REVIEW: My Dad Wrote a Porno Live

Review by Tim George

[Let’s Get Physical]

Like radio, podcasting can create a sense of intimacy. If you listen to a particular programme long enough, it can lead to a sense of false familiarity with the voices of the hosts. That illusion of companionship is especially true with My Dad Wrote A Porno, a podcast in which Jamie Morton reads his father’s self-published erotica, entitled Belinda Blinked, to his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper.

The simplicity of conceit – three people sitting around a table listening to (and commenting on) a story – is a large part of why this show has been so successful. It’s basically an adult version of story time, with porn. The other reason this show is so successful is that Jamie’s Dad, who goes by the pen name Rocky Flintstone, has no idea what he is doing. Each episode is a study in incomprehension, as our heroes struggle through Flintstone’s awkward syntax, sudden shifts in location and limited understanding of human anatomy.

The series of books are real and available for purchase on Amazon, but the joy of the podcast is listening to the hosts riff on the inanity of Flintstone’s prose, and the meta-narratives that they have built around his heroine, Belinda Blumenthal and her various conquests. With thin characterisation and non-existent plotting, the books would be a slog to read. But these deficiencies are an asset for the show, as it allows the hosts to expand upon Belinda’s world in a variety of ways, some more depraved than what the author has come up with.

It is also the reason why a live reading of Belinda Blinked ends up working so well.

Concluding its Australasian tour in Auckland, My Dad Wrote A Porno Live is the perfect meeting place between the intimacy of a podcast and the interactivity provided by a live audience. Based around a ‘lost chapter’ that Flintstone never included in his books, the show has been expanded to include the audience as another commenter on Flintstone’s half-formed diegesis.

The story, such as it is, is relatively straightforward. Belinda takes her regional sales team on a team-building retreat in Cornwall. Cue ‘sexy’ stuff.

The pleasure of each chapter is that, thanks to Flintstone’s ignorance of story, they are completely self-contained. No doubt the hosts took some tact in deciding which chapter to read, but one of the best features of the series has been Flintstone’s disinterest in maintaining a sense of time and space. This means that the live show ends up being a pretty good sampler of what the podcast is like, with no story threads or character arcs to pick up and follow.

If you have ever been to a comedy show, or to a screening of The Room or Rocky Horror Picture Show, you will have a rough idea of the experience. Audience members were dressed as characters from the show; others brought props; other brave souls stepped onstage to help recreate the confusing bodily manoeuvres of the chapter’s main set piece.

Running just over an hour, the show moved at a clip, even though most of the show was taken up with the hosts questioning what exactly was going on. To extend the run-time, periodically the hosts would interrupt Jamie’s reading with tangents, including a power point presentation on the location of the cervix, and a drinking game based around Flintstone’s love of ending sentences with semi-colons. The show was not too structured, giving plenty of room for Jamie, Alice and James to dissect the story’s various inconsistencies. I was afraid that the show would be a literal translation of the podcast, with the audience forced to watch three people have a conversation amongst themselves. In the end, the show managed to balance the loose, conversational style of the podcast with the demands of making a theatrical experience that included the audience.

As I watched the show, I tried to put myself in the place of a non-fan, viewing this for the first time. I don’t think I quite succeeded, and it might be the case that the show is catering solely to the converted. However, based on the size of the audience I was with, and the number of anecdotal encounters I have had with people who have discovered the show, I do think the show can cater to a wide audience. Not because it is based on something outrageous (Flintstone’s books), but because it is framed through the perspective of outrage. The hosts’ air of incredulousness adds a vital layer of critical distance that sanitises Belinda Blinked and makes it safe to enjoy. That bond of outrage between the hosts and the audience is the key factor that elevates My Dad Wrote A Porno above its seedy origins into something weirdly profound (in comedic terms at least).

Whenever it makes a return to these shores, My Dad Wrote A Porno Live is definitely worth checking out;

My Dad Wrote A Porno Live played the Bruce Mason Centre on 15 August.

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