Harry Potter Parody 'Potted Potter' Makes L.A. Debut
From boy wizards to Hitler Youth, comedian Dan Clarkson offers parody blackmail.
If you’ve been meaning to read the Harry Potter books but just can’t find the time, Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner may have just what you need — Potted Potter, an unauthorized two-man parody of all seven books (that's 4,000 pages) condensed into just 70 minutes replete with a Quidditch match, Dobby the elf and Voldemort’s pet snake, Nagini.
“Jeff plays Harry Potter, which leaves me playing all 350 other characters,” says Clarkson about the show, which plays at Beverly Hills’ Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts through March 1. “So I’m playing everyone from Ron Weasley to Hermione to Voldemort. And seeing a 6-foot-5 grown man playing Hermione Granger as an 11-year-old school girl, that’s worth the ticket price right there.”
It all started when Clarkson, a huge Harry Potter fan, was asked to entertain readers at a bookshop during the launch of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. He and fellow stand-up comic Turner put together a few minutes of material, enjoyed a roaring success and thought that was the end of it. Then came an invitation to Edinburgh, Scotland, where they sold out their run, then London, North America ... “I’m waiting for people to realize it’s two best friends messing round,” laughs Clarkson. “Immigration is going to send us home again.”
Audience participation is encouraged, and parents and kids often show up in costume. The climax of the evening is a Quidditch match that gives the entire audience a chance to participate. Clarkson noticed that fathers in the U.S. are a little more aggressive at Quidditch than their counterparts in the U.K. “I’ve watched full-grown men push children to the ground so they could score a goal,” he recalls. “I think they think it’s the Super Bowl and they’re going for the touchdown, and their wives are like, 'What are you doing?!' ”
For Clarkson and Turner, it’s part of what makes each show a one-off. When one kid found himself losing the match, he proceeded to begin goose-stepping around the stage. When Clarkson asked him what he was doing, the child responded: “I’m being a soldier, my dad taught me,” to the utter mortification of his parents. “He was being a proper World War II Nazi soldier,” says Clarkson.
Unauthorized though it is, Potted Potter does run its material past author J.K. Rowling's lawyers, who, so far, have raised no objections. No word on whether Warner Bros. has any objections, but as far as Clarkson’s concerned, he’s just glad it’s not that other Burbank-based studio. “If it were Disney I’d be in a black bag by now,” he says. “One with very nice Mickey ears.”
During 10 years of performing Potted Potter, Clarkson and Turner have added other properties to their parody repertoire, like Potted Sherlock, (all 60 Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries crammed into 80 minutes), Potted Panto (a traditional form of populist British theater) and Potted Pirates (swashbuckling mayhem). Next up, the duo is eyeballing a BBC classic — Doctor Who.
“At the moment, we’re developing to see if there’s anything there to be parodied, and then we will obviously talk to the BBC. And if they want to give me a part in the show itself, then I probably won’t do it,” says Clarkson, half-joking. “In the end, they’ve got a choice. They can make me the actual doctor, or I’ll parody the doctor. It’s parody blackmail.”