The comedy of mortification doesn’t get more cringe-worthy, or hilarious, than “My Dad Wrote a Porno” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA). Before you recoil from the title, rest assured, this does not so much celebrate pornography as reveal its ridiculousness.
Based on a popular podcast, “Dad” is entirely rooted in true life, even if that entails a family revelation of the most embarrassing kind. Well into adulthood, TV writer Jamie Morton discovered that his rather conservative and businesslike father had been secretly writing a series of erotic novels called “Belinda Blinked.” He apparently wrote them in a shed in the backyard because his wife wouldn’t allow him to write his dirty stuff in the house!
After getting over the shock that his father was a secret writer of smutty novels, Morton came to grips with the dreadfulness of his writing, his bizarre fixation on irrelevant details, jarring imagery, indifferent punctuation and seeming ignorance of the female anatomy. “Belinda Blinked” was 50 shades of ghastly.
In this performance, and in the podcasts, Morton reads aloud from his father’s “prose” while his friends and colleagues James Cooper and Alice Levine offer running commentary.
And there is much to discuss. Writing under the name “Rocky Flintstone,” Morton’s father set the “Blinked” novels in the world of business, marketing and sales, where Belinda uses her position as sales manager for a pots and pans company to act out her anatomically dubious desires on her co-workers. At one point, Cooper and Levine create a business flowchart to illustrate Belinda’s many liaisons.
Flintstone’s metaphors tend toward the historical and industrial, so when he compares a woman’s nipples to the rivets that held together the Titanic, you know you’re in for a very strange read. The real giggles arise from the minute and absurd dissection of language badly employed.
It would be a stretch to call this literary criticism, but it makes a case that chatting about terrible books offers a rich vein of comedy gold. The “My Dad” podcast has been downloaded more than 150 million times.
One could make the case that this performance, taped live on a London stage, doesn’t depart terribly much from the audio experience. We do get to see a studio audience entranced by Rocky’s wretched ribaldry, hiding their faces in abject embarrassment and laughing, as I did, until tears flowed.
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