Gays Reading

Dolly Alderton (Good Material)

February 06, 2024 Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Dolly Alderton Season 2 Episode 37
Dolly Alderton (Good Material)
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Dolly Alderton (Good Material)
Feb 06, 2024 Season 2 Episode 37
Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Dolly Alderton

Jason and Brett talk to Dolly Alderton (Good Material) about hetero optimism (yes, it's a thing), Geri Halliwell as a sexual awakening, Robbie Williams as... another sexual awakening, Nora Ephron (unrelated to sexual awakenings), and so much more. Grab your Zabar's mug and enjoy.

Dolly Alderton is an award-winning author, screenwriter and journalist based in London. She is a columnist for The Sunday Times Style and has also written for GQ, Red, Marie Claire and Grazia. She is the former co-host and co-creator of the podcast The High Low. Her first book, Everything I Know About Love, became a top five Sunday Times best-seller in its first week of publication, won a National Book Award (UK) for Autobiography of the Year and was made into a BBC One TV Series. Ghosts, her first novel, was published in 2021. Dear Dolly, a collection of her agony aunt columns from the Sunday Times Style magazine, was published in 2022 and was also a Sunday Times best-seller.

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**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
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Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett talk to Dolly Alderton (Good Material) about hetero optimism (yes, it's a thing), Geri Halliwell as a sexual awakening, Robbie Williams as... another sexual awakening, Nora Ephron (unrelated to sexual awakenings), and so much more. Grab your Zabar's mug and enjoy.

Dolly Alderton is an award-winning author, screenwriter and journalist based in London. She is a columnist for The Sunday Times Style and has also written for GQ, Red, Marie Claire and Grazia. She is the former co-host and co-creator of the podcast The High Low. Her first book, Everything I Know About Love, became a top five Sunday Times best-seller in its first week of publication, won a National Book Award (UK) for Autobiography of the Year and was made into a BBC One TV Series. Ghosts, her first novel, was published in 2021. Dear Dolly, a collection of her agony aunt columns from the Sunday Times Style magazine, was published in 2022 and was also a Sunday Times best-seller.

Gays Reading is sponsored by Audible. Get a FREE 30-day trial by visiting audibletrial.com/gaysreading

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Jason Blitman:

How you doing?

Brett Benner:

I'm good. I'm tired. And the rain, for listeners who are not in California we are getting just a ton of rain right now. So

Jason Blitman:

It's it's really nuts.

Brett Benner:

Really nuts. They said in downtown LA. They've had more rain that since like 2004, which I don't actually know if that's true I do know there's puddles all over my backyard.

Jason Blitman:

I don't want to say that I feel like things are a little dramatic, but I

Brett Benner:

Oh My god. Well, Yes, they are because I've gotten so many texts from friends and family who are not here saying are you okay? I realized there's absolutely places that are struggling and there's landslides and school was canceled today for my daughter because it's in a, it's in a valley that the water could come down. But generally speaking, we're fine. How are you? Let's just wait. Let's just back up. You just produced this powerhouse weekend for. the best bookstore in Palm Springs. It was like, kudos to you. You did such an incredible job. You got together such an incredible group of, I almost said actors. Hi, can you tell me working writers? Amazing panelists.

Jason Blitman:

for the first annual Palm Springs Readers Festival. I know I was so thrilled and there were a handful of gaze reading alumni and I was so honored that they were just like so willing to dive in and be like, yes, let's do it. So quick little shout outs to who was there jasmine Guillory, Laura Love Harden, Jedediah Jenkins, Angie Kim, Newsom, and our Eric Thomas. Thanks to all of you specifically, but to all of the authors that were there. I'm so excited. There was a panel where there were it was authors with books that are. coming out later in the year. It was not dissimilar from Upcoming and Up and Coming though they were not first time writers. And they were talking about their books. I'm so excited for all of their books. And as they start to roll out we'll shout them out here on the podcast, too, because I'm so excited. Speaking of, we have some happy pub days to,

Brett Benner:

we do.

Jason Blitman:

wish.

Brett Benner:

We do. Starting off with Daniel Lefferts and his book Ways and Means, which is out today.

Jason Blitman:

And Rebecca K. Riley, Greta, and Valden, both of whom can be heard on our first upcoming and up and coming episode that just came out a couple weeks ago.

Brett Benner:

which is amazing. And then the follow up to the smash hit, Seven Days in June, T. Williams new book, A Love Song for Ricky Wilde is out today and already a bestseller on the, I should say I saw it was on the Amazon bestseller list.

Jason Blitman:

And also out today is Get the Picture by Bianca Bosker, which Brett and I both were obsessed with, and you will hear us obsess over the book and Bianca in the coming weeks when she's on Gay's Reading. We love her.

Brett Benner:

She's great.

Jason Blitman:

Speaking of authors that we love. I Dolly Alderton, I just,

Brett Benner:

good God, Miss Dolly.

Jason Blitman:

we were so obsessed with Caroline O' Donahue. And so it's no surprise that they are best friends. For those who are unfamiliar, Dolly Alderton is an award winning and international best selling author and journalist based in London. She's a columnist for the Sunday Times Dial and has also written for GQ, Read Marie Claire, And she's the former co host and co creator of the weekly pop culture and current affairs podcast, the high low. Her novel ghosts was the number one bestseller in the UK and her book. Everything I know about love was a New York times bestseller and won the national book award in the UK for autobiography of the year.

Brett Benner:

Woo.

Jason Blitman:

Ooh. And you'll hear me talk a lot to her about how much I love ghosts. If you haven't read it yet, you have to go pick it up

Brett Benner:

I had another person tell me this weekend how much they love that book. So yeah.

Jason Blitman:

because it's so good.

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

No surprises. As always, if you like what you're hearing, share us with your friends subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and follow us on social media, Ake's Reading. If you want a copy of the book or any other books that we've talked about on this episode, check out our bookshop. org page, check out our Patreon where we have bonus content, check out our merch, because we've got mugs, we've got totes, we've got shirts, we've got all this sort of stuff.

Brett Benner:

Okay. Betta You are so ready to be working on like the Vegas strip right now without standing outside. Come inside, it's air conditioned. Yes.

Jason Blitman:

All that said, I'm Jason

Brett Benner:

I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this episode of You are a rock star you are a gem

Brett Benner:

Good morning

Jason Blitman:

no, good afternoon. It's

Brett Benner:

for you. Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

It's afternoon for you.

Brett Benner:

All right. Oh, you said good day.

Dolly Alderton:

good day. Oh, I've got a Zabar's mug.

Jason Blitman:

You do.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, that's so funny. I love that.

Dolly Alderton:

I know. I drink it from it and pretend that I'm Nora Ephron living in, living in Apthorpe.

Jason Blitman:

Yes, as you should.

Dolly Alderton:

Something that's so devastating when you're a real Nora Ephron fan is the more I read and learn about her, the more I absolutely know she would have found me so annoying. It's really devastating to, to realise that.

Jason Blitman:

Listen, may she rest in peace, we miss her very much, but we don't ever actually need to find that out. So, in our, in our imaginations, she loves you. And she's, you're, and you're the new Nora Ephron, so maybe that's why she, that's why she finds you annoying.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, maybe that's why. Not the fact that I just know she would have found me like, because I think the thing about Nora that women are so obsessed with is that. She is such a ballbuster.

Brett Benner:

Are you?

Dolly Alderton:

No. And that's why she wouldn't like me, because I think I would be so simpering around her.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, but I think you, you, but, but I think, I think you kind of tell it like it is and I think you have a very honest and direct approach to things that I think she would completely respond to. Mm-Hmm.

Dolly Alderton:

I really appreciate your support in this fantasy, both of you.

Jason Blitman:

but also, like, I think the, the, modern Nora Ephron twist is that there is a happy ending, but in a way that she wouldn't have written.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

You

Dolly Alderton:

yeah, it's so weird actually thinking about like how cynical she was as a person and actually all her love stories are so hopeful and so sweet in a

Jason Blitman:

very, almost a little saccharine.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, in a way that I struggle to be that sort of, uh, what's the word, hetero optimistic.

Brett Benner:

Oh.

Jason Blitman:

Is that a, is that a thing?

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, because I was accused of being hetero pessimistic and I was like,

Jason Blitman:

Oh, fascinating.

Brett Benner:

Why isn't it just pessimistic or cynical?

Dolly Alderton:

Exactly.

Brett Benner:

Why does

Jason Blitman:

I'm going to start calling it hetero marriage now too.

Brett Benner:

seriously, cause I am absolutely homosexual cynical. I mean, I mean like, oh, I can just be like, I am completely class half empty. Try very hard for half

Jason Blitman:

You're a glass half empty. Really?

Brett Benner:

Oh, I am a lot of times. It's, it's my chip is much more full. I'm always empty.

Jason Blitman:

husband. Dolly, what about you? Are you glass, half empty or half full?

Dolly Alderton:

I'm a glass half full about like everything. I'm so Pollyanna ish until it comes to the state of heterosexuality and then I feel quite hetero pessimistic.

Jason Blitman:

fair. Okay.

Dolly Alderton:

can you not be? But I think that's like, you know, I'm always trying to find moments of connectivity or hope or change. Like, within that landscape. But like,

Brett Benner:

And then you see the Oscar nominations.

Dolly Alderton:

Depressing. Most straight people I know are like, quite miserable in their relationships I think. But then I talk to my gay friends and they get annoyed. Because I am always like, being one of those annoying straight people, being like, if only our community could learn from your community how to speak to each other and communicate and function, whatever. And they're like, we're out here having a terrible time as well. Maybe just relationships are

Jason Blitman:

I mean, relationships are hard, but my husband and I are very proud of how we communicate and I would agree with you. I'm like, I wish my straight friends would.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

Would do what I do.

Brett Benner:

What do you

Jason Blitman:

Sorry about it. Sorry,

Brett Benner:

But let's wait, we got to take a moment with us because why? What is that? Chip and I have been together for, for 28 years, a large percentage of my couple friends who are straight. have broken up. I'm old enough to be in that phra that phase where people have been together long enough to understand this isn't working anymore. So there's that, I understand. But it is interesting to me that a lot of the gay couples that I personally am friends with have been in long, sustained relationships. For whatever

Jason Blitman:

I mean, I think there's even something as simple as like, Gay men can look at other men together and comment on whether or not they're attractive and not feel threatened. Whereas, like, if a woman says to her husband, that guy's hot, he might feel threatened and vice versa. There is a sort of relationship between gay men versus heterosexual couples that I just think is like, different in that sort of regard. I don't know.

Dolly Alderton:

I got in a lot of hot water the other day watching Saltburn with my other half. Because I just didn't, I didn't realize that I had leant over to him and whispered for the fifth time, Fucking hell, Jacob Elordi is so fit, isn't he? And I think he said it was the fifth time that he turned and whispered to me, and he went, You don't have to keep talking. But he is, I

Jason Blitman:

then at a, at a certain point, you're like, well, what are you saying about me?

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, I just, I just had to say it. He's had an effect on me that I haven't had since I was a teenage girl. Um, but just going back, yeah, but just going back quickly to what you're saying. I think there's also something in the fact that a hetero, a long term hetero template. Is, um, so entrenched in Christian ritual and in, like, there are these templates that we've inherited from our parents and ancestors that most of us just walk into without even really thinking about it, whether it's like share of domestic labor or, um, rules of monogamy or whatever. That just don't really fit a modern life for a lot of us, which is why I think, whereas I think my queer friends on the whole, some are in very traditional relationships, but I think there is more, um, room to design relationships.

Jason Blitman:

I think maybe that's what I was trying to get at, is regardless of gay generations, we never really had a template. While there is the heterosexual ideal, in quotation marks, to sort of aspire to, I guess, we still get to make it up as we go along, because we've not seen these relationships function over generations. You know what I mean? Whereas even like our wedding was not like any wedding that anyone had ever been to. Cause we were able to sort of turn it on its head. And like, there was not going to be a person in a white dress walking down the

Brett Benner:

I was gonna say, what did your dress look like?

Jason Blitman:

so just like in general, we were able to make our own rules. And I think that Gay people sort of are in that world of making their own rules, and that's maybe what it is. We all just need to realize we're all allowed to make our own rules,

Dolly Alderton:

yeah, whereas with, you know, I am still in total shock and this will sound like a voice of judgment, but it's more just, I am so interested and flabbergasted by the fact that there are so many women I know that are like total card carrying feminists. That have, you know left leaning some even radical politics and yet they still were delighted that their boyfriend rang their dad to ask permission to be proposed to. I just can't get my little head around that. I just, it's just, it runs so deep in us. I think.

Brett Benner:

It's all. Yeah. And it's gender. It's also the gender rules too. And that goes back to the gay relationships versus I've always said this because the, the rules change because, and I know like I, I have, we have two kids. And we have a lot of people who would say to us not, and well meaning who's the, who's the, who's the woman

Dolly Alderton:

Oh

Brett Benner:

parenting, you know, effectively. And I have to rephrase it and be like, what do you, and I always would say, I'm sorry, what do you mean? Like, what do you, what are you asking me with that question? Who's the caretaker? Who does. The traditional what we consider the roles that people are supposed to play. And so that's been an interesting thing because it becomes less about the gender and more about your strengths and weaknesses as people in terms of that situation.

Jason Blitman:

This brings me to an interesting point about your book, which is why we're here. I mean, we could be here, I could talk to you about whatever, but in doing prep for this conversation, every single interview that you've done so far that's available, that I've listened to, let's say I've not a lot. Give the benefit of the doubt to the handful that I have not listened to. Bring up the fact that you are a woman writing from a man's perspective. And I was like, how many fucking men get asked the question, writing from a woman's perspective? It made me so angry. I will then flip it around and say what I would like to think, I'm being very glass half full here, what I would like to think is that perhaps they were like, Dolly Alderton is writing from a man's

Dolly Alderton:

Um. Um.

Jason Blitman:

because you are very woman centric, it's about a woman's perspective. Let's talk about ghosts in a minute, but like it is very female empowerment is your brand and so maybe it's the it's the fact that you are writing from a man's perspective. And that's what's interesting. Do you think that that's the case or do you not? Do you think it's the other way

Dolly Alderton:

First of all, thank you so much for saying that because It has been getting on my fucking nuts for no other

Jason Blitman:

as it should.

Brett Benner:

yeah, I

Dolly Alderton:

for no

Jason Blitman:

was getting on mine and I'm not you.

Dolly Alderton:

yeah. For no other reason than it's, it's just boring to say the same thing over and over and over again. Um, and I just have two questions that have been asked of me like on, on rotation since I started. Well, since everything I know about love was published, the first is, why don't you write about your personal life anymore? What was it like writing about your personal life and now not writing about your personal life? And then the other is, why did you choose to write as a man? Now, because I am a Pollyanna, and because as well, I was on the other side of this for a long time. I am, I was a journalist, apparently. I did journalism training. You know, I wasn't like a proper serious journalist, but for a long time in my 20s. My job was to interview people or to write stories about cultural moments. And I don't hate journalists in the way that a lot of other people do. and I understand. So when questions rub me up the wrong way, or when I'm asked the same question over and over again like a stuck record, I'm always interested in why that is. And as you accurately observe, First of all, I'm known for two things. My first book, which was my biggest book, arguably, probably will be the biggest thing I ever write, I think, and I'm totally fine with that, was a very personal memoir that I wrote age 28. I have also only written really for and about women my whole life. If you go onto the Instagram, you can do this, like, very narcissistic thing where you break, it's like a breakdown of your audience. I think I'm hovering on 96 percent are female. Following, you know, when I do live tours, it's, it will be in a theater of 2000. It'll be 1,998, no 1,195 women, a hand of, you know, a handful of gay guys and then two husbands or boyfriends who've been forced to be there and like,

Jason Blitman:

I would be there. Let's be very clear. I'm one of the five.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. Well, I was, and you crossed, you crossed two little sections there.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah. And like, you know, holding a plastic pint of beer uncomfortably while I make jokes about UTIs on stage and women screech with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in their hand. Like, those are my people. I'm very happy with those people. So I think that is why I keep being asked those questions. I think it is just like, my friend Caroline O'Donoghue, who's an author, said this really smart thing to me once about how to, how to look at media. This is gorgeous and I actually love doing podcasts because it's the one place where you know, you can't be misquoted, but on the whole, I find press, like most people, I really, really dread it. Like it's, it's a part of my job. I really, really, really find very difficult and I don't enjoy. And something she said to me that I think is so smart for creatives to remember is I have a personal dossier of every decision I've made in my career, um, and how I've moved the dial. No one else fucking cares. No one else is keeping that file updated. They just remember you for your biggest hits. So they're just going to keep asking about those. And it's totally understandable.

Jason Blitman:

It's very interesting that you say that because Carolina Donahue was our very first guest on Gays Reading,

Dolly Alderton:

Was she?

Jason Blitman:

huh, well, and we spent about 15 minutes talking about my love of this gal named Dolly Alderton and her book Ghosts, and I was talking so much about ghosts, and she said, you'd be thrilled to hear that I was so excited about ghosts because that's not what you're known for. in the UK because you're, because to the exact point that you're just describing,

Dolly Alderton:

totally. Yeah. And it's always, it's a nice, it's a nice surprise, but, you know, I just feel like, I've just had to make my peace with the fact that, that everything about love will be The thing that, that, that might outshine everything else, and I just think it would be so ungracious to be not cool about that. Not to compare myself to Geri Halliwell, Ginger Spice, but I, I, and

Jason Blitman:

I'm your age. I know exactly. Talk

Brett Benner:

Hello, I'm not your age and I

Jason Blitman:

talk about one of my first crushes. Oh my God.

Brett Benner:

This is gaze reading. Jesus.

Dolly Alderton:

the way, she was one of my first crushes, and I interviewed her this summer, and I asked her off record, because I knew it would embarrass her if I put it in print, but I was like You were like my sexual awakening, I think. And I think it was the same for lots of other women I know. And I said, why do you think that is? And she said, I think it's because. Um, you would, you knew that I, she was, she obviously knew she was a flirty, sexy character in culture, but she said, I think it's because you all knew that I would never hurt you.

Brett Benner:

Oh,

Dolly Alderton:

And I was like, God, that's so smart. Cause I think it is that I think it's like, you're coming into the sexual feelings as a young person, but. It feels so high risk to put that on this like opposite sex that feels so scary and confusing. So

Jason Blitman:

Right. And she's like still flirty. But

Dolly Alderton:

yeah, exactly. exactly. But she, but she said when I interviewed her, I was like, they obviously, I was like interviewing her about her children's novel that she'd written. But obviously like she invited me to her house for the day. She knew I was going to ask her exactly three questions about that. And I just want to ask her about Spice Girls. And she was at, which was now FYI, the woman is 50. Two years of her entire life. And she was just so gracious and so loving about that time. And so, um, and so, um, understanding of why that's the only thing people want to talk about. And I just looked at her and I was just like, that should be our model. It's just like, it's a cute look, I think, to just be. Gracious about that stuff.

Jason Blitman:

I mean, most importantly, when she sat down with you, did she look at you in the eyes and say, Okay, now tell me what you want, what you really,

Brett Benner:

Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no.

Jason Blitman:

Because if that didn't happen, then my fantasy is just not coming true.

Dolly Alderton:

I'm afraid she didn't. She's so eccentric. She was talking to me a lot about the Tudors and Anne Boleyn. I had to work quite hard to get her off that.

Brett Benner:

Wow. That's fascinating.

Jason Blitman:

talk about ghosts for just one more second. I have a group thread with two dear friends of mine. Shout out to Lauren and Ashley. They're big fans of the podcast. But we all happened to read Ghosts around the same time, unrelated to the other. And we all loved it. And one day, this is like going on two years now, I had read a book and I compared it to Ghosts. And I was like, it's like Ghosts, but You know, something and I like use some sort of thing that was a descriptor and what that meant was it's readable. It's contemporary, but it's also literary and thoughtful. And so it's like ghost quote unquote in that regard, but you know, with a twist in this way, and it has become the thing we say. about everything. It's like become this inside joke with a, like when when good material was announced, we were texting each other. We were like, it's like ghosts, but brand new. Or, or like, I don't know, one of us was moving. It's like, it's like ghosts, but a new apartment. Like it just has become this thing. And if you search the word ghosts in our phone, you see the text that it's like the pages and pages of just talking about go. Anyway, we were big, big

Dolly Alderton:

makes me happier. This is Caroline and I hosted a podcast about, sex in the city and nothing made us happier and nothing felt like a higher quality expression of fandom or admiration was when we became people's memes in their WhatsApp chats. It just made, it's like, that makes me think that you and I would be friends.

Jason Blitman:

Yes. Right. You're basically our meme though. Okay. So, so I've teed up with that. Let me follow up by saying, I don't, I'd start, I listened to tons last night. I don't know. I know a single Robbie Williams song.

Brett Benner:

Oh my. Really?

Jason Blitman:

I'm really sorry. I had to confess. I had to confess.

Brett Benner:

But also you have to watch the documentary on Netflix. You have,

Jason Blitman:

Okay. No, I will. But like, I literally, I was like, okay, in prepping for this, I have to listen to the Robbie

Brett Benner:

Oh my God.

Jason Blitman:

And I was

Brett Benner:

don't want to rock. Oh my God, rock DJ. But also,

Jason Blitman:

me making my confession to you.

Brett Benner:

oh my God, the

Dolly Alderton:

Tell me what you thought, Brett, of the documentary.

Brett Benner:

I found it really honest, very brave, very sad, I found it so heartbreaking, and uh,

Jason Blitman:

so I need to check it out.

Brett Benner:

and I really, I really appreciated it, I find him fascinating, crazy talented, and like I said, like, he wreaked sex and sexuality and just, in a way that like, it's not always palpable, like Lenny Kravitz has that, like certainly there's a lot of people who do, in a very kind of, it's feral almost, it's very deep.

Dolly Alderton:

totally. And actually, there is this really satisfying moment. Where, because Robbie was my sexual awakening after Geri, she cranked open the door then he flung it open and I was like, wow, I'm a sexual sentient being. Um, and there is this, there is this very satisfying moment where Robbie talks about this like, very intense, beautiful, pure, but obviously highly Halliwell.

Jason Blitman:

And you were like, it all makes sense now.

Dolly Alderton:

It all makes sense. It's so good.

Jason Blitman:

Well, but this is why I

Brett Benner:

just see you weeping, weeping as you're watching that part and you're like, I knew it.

Dolly Alderton:

I knew it. And, I'm telling everyone who hasn't watched it, if you're interested in, you know, the number one religion that we all live under, which is fame, if you're interested in fame and the nature of fame, and you're interested in success and the nature of success, I feel like this documentary is like a parable. And actually. What has stunned me so much about, I'm obviously not famous, but I've had a degree of being in the public eye. What has stunned me about the last five years is that there is no way to go through the journey of quick success or publicness or fame without hitting every single one of the beats. That every single person hits there is every person goes through the same cliched journey, it is unavoidable. And the only thing that differs is the support network you have around you and how you choose to manage it and whether the storms it is, no one has a different story. It's exactly the same for everyone.

Brett Benner:

Talking about that and getting back to the book for a second to make this character of Andy a standup, what made it that, versus, I don't know, an actor, or whatever kind of profession, what drove you to say, you I want this to be a stand up.

Dolly Alderton:

Do you know what? Initially, I did think about Andy being an actor, but I was in a relationship with an actor at the time, and as I've moved more into, into your world, Brett, as I've moved more into screenwriting, I've made more friends that are actors. It just felt all too close to home

Brett Benner:

Mm. Mm hmm.

Dolly Alderton:

I mean, I still feel like I've got a book about actors in me because I'm really fascinated by actors and that choice as a career. but I thought comedy was adjacent to acting and I was interested so much about the book is about, um, ego and humiliation and vulnerability and how much those things are in attendance in the process of heartbreak. and how much in heartbreak. It can feel like the pain you're feeling is about the absence of a person when really what you're feeling is, is deep abandonment and humiliation. Um, so I was like, I want a job that ties into that thematically. Nothing for me is more vulnerable and more ripe for humiliation than getting on stage every night and basically trying to make a room of people. like you and trying to make them and trying to entertain them. So it just felt like another layer of that theme within the book. And I think as well, you know, unlike Caroline, who I'm always trying to learn from, in fact, we're working on a film project together at the moment, and I'm just astonished at how good she is at plot. She's like the only millennial writer who's aware that plot is a thing. The rest of us are just writing scenes of people sitting in rooms, observing things pithily or talking about their feelings. Caroline is a big plot girl. And. I'm always trying to find ways of like, bringing in characters that I don't have to assign too much plot to. So like, that was what I liked about the comedy circuit is that I got to take Andy every week to these different clubs and to these different, into these different backstage rooms and you would get a slice of the industry there. You would get a slice of all these different comedians and therefore a slice of culture and a slice of society. Um, And they would be this sort of circus of cameos. They go on stage, they do a performance, they come backstage, they talk to Andy, and then they go away and I never have to write about them again. So it's kind of like a cheap

Jason Blitman:

pop in, sure, sure, sure.

Dolly Alderton:

It like, stuffs the book full of these, these interesting characters.

Jason Blitman:

In your acknowledgements, you thank a handful of men that you interviewed to create Andy or that you, you used to help inspire Andy. You've also said in these interviews that I've heard you in, you had about 20 hours of content with these guys. Was there anything that surprised you that they shared?

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, lots. I mean, I've always found, maybe this is a hangover of being at an all girls school when I was a teenager. I've always found men, um, fascinating and frightening and exciting and mystifying. And that, that, I've never really quite been able to shake that off. Like. I had a feeling the other day when I was walking down the road and there was a group of school boys that were about 14 years old, about five of them, just like smoking a joint and sitting on a bench. And I got, and I felt, as a 35 year old woman, I felt a bit butterfly y.

Jason Blitman:

That's so funny that you say that because you, you describe that to a 35 year old gay man and I have anxiety.

Dolly Alderton:

really. No, mine's like, don't say anything mean to me, don't be,

Jason Blitman:

interesting. Yeah.

Dolly Alderton:

but it's also like, oh, which one do I fancy? It just sent a shock of feelings through me that felt inappropriate for our age.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, that happens to me all the time. I'm like, who's going to call me gay? Who's going to be mean? Who's going to you know, cause they're, we all have our trauma.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, yeah. And I suppose it's like, it's this question that has like propelled me through so much of my work. You know that, I'm going to sound very a millennial girl now, but you know that thing that Joni Mitchell, when she tuned her guitar, she was always tuning for something called chords of inquiry. Like she was always looking for a sound in her music that felt like a question. And I suppose like one of the chords of inquiry that has been in the melody of all my work is like, what, what is, what are men? What are they all about? What are they thinking? Um. And I was, yeah, I was really, really surprised by a few things I found out. I mean, I found out that they go just as fucking bananas as straight women do in a breakup. They go just as crazy. They obsess. They self flagellate. They self loathe. They catastrophize. Um, that we just talk about it. We're just afforded this cultural space to speak about it safely with each other in a way that I think men still feel quite unsafe to discuss that with each other. I mean that was the big one was that like, I discovered that it didn't matter what their personality was, their age, their class, their background, all of them felt like they, they were allowed to speak about their breakup. for an allotted amount of time, and then they couldn't speak about it with their friends much more, either for fear of boring their friends or for fear of their dignity being compromised. And that was just across the board, it linked every conversation. And then the other surprise that I found. Which sort of horrified me. And I've always kind of suspected this, but it was weird to have it confirmed. Every single man I spoke to, when I spoke to them about the biggest heartbreak of their life. Even men that, when they were talking about, like, they couldn't see how they would live beyond. The pain of losing this woman, and they, were thinking about her every day and years were going by, and they were still obsessed. Even those men, when I asked them what was it like having sex with a new person for the first time, they all said, amazing.

Jason Blitman:

Wow.

Dolly Alderton:

And I said to all of them, did you think at all about your ex? And they all said, no,

Jason Blitman:

Hmm.

Brett Benner:

so gay.

Jason Blitman:

It's just sort of reassuring that we can all move on

Dolly Alderton:

It's reassuring for you. Why can't I move on?

Jason Blitman:

I don't know. You should write a book about it. The book opens with a list, reasons why it's good I'm not with Jen. Dolly, is there a reason, that comes to mind for you, it's like good that you're no longer with someone? Like what's your favorite reason?

Dolly Alderton:

Do you know what? I don't know. Andy does this whole list, which I think is like, my therapist advised me to do when I had, the last huge heartbreak I had. And that's what kind of inspired the beginning of the book. And I think what it is, is like when it's unrequited love and you lose someone, it puts you into such a childlike state of abandonment that you behave in a, in a childlike way. And, you know, like some of my worst, lowest. Quality behavior has been in the wake of someone saying that they don't want to be with me anymore. And then suddenly it becomes about trying to claw back some control and it's like refusing to give them their stuff back. Or it's like really fixating on the things that were annoying, like they wore backwards baseball caps. Or like, I don't know, they left their hair all over the bathroom. And that becomes the thing that you fixate on.

Jason Blitman:

I had someone who always said, supposedly, instead of supposedly.

Brett Benner:

supposedly

Dolly Alderton:

you ever correct him?

Jason Blitman:

I did not. I

Dolly Alderton:

but really it's like, cause I remember the list that I made for this guy and it was like, you know, he drinks too much. He wears this, he, whatever. And actually, and my therapist said, you have to write it out every day, and you have to read it every day, because it helps you divorce the fantasy of a person from the reality of them. And really, what the real reason, and this is the thing that hurts the most, I think, and takes the longest to get to when you're in the process of breakup, of a breakup, the real reason you should be so glad you're not with someone who has dumped you, is that they don't want to be with you.

Brett Benner:

which is also the hardest thing sometimes to accept.

Dolly Alderton:

the hardest thing to accept, but once you can rebuild who you are and spend enough time in relationships, like, you know, non romantic relationships that remind you of who you are and your value, you can get to a point where you realize. God, I really deserve to want to be with, to be with someone who really wants to be with me as an absolute base level requirement And also I think that that's something that it takes men a little longer to get there. I remember watching, I'm sure very problematic now, but I found fabulous film, 500 days of summer. Do you remember that

Brett Benner:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dolly Alderton:

And I remember at the end, like the, there's that moment when she gets engaged. Like within a couple of months after breaking up with him and her whole thing was she couldn't commit and then he has this this moment on the bench and I don't think he even names it but it becomes so clear just through his face that he has finally realized the thing that's going to set him free from the memories of this relationship, which is She didn't want to be with him, and she, it's not that she didn't want to be in a relationship, it's not that, like, she, it's, she then is now on trial after the breakup, that she has to behave in a way where she can't fall in love again to prove her point back to that ex and satisfy his theory about why they broke up. But whatever reason she just didn't want to be with him, probably for reasons she can't even articulate. And that is everyone's right. We get one life, you know, we're not obliged to be in relationships we don't want to be in.

Brett Benner:

Or at all,

Jason Blitman:

you also just said it maybe takes men longer to process that. And I think part of that is because of what you had just described a few minutes ago about women talking through these things and saying them out loud and men not really doing that. We're sort of dancing around this and typically we talk about this at the beginning of the episode, but we just dove right in. Can you give us like a log line for the book, an elevator pitch for the book,

Dolly Alderton:

it's a, I never know how to describe it. It's a, it's a book about the aftermath of a broken relationship told from the perspective of a 30 5-year-old comedian called Andy, who is mystified, um, by why his girlfriend and the love of his life has ended, their relationship. And I suppose this is quite an overblown way of putting it, but my publishers like it when I say it. It's kind of like a gone girl for a relationship that's ended.

Brett Benner:

no, one

Dolly Alderton:

no one dies, guys. No one dies.

Jason Blitman:

you didn't roll your eyes, but you didn't not roll your eyes.

Brett Benner:

There was a lot of lean back body language that suddenly took place.

Jason Blitman:

you know, it's interesting as we're talking about relationships, a theme in the book is really giving empathy to both sides. And I know that's a mantra of yours per se. I think that's something that I don't think we think about enough in our own relationships, in our own arguments. Like, it has taken a lot of therapy and of just, like, time in my life for me to understand when my husband says something to me, he might not mean what I hear.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

And what is going through his mind? And what can, let's unpack it from his perspective. And so it's, there's a lot of, like, pause, let's, let's unpack that for both of each other, or both of us, and then, and then move forward, um, and without giving anything away, I think that you do that. So beautifully in this book you like really share in the empathy and give both of them Sort of this well rounded journey.

Dolly Alderton:

Thank you so much.

Brett Benner:

I just I gotta like it's so commendable the way you flipped it, but made her as Jason was saying so incredibly empathetic and to show this other side of things that. It's okay. It's all okay. And I just love that so much.

Dolly Alderton:

I'm so touched that that's what you took from the book, truly, because you know, you get to a point where you keep writing and you keep writing and you keep putting stuff out, and you're aware of things that interest you, but you, you don't want to focus too much on like, what are the themes of my work? An executive producer who produced my TV show, she read the book and she said to me, you know, your work is about people who choose an unconventional life and making that okay. And I'd never put those things together. But when I think about it, I suppose that is a drum that I bang. I think the things that Your politics, quote unquote, and your set of values, or the things that really interest you, they do assert themselves in your work without you even realizing. And it's only after you've put a certain amount out that you can join the dots. And I think, for Andy and for Jen, for different reasons, they choose untraditional, unconventional paths at the end of this book. And I think I'm always Aware that the courage it still takes, even in 2024 to choose a different path, to break out there on your own and to do the things that none of the people around you are doing, it really does take a huge amount of bravery.

Brett Benner:

Absolutely.

Jason Blitman:

It's interesting that you're using the word unconventional because I had a very interesting experience in that after I finished Good Material, I listened to the audiobook of Dear Dolly,

Dolly Alderton:

Mm.

Jason Blitman:

which was so fascinating because what I love about advice columns and where people are sharing a part of themselves with a greater community is it's a way for more people to see that they're not alone. And I think a lot of the questions that were coming in and Dear Dolly they were your good material for writing the book. There were things, there were things that were coming up and I was like, Oh, what Dolly did was take her responses to Dear Dolly and show, Hey, y'all, here's a fictional version Of all of these answers like this is this is real life. It's every human mixed into one because we're all dealing with the same thing. You said all of the men have the same responses for certain things, and it's like we are all the same as as quote unquote unconventional as it may seem we all have these like instincts and whether or not we're in a relationship, monogamous or otherwise, like we're

Dolly Alderton:

Mm. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

and it's unconventional in quotation marks because we've decided that, but we're, you

Dolly Alderton:

I so, appreciate you saying that because I hadn't realized in between my last novel and this novel, I'd I've done now nearly four years of answering this, this doing this agony art column. And I always kind of thought it was separate, you know, like I do screenwriting and I do this column and then I write. Novels and actually what I've really realized since writing this novel is, One informs the other, you know, I think, the fact that I'd written a TV show in between my last novel and this novel, I think has sharpened my dialogue. If anything, I think I put too much dialogue. I mean, one of the notes I got was literally, was reading like a screenplay at one point. I put so much dialogue in. Because also I answer those, that one question per week, but Every month I get 50 questions, so I get this insight into this country and what we're all worried about and, as you said, how universal. It's basically the same seven problems that I'm sent over and over

Jason Blitman:

Asked in a different way, of

Brett Benner:

Interesting.

Dolly Alderton:

asked in a different way, exactly. And I, I hadn't realized. I think it would be, like, an amazing exercise for all novelists or all screenwriters to have this luxury, and I do consider it a luxury, that column, of, of, uh, getting these letters and answering. Because really what you're doing, if you're a good agony aunt or uncle, is when someone is, um, writing in, the agonizer is writing in about normally someone else. It's your job to empathize with the person they're complaining about. It's your job to help understand, help them understand, where the other person who's causing them anguish is coming from. And that is just, how can that not be a good exercise, if you're then going to go on and write characters?

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. Yeah. And that, it, bled so beautifully into Good Material, and it was a fun way to read the book. And I think, frankly, I would recommend listening to Dear Dolly either before or after, because it's a nice, co piece with, with Good Material.

Dolly Alderton:

I did a signing the other day, like a book signing. And I just have to tell you, this girl came over to me and I just can't stop thinking about her. Because when you do those signings, it's often someone that just stands there and says, this is what your book meant to me, and says something really sweet and pulls their heart out and whatever. And this woman had been waiting for ages and she came up to me and she said, Um, I've got all your books here for you to sign. And I was like, oh, thank you, Trent. Other than, uh, Dear Dolly, because let's be honest, that was a bit of a copy and paste job. It made me like her so much.

Jason Blitman:

I mean, she's not wrong,

Dolly Alderton:

She's not

Jason Blitman:

You

Brett Benner:

so Nora Ephron of her.

Dolly Alderton:

I know, exactly. I

Jason Blitman:

That's funny. Something I'm shocked that nobody asked you for any of the things that I've listened to so far is what would your fake therapy patient name be?

Dolly Alderton:

Great question. What do I normally, I mean, what I normally do, because I do sometimes do the fake name. I do sometimes do the fake name. Because, not in therapy, obviously, um, But because my name is Dolly, it's quite a recognizable

Jason Blitman:

Yes, we could use your given name.

Dolly Alderton:

I could use my given name. Some people still know that. Like the other, the other day I was doing a really intense hot yoga class and I was just like this sad little shriveled turtle throughout the whole thing. Just like I was so, I hadn't done it in a while and I was

Jason Blitman:

A beautiful, sad, shriveled turtle. Okay.

Dolly Alderton:

like, slow and huffy and just, yeah, bad. And the woman kept shouting at me, Dolly. And it was just a room of, like, millennial women. So they obviously all turned around and I was just like, Okay, great, this is really embarrassing. So now I have to, like, I think I probably would do like, what's the porn star thing? It would be like my grandma's name and the road I grew up on. It would be like Sheila, Sheila or when I think it would be, God, that sounds like a movie star.

Brett Benner:

It really does.

Jason Blitman:

Yes. You're a little movie star. So you're in the book. It's, uh, it's maternal grandfather's name and childhood pet cat. And I was like, I don't know that I should be asking people that question. Cause I'm like giving away password answer, like password security questions. Do you know what I mean?

Dolly Alderton:

My password is the same for everything. And it is

Brett Benner:

we all

Dolly Alderton:

embarrassed. It's so embarrassing. And it's like,

Brett Benner:

It's a lordy 524.

Dolly Alderton:

It's, I love Elordi. Can't believe you don't know who he is, Jason. He is going to change the biochemistry.

Jason Blitman:

I'm living under a rock. Between Ghosts and now Good Material, you are, I think, a modern day Nora Efron, a modern day Jane Austen. You're just like giving the people a reflection of themselves and like really doing, you know, I think like important work. It's important to see yourself in In what you're, in art that you're consuming, right? And like, things that are messy and tricky and sticky, we don't, we're not, we don't get to experience enough. And so thank you for doing that. Um,

Brett Benner:

I want you and Carolyn to do, I want you and Carolyn to come, Carolyn to come to the States and do like a road trip down the West Coast.

Dolly Alderton:

Oh my God. We'd love

Jason Blitman:

and Brett and I will be your roadies.

Brett Benner:

we really will.

Jason Blitman:

Wait, but we have to let you go. But does your dating life have any parallels to Barack Obama's time in office?

Dolly Alderton:

Oh my god, I love that you picked up on that. That's a reference to my opening essay of Dear Dolly, where I said that basically there was a period of my life as a journalist where I could have gone to interview Barack Obama and the editor would have found a way for me to try and make it about my dating

Brett Benner:

Hahahaha Oof

Jason Blitman:

like, I have to know. So funny. I'm just proud that I have held myself for a full hour, not singing Hello Dolly. That's all. I'm like,

Dolly Alderton:

Well done.

Jason Blitman:

I controlled it the whole time. If I was a little anxious, that's why it was trying to burst out. So

Dolly Alderton:

It must be hard. Do you know what? I re watched that over Christmas. I had an absolute Barbra Streisand fest over Christmas. They're just so good, those

Jason Blitman:

did you read her book? Did you listen to

Dolly Alderton:

I've got, no, do you know what? I've got it on Audible. I think it is like a 26 hour commitment and I'm ready to commit. 48. Oh

Jason Blitman:

it on 3X. Because she talks so slowly

Dolly Alderton:

Oh,

Jason Blitman:

to it. Oh, yeah, so you can listen to it nice and quickly. And, and it took me like three weeks to listen to it.

Dolly Alderton:

Really? Is it worth it?

Jason Blitman:

she goes a little deep into a few things that you're like, girl, I don't care about this. But, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And by the end, I was like, yes, I feel stated. I'm

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah. That's the thing with those celebrity memoirs that I have learned to just embrace is that the most important thing in their life is always like a legal dispute with their label or like when they had a fallout with their agent. It's like the most meaningful moment of their life and they will talk about it for four chapters.

Jason Blitman:

But 100%, but she goes into like the details of, of like filming certain things or writing certain things that you don't necessarily care

Dolly Alderton:

Oh, she's obsessed with talking about Yentl.

Jason Blitman:

but the way she talks about navigating the industry and being a woman and like really breaking down barriers, you're like, oh, okay, you've like really earned your diva ness and I, I appreciate it, you know, she earned 48 hours of the audio book and, and it definitely felt, you know, You know, the weight of that. So I certainly recommend that.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah. I listened to her on um, Fresh Air with Terry Gross and she was so delightfully bad tempered. And I feel the same as you, I feel like when I think about what that woman has been through and what she would have been through in the age she was growing up with the media and as a Jewish woman and I just feel like you're allowed to be as cranky as you like. Like you have earned it. You are talented enough. You have worked hard enough. Be a bitch to everyone.

Jason Blitman:

Just to say like, you just, in order to get where you want to go, you have to push your way through.

Brett Benner:

Right. And she's

Jason Blitman:

respectful along the way, but you gotta, you know,

Brett Benner:

She had a very strong sense of self, which helped, like, from the get go, because not everybody has that, and many people are figuring that out as they go along. But she absolutely, from day one, knew who she was and knew what she was, you know, capable

Jason Blitman:

But I was relatively indifferent to her, and then saw her in concert, and was like, my life has changed, I'm obsessed, this is amazing, and so I get it. But yeah, Hello

Dolly Alderton:

Did, did she bring, did she bring her cloned poodles out onto stage in a pram? Her favourite

Jason Blitman:

I don't think she did.

Dolly Alderton:

I'm just obsessed.

Brett Benner:

I would do that if I had extra money. I would clone my dog.

Dolly Alderton:

Yeah, oh, I would clone my cat, 100%.

Brett Benner:

Absolutely.

Dolly Alderton:

Gentlemen, I just have to say this has been one of the most delightful conversations I've had, um, along the campaign. So thank you so much.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, thank you, Dolly.

Brett Benner:

Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

The salt of the earth a delight

Brett Benner:

the earth, even! Wow! Heh

Jason Blitman:

thank you for being here. Thank you all for listening.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. All of that. All of that.

Jason Blitman:

all of that. And we'll see you later this week for our bonus episode. We're really

Brett Benner:

With Mark Daly, safe. Yes. right. a good see you midweek. All right. Bye.