belinda Blumenthal. First of all, she may be the last living owner of a waterbed. Secondly, her tireless dedication to her job, her seize-the-day attitude to life, and her unfaltering self-confidence (she’s pretty much always naked) should be an inspiration to us all. She will challenge everything you ever thought you knew about literature and everything you ever thought you knew about life.

JM: I would describe Belinda as a confident, ambitious career woman who loves sex and selling pots and pans. One of the great things about the books is how sex positive they are. There is never any judgement and the story really does centre on the lives and desires of the female characters. The men are merely after thoughts. It’s all about how Belinda and her glee team get what they want. It may be the first porno ever to pass the Bechdel test.

AL: I would describe her to a friend as ‘mad as a box of frogs’. She’s unlike anyone I have ever encountered or read about. Her behaviour is so erratic, but that’s what keeps us turning the pages.


25th April, Birmingham Symphony Hall
2nd May, Leicester De Montfort Hall
7th June, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

Full tour dates and tickets are available now via www.mydadwroteaporno.com