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My Dad Wrote a Porno: the live experience

Arts & Culture

The live show of My Dad Wrote a Porno unites fans of the hilarious UK podcast based around unique literary talent Rocky Flintstone’s ‘erotic’ novels. Ben Neutze shares the experience.

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Listening to a podcast is a uniquely solitary cultural experience, only really matched by reading.

Of course, there’s something very personal and intimate about hearing a person speak through small earphones projecting sound directly into your ear canals. But unlike live performance, visual art, radio, or TV and film, it’s a cultural form we mostly experience entirely alone.

However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be great connections formed between people on the basis of a podcast, and a real sense of community among a group of listeners.

My Dad Wrote a Porno is one such podcast, having had more than 70 million downloads since its premiere in 2015. This week, its trio of hosts are touring Australia with a live show based on the podcast; it’s playing in Adelaide tonight, and has sold out all around the country, including two nights at the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall.

The performance I attended on Sunday night featured several audience members in costume — including a pair of vaginal lids and a pair from the “bottom flannel support group” (these references are purely for fans of the podcast) — and healthy cheers for characters from the erotic novel series that inspired the podcast, Belinda Blinked.

Belinda Blinked is a work of extraordinary and often hilarious ineptitude by a retired Northern Irish builder, who writes under the pen-name “Rocky Flintstone”.

Several years ago, Rocky’s son, Jamie Morton, discovered his dad’s erotic literature and started reading it out to friends. Two of those friends, James Cooper and Alice Levine, suggested that they might be able to read through the book as a group and record the conversations to create a new podcast.

Unlike many of the biggest podcasts around, My Dad Wrote a Porno didn’t start with the backing of a major producer or radio organisation. That’s not to say the hosts were without experience or significant media connections, but the podcast, with its simple premise and production, gained popularity almost entirely by recommendation as friends shared their discovery with others.

Even in the digital age, word of mouth remains a hugely effective tool for growing an audience.

In addition to personal recommendations, the podcast has a big presence on social media, and fans of the series refer to themselves as “Belinkers”. It even has plenty of high-profile fans, many of whom have been interviewed in the “footnotes” episodes, including Elijah Wood and Daisy Ridley.

The podcast draws its comedy both from the dreadful writing of Rocky, and his desperate attempts at erotica, and from the spontaneous and often disgusted reactions of its three hosts, who discover the writing as the listeners hear it for the first time.

Rocky has a rather unique literary talent — in one memorable excerpt, he compared a woman’s nipples to “the three-inch rivets which had held the hull of the fateful Titanic together” — but little sense of what’s genuinely sexy.

While the material is pretty dirty, there’s something quite wholesome about the innocence with which the three hosts approach their task. The trio are effortlessly funny and very British in their squeamishness at both the explicit sexual content of the book and the awkward social tension that it creates.

The live show uses a previously unreleased excerpt of Rocky’s writing — a chapter that even he himself deemed “too shit” to be part of a book — and although it can’t quite capture the same spontaneity among the hosts, it finds a wonderfully spontaneous reaction from its audience.

And it’s a show entirely about the fans: the pre-show music even featured a fan’s musical interpretation of one of the book’s more memorable passages.

While it’s clear the hosts have read this particular chapter before — or else Rocky would need to write a new chapter for each and every date of the live show — the audience is pretty willing to suspend their disbelief and find joy in their own reactions to Rocky’s writing.

Many of the best laughs in the podcast come from Rocky’s misunderstanding of sexual terminology or the female anatomy. He has written plenty of decidedly non-erotic (and frequently impossible) references to the cervix, and while I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for anybody who might be seeing the show in the future, the unreleased chapter an absolute clanger concerning one particular female body part, which drew screams of laughter from the audience.

The vast majority of the Sydney audience would have listened to somewhere around 50 hours of the trio reading Rocky’s novels and finding the funny in his writing. To be in the same room with the hosts — and able to shout out and speak to them — was just as exciting as being in the same room with a group of people who have shared the same solitary experience over the last two years.

The My Dad Wrote a Porno live show will play at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide tonight, before the final Australia performance in Perth tomorrow.

 This article was first published on The Daily Review.

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