Potted Potter Returns to Houston in All its Silly Glory

The wand cross.
Photo by Dahlia Katz
The wand cross.
Jefferson Turner calls the reaction to the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling "the closest thing to Beatlemania in the literary world" that he ever saw before (or since).

So when he and co-creator and fellow writer Daniel Clarkson set out to capitalize on the Potter craze with a parody, it was not born out of malice but out of love for what he calls timeless, well-written stories. They needed to take something to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006 — they were both Harry Potter fans — and Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A parody by Dan and Jeff was the result.

"It's a magical wonderful world and we tapped into that," he says just days before the show returns to Houston's Hobby Center, courtesy of The Hobby Center Foundation in association with Starvox Entertainment and Potted Productions.

Surprisingly enough, the 70-minute show does not call for an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Potter, Turner says. In fact, some of the people who've enjoyed it the most are those who have no prior knowledge of the world of wizards and Muggles, Dumbledore and messenger owls, he says.

"We're continually blown away by people who know nothing about Harry Potter, enjoy it," Turner says. "Quite often if it's a family group. we've had dads come up to us afterwards and say 'I know nothing about Harry Potter. I was dragged along. But I really enjoyed it.'"

Turner said he and Clarkson have both been to a lot of kids and family shows where the adults sat there bored. "And we really wanted to avoid that." At the same time, he says, each of them remember having a good time watching comedy with their fathers as kids so they knew there could be common ground for the generations.

In Potted Potter they don't overstay their welcome in a straight-through, no-intermission enterprise crammed with jokes, Turner says. "We go with a machine gun style of comedy with as many jokes as possible."

It doesn't hurt, timing wise, that acclaimed Actress Helen Mirren is on TV right now as the quiz show host of weekly, four-part series on on TBS and Cartoon Network entitled Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses.

"Anything that keeps Harry Potter in the public eye, current affairs, really helps," Turner says. "The stories will always be popular. And yet he's been around for a long, long time and people can forget a little bit. So anything that moves it to the forefront."

They do a bit of ad libbing along the way although an early improvisation in New York City in which Clarkson joked that if anyone could prove he'd seen the show three times they'd get pie was taken seriously by fans who began contacting them for their promised reward. "We ended up doing a promotion with a pie shop around the corner," Turner says, laughing.

"I think live theater really appeals to people at the moment because we're all so fed up with being on Zoom," he said. And as a bonus, Turner promises a full game of Quidditch in the middle of the show.

"It's suitable for all ages and it's suitable whether you know Harry Potter or you don't. It is just a bit silly and I think that's all right, right now. We all need a bit of silliness."."

Performances of Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A parody by Dan and Jeff are scheduled for December 7 through January 2 at a variety of times so check listings at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. There are no shows Christmas Eve or Day or New Year's Eve. Proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests is required and masks are mandatory for the audience. For more information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter,org. $59.99-$109.99.