The books are atrociously bad, betraying a befuddled (mis)understanding of the female anatomy – let alone the female mind – that fuels the ongoing commentary and interjections from Morton’s co-hosts as he reads aloud chapters from the sexual adventures of pots-and-pans sales executive Belinda Blumenthal.
Their frequently hilarious conversation – recorded around the kitchen table, and lubricated by generous pours of wine – has proved winning enough that it has spawned a live show, a recorded special for HBO, and a spin-off book in which they treat Rocky’s words as deserving of serious critical analysis.
There’s even talk of a feature film. Do you think there’s any way that that could actually happen?
“Um, yeah. Worryingly,” says Morton as we tuck into a selection of salads and smoked trout. “We’ve certainly had conversations about it, some really exciting meetings. It’s just about doing it for the right reason and finding a new reason to tell the story.”
The podcast isn’t the primary job for any of the three – Levine is a TV presenter and weekend host on BBC Radio One and Cooper is a TV producer, while Morton runs a digital spin-off for the UK version of The Apprentice, writing “honest captions” in which he imagines what people are really thinking. But it has become enough of an income generator that, at 32, he is thinking of buying his first home, in an outer borough of London.
But spare a thought for poor old Rocky. While his mockers are making a motza, the hard-working author has toiled on his knock offs of what he mistakenly calls “50 Colours of Grey”, with little obvious reward.
“He’s sold 17 e-books,” says Morton. “I always say, ‘Guys, if you enjoy the podcast, throw him a bone, for God’s sake. It’s $2.99 on Amazon and it’s a free podcast. Help the man out’.”
In truth, Morton senior is intimately (ahem) involved in the operation he inadvertently spawned. “My dad’s completely part of this whole thing,” says Jamie. “He’s the director of our company now that owns the whole podcast. He’s literally the big boss of the whole thing. I mean, kind of.”
Though he may not have sold many books, he’s found an audience all the same. “He’s sitting in his garden with a vat of gin and tonic writing crap, and the world loves him for it.”
Rocky Flintstone is such a perfectly formed comedic figure that I’m sure I’m not the first person who has wondered if he might not have been, well, formed. As in, did you invent the whole thing Jamie?
“I wish,” he says, laughing. “For many reasons. I wish my dad didn’t write porn, I wish that he could write about a woman with any sort of knowledge base.
“But also, I wish because it’s quite flattering. It’s an amazingly brilliant concept. If I’d come up with this whole thing I should be writing for some massive Netflix show. I mean, I wouldn’t be doing a little podcast.”
For all that he and his co-hosts mercilessly rag Rocky for the leaden prose and mangled metaphors, Morton thinks his father has produced something genuinely worthwhile – albeit not necessarily by design. “He didn’t know what he was doing but he’s got such a unique voice as a writer,” he says. “I mean, it’s not a good voice, but there’s something about it.”
He suspects his father’s intention in sending him the first volume, Belinda Blinked, was “to mess with my head because he’s such a prankster”. And he insists he only took it to the pub to read with his mates because it was so bad, not to mention so physiologically clueless that his mother was able to say after listening to the first episode (the only one she’s ever listened to) that at least she knew he’d never had an affair.
“If it had been good I probably never would have told anyone about it,” says Morton. “It was the fact it was so unbelievably shit that was so brilliant.”
By comparison, the much-maligned works of Rocky’s putative inspiration, E.L. James, suddenly look like top-shelf literary fiction. “She’s Jane Austen now, isn’t she,” he quips.
At this point a fellow diner approaches our table. “Oh my God, are you Jamie from My Dad Wrote a Porno?” she asks excitedly. “I love you, I love the show.”
Morton chats with her briefly, poses for a selfie, tells her to make sure she comes to the live show. He handles it all with grace – far more grace, I suggest, than some more famous and recognisable people might have done in a similar situation.
“I don’t think it can ever get old, someone saying they really like what you make,” he says. “It’s actually a really lovely thing that people want to say hi and they want to have a memento of meeting you.
“This was never my life plan – I was very much a behind the scenes guy – so it’s a little bit strange in that respect. But these are the people that are listening to your show, buying tickets to see you live, buying your book. That’s an incredible thing and you can’t be flippant with it.”
The podcast has opened all sorts of opportunities that a digital media worker bee might never otherwise have had. He now co-runs a cabaret night in London. With a writing partner he’s developing a feature film about soccer – “it’s quite a social-realist look at football fandom and how that affects people in different ways” – and, of course, there’s the myriad Porno spin-off projects that get thrown his way.
Pornhub wanted to make an actual pornography series. And we were like, ‘ah, have you heard the podcast?’
What’s the weirdest one?
“Pornhub wanted to make an actual pornography series. And we were like, ‘ah, have you heard the podcast? You don’t want to do this, believe me’.”
Still, as Belinda knows, it can be hard to say no. “I hate the phrase ‘sell out’ but it’s tempting to say yes to everything that gets offered to you.” But it’s a trap they’ve learnt to steer themselves out of. “It’s never a good reason to do something just because it’s been offered to you.”
Morton doesn’t know how long they’ll be able to keep it up (ooh-er), but with the current season (five) being the first to be based on a book written post-podcast, and with Rocky showing no sign of wilting, there’s surely more to come.
“We always say we’ll keep doing it for as long as we find it fun, and it’s the most fun,” he says. “I get to hang out with my mates, I get to work with my Dad, I get to travel the world. It’s such a privilege.”
He’s aware that nothing else he does is ever likely to have the global reach of Porno, though with any luck it will be the springboard for many more adventures. But if this is as good as it gets, well, that’s OK too.
“I’m so proud of the show, and it’s such a personal show because it’s my family,” he says. “So if it is the only thing I’m ever known for I’m so happy that it happened.”
My Dad Wrote a Porno live is at the Sydney Opera House on January 8 and 9; Crown Theatre, Perth, on January 11; Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, on January 13; Palais Theatre, Melbourne on January 15 and 16; and The Tivoli, Brisbane, on January 17 and 18. Details: mydadwroteaporno.com/live
Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.