Get Ready to Apparate to The Secret Group for the Roast of Harry Potter

Conner Clifton performs at Spooky Standup on Halloween night 2017 at The Secret Group.
Conner Clifton performs at Spooky Standup on Halloween night 2017 at The Secret Group. Photo by Gabe Bravo
Update 9 a.m. February 26, 2018: A second show at 9:45 p.m. has been added because of high demand.

The Boy Who Lived is about to find out there’s one group of people even scarier than a bald, nose-less Ralph Fiennes look-alike and his black-hooded, be-masked followers: Houston’s best comedians ready to unleash their best insults and one-liners on the boy wizard.

The (Completely Unauthorized) Roast of Harry Potter is the brainchild of comedians Gabe Bravo and Nick Meriwether, and though Bravo is quick to point out it’s “not a super original idea,” he says ticket sales have been overwhelming and he expects a sell-out crowd of super fans, casual fans and whoever else may be dragged along all ready to see the famous Harry Potter brought down a peg or two.

Meriwether will serve as roastmaster and joining Bravo on the dais are some of his favorite local comics, including Katie McGee and Harry Potter trivia master Dale Cheeseman as the man of the hour, for what Bravo describes as “a weird comedy play.”

“It’s not just going to be a traditional roast,” says Bravo, “[and] it’s not like regular traditional stand-up. It’s something completely different, but the comics are still able to exercise their funny muscle. They still get to flex and show off what they have.”

While The Trio is sure to be represented, Bravo is tight-lipped on who or what else audiences can expect. (So on whether or not a certain Twilight actor will get a mention, or just how many ginger jokes can be expected, you’ll just have to wait and see.) He does say that Ned Gayle is working on video interludes to run during the show, and there will be a surprise “not-quite-in-the-books-or-movies” character and costumes in varying levels of detail, from almost professional cosplayer to very DIY. And, of course, something everyone loves: roast jokes.

“The reason I enjoy roasts is because it’s not me up there being roasted,” says Bravo with a laugh. “Whenever we have someone leave town or something we give them a roast and it’s always like, half of it’s really brutal, some of the jokes are really silly and fun, and then they’re just very nice and sincere at the end. It’s like getting in a hot sauna and then jumping in a cold pool.”

Though Bravo says it’s pretty common to see people with hurt feelings after a regular roast, this one will be nothing but lighthearted fun. “We’re all familiar with these characters, and they’re not real,” says Bravo. “That’s one thing you can take some solace in. You can be more playful and you can be more hard-hitting without having to really feel bad.”

click to enlarge
Fictional character roasts come to The Secret Group starting with everyone's favorite boy wizard.
Courtesy of Nick Meriwether
While the comedians are enjoying a little guilt-free freedom during joke writing, Bravo says audiences will also get an unexpected benefit.

“With stand-up, a lot of times you’re doing bits that you’ve been practicing and working on over and over and over again, so if you come see the same person at a stand-up show twice in the same couple of months you’ll probably hear a couple of jokes repeated,” says Bravo. “After this, unless [the comics] do another Harry Potter roast somewhere else, they won’t be reusing these jokes, so it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this lineup of people doing these jokes specifically.”

The “all-inclusive ridiculously fun” first Mondays will continue at The Secret Group next month with the inaugural Sticks and Stones roast tournament, featuring comedians competing against each other to be crowned roast master supreme. After Sticks and Stones debuts in April, it will alternate first Mondays with more fictional character roasts, with Star Wars, Pokémon, and Rick and Morty already being announced as future themes.

Bravo admits that cramming for fictional character roasts, like having to binge watch all of the Harry Potter movies while being a touring comedian, is “brutal.” He also says that writing on an assigned topic is “devastatingly hard” for him. But, he adds, for him, making people laugh is unlike anything else in the world and well worth it.

“You can spend hours and hours building a shelf from scratch and then you show your friends and they’re like, ‘oh, that’s … cool,” or you can make one stupid joke and all your friends laugh until they’re crying,” says Bravo. “I’ve never had any interest in anything except for making my dumb friends laugh.”

The (Completely Unauthorized) Roast of Harry Potter is scheduled for 7 and 9:45 p.m. on March 5 at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk. For more information, call 832-898-1088 or visit $5 to $10.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.