Ok, back storytime! A week or so ago, I was at work, playing around with their Spotify, trying to figure out if I wanted to listen to music or podcasts as I didn't want to listen to one of my many audiobooks (oh, the joys of being a book blogger in a reading slump), when I randomly came across a image that catch my eye. This is the image you are probably seeing now. I clicked on it, read the first few lines of the write up - excuse the paraphrasing but it was "Twenty-something reads Harry Potter for the first time and podcasts about it". And you know, I am a bit of a Potterhead so dived straight in.
I cackled and went "Just you wait till book 5...!" at it and, on impulse, I tweeted the show, saying I discovered it, and was enjoying myself hugely. I, then, tweeted cheekily "Do you want to do something on my tiny pathetic blog?". And the show went yes. ... ah. So, next few days were a whirlwind of packing, thinking of questions, trying to listen to this and other podcasts (I went on an "Discover New Podcasts" Binge and I discovered some good'un. Might do blog post about them in the future if I want - you know, to share the love!) and here we are! I was going to post this next week sometime, but I wanna share this!
So, Potterless is a podcast where we follow Mike, a twenty-six year old man reading the Harry Potter series. Come as we see him sip the tea over plot holes, rant over Quidditch, and puts a fun, funny twist on the whole Harry Potter experience. I am thrilled that Mike agree to come on the Pewter Wolf so for that, I thank him hugely!
Now, before I hand it over to Q&A, the boring stuff. If you want to listen to Potterless, check out potterlesspodcast.com or jump over to Twitter and Instagram (both can be found at potterlesspodcast.com/social-media). Or, if you want to say hi to Mike, check out his Twitter at @Schubes17! And oh, heads-up, there is adult language in the podcast so you have been warned! And now, as they say in the wizard world, WIZARD ON!
Hi Mike! Thank you so much for doing this. Before we go any further, what, in your words, is Potterless and how did it come about?
Potterless is a podcast that follows me, a 26-year-old man, reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. Each episode, I discuss a few chapters with a Harry Potter fanatic or expert while I bring up plot holes, bask in the glory of sassy McGonagall, and rant about Quidditch. I first got the idea for Potterless when my Vine podcast came to a close and I was looking for a new podcast subject. I wanted a subject that was less niche, and I thought to myself, “Well, everyone has read Harry Potter, but I haven’t– wait. That’s the podcast.” I sat on this idea until I met Kelly Beckman, a huge Harry Potter fan and now my girlfriend. I needed more excuses to talk to her before we started dating, so I got off my butt and actually put this Potterless idea into motion so we could talk about the books.
Because you knew so little about the Harry Potter and the fandom around it (with its theories, fan fiction, wizard rock, drinking games, word replacement games, etc), were you at all intimidated at all when starting the series and the podcast?
Oh, definitely. I was terrified that once I started releasing episodes of a podcast in which I was poking fun at Harry Potter, fans of the series would band together, grab their pitchforks, and run me out of the Internet for insulting their beloved franchise. Thankfully, these fans knew I would soon come to love the series and were patient with me. When I presented hot takes such as my hatred for Dobby, the fandom knew I would eventually come around (which I did once he started taking care of Winky). I’m glad the reaction of Potter fans was not to dismiss me for initially being critical of the series, but instead holding back smiles so that they could eventually tell me “Told ya so.”
Before I grill you over your thoughts on the Boy Who Lived, has anyone spoiled anything for you within the series while you’ve been reading the books?
Since I have started Potterless, I have only learned of a one major spoiler, and thankfully none of my guests were guilty of doing so. I found out about Sirius’ death when I attended the live show of another Harry Potter podcast while I was still reading Goblet of Fire. They told me the show would be covering a part of Prisoner of Azkaban, which was true, but they went on a Sirius tangent and one of the hosts said something along the lines of “we really see how Harry feels about Sirius after his death…” and my heart sank and I muttered, “…wh-what?” Other than that, I have steered clear of spoilers, which truly has been a team effort by my friends and followers online.
Has there been anything (plot hole, fan theory, subject, etc) that you would love to know more information or rant about and want to dedicate a single episode discussing?
I’m intrigued by the theory that some believe Neville is the chosen one, despite what we learned at the end of Order of the Phoenix. I thought the prophecy made it pretty clear that Voldemort selected Harry, thus making him the chosen one. I’ve also heard the rumor that some believe J.K. Rowling was planning on making Neville the chosen one, but kept it as Harry once the theory got popular. I’m not sure of the timeline of all of this or its validity, mainly because I fear coming upon a spoiler if I do a deep dive. I certainly will research it further once I finish the books because I don’t see how it can still be Neville given what happened in the series.
Has there been anything in the series you thought you would enjoy/hate reading about but your opinion has changed on when you read the books?
I honestly thought I was going to like Quidditch despite the weird scoring system. I had no idea how broken all of the other rules were.
One word: Quidditch (you can rant here. This is a safe space)?
*exasperated sigh that lasts for seventeen seconds* It’s just… it has so much potential. It should be incredible, but it isn’t. My biggest issue with it is how it removes all the benefits of a team sport by making one player inherently more important than the rest. I played so many sports growing up, and they taught me a ton of valuable life lessons, most centered on teamwork and bringing out the best in others. Quidditch has the underlying message that sometimes, some people are more important than others and that’s just the way it is. I hate that. Also, obviously the scoring is ridiculous, but what makes me more upset is the inconsistency in the rules. Why was a match moved because of Malfoy’s Buckbeak injury, but not when Harry WAS IN A COMA AFTER DEFEATING SATAN?! Why was Gryffindor not allowed a sub in the final match of Harry’s first year, but all the other houses are allowed subs for less legitimate reasons in future books? I understand that Quidditch is largely used for plot purposes and drama, but as someone that loves sports and think they have more value than simply entertainment, Quidditch simply is an enormous letdown.
Why do you think Harry Potter has remained so popular with fans and readers?
The books were published from 1997 – 2007, the movies were released from 2001 – 2010, and new spin-off material like Cursed Child and the Fantastic Beasts films are current. When you have a franchise that has been popular for 20 years and continues to add well-received material, you’re going to have people of all ages feel like they’ve grown up with the series. Because of that, any time something is released, people will get a huge nostalgia kick and nostalgia is powerful. Look at everything getting a reboot or a distant sequel these days. But above all else, the books are flat out GOOD. They’re entertaining, they contain great life lessons, and they’re suitable for all ages. Now all we need is a TV series where each book gets its own season so that we can finally get video adaptations that don’t cut out precious character development and beloved side characters.
If you had to sum up each of the Harry Potter books you’ve read in five words or less, what would they be?
Philosopher's/Sorcerer’s Stone – Wizard version of Scooby Doo
Chamber of Secrets – Never look directly at snakes
Prisoner of Azkaban – Sirius is bad, lol jk
Goblet of Fire – It’s definitely not Ludo Bagman
Order of the Phoenix – Last five chapters are good
Half-Blood Prince – Easily the series’ best book
On what you know now, if you could rewrite any plot point in the series, what would it be and why (mine would be the Grawp storyline? That, the lack of grief counsellors at the end of Goblet and throughout Order or more LGBT+ characters.)?
Ooh, yes I like what you’ve put here. As far as plot, changing the Time Turner ending of the third book comes to mind. JK has even gone on record saying she flubbed the time travel mechanic, which speaks to how flawed it is. I would also rewrite Gilderoy Lockhart being the DADA professor in Chamber of Secrets. I never understood why Dumbledore hired a blatant liar and fraud to teach at his school. Dumbledore seems like a far better judge of character than that, so choosing him never made sense to me.
You are halfway through the penultimate book, Half Blood Prince, at the time of writing (am super behind on listening, am on Prisoner - NO SPOILERS!!!). What’s it like being so close to the end of the series and having new fans (such as myself) discover the podcast and get so involved?
It’s great to hear people react to things I said in episodes released months or even years ago, because honestly I forget a lot of the jokes made and topics discussed. The only downside is that I receive tweets daily correcting errors that I made over a year ago. Sometimes it’s funny, though. I’ll get a tweet at 10:00 AM saying, “Hey, not sure if anyone told you this, but when Crouch calls Percy “Weatherby,” he’s messing up his last name, not his first name!” Then, at 1:00 PM, I’ll get a tweet saying, “OMG I JUST GOT TO THE EPSIODE WHERE YOU TELL PEOPLE TO STOP TWEETING YOU ABOUT THE PERCY/WEATHERBY THING! SORRY!” That interaction is great because clearly they are binging the show, which I obviously love and welcome. The enthusiasm is wonderful, I just hope that in the future, people keep in mind that the podcast has been around since 2016, so if a mistake came up in an old episode, there is no way a fanbase as rabid as the Harry Potter fandom let it slide more than a few hours.
Because you are so close to the end, what are you planning to do next? Will you continue to podcast your thoughts on Cursed Child, Quidditch Throughout the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Beedle the Bard? Or are you planning to end Potterless after you close Deathly Hallows?
I’ll do the movies, then I’ll do the spin-off books written by J.K. Rowling, then I’ll do some unofficial Harry Potter material like A Very Potter Musical or Puffs. I don’t ever see the podcast turning into a Harry Potter discussion podcast, though. There’s so many of those out there already, and I’d prefer for Potterless to reach a natural end if I run out of relevant material. Thankfully, there’s a lot of it, so the podcast will be around for a long time.
Would you consider doing this style of podcasting/reading with another well-loved series, such as Lord of the Rings, Narnia or His Dark Materials?
I have something up my sleeve for another beloved book franchise from my childhood, but I don’t think I would do this exact format for another book series. I honestly miss reading books like a normal human and not meticulously taking notes while I read. I’d like for reading to be relaxing again haha. The one thing I could see myself doing in a Potterless style would be doing Game of Thrones because 1) I haven’t watched that yet and know I will want to at some point 2) the name “GoTerless” is sitting right there.
With Potterless, you are the creator, the host, the editor and the producer. How do you find the right balance between each of these roles?
Haha oh man, you’re giving me far too much credit by assuming I balance the workload. It really just comes down to what needs to be done. When I need to record episodes, I wear the host hat. When I need to edit the episodes, I wear the editor hat. When the editing is done and I’m posting it everywhere, I wear the producer hat. I guess the creator hat never comes off? Maybe it’s like Hey Arnold’s tiny, little hat and all the other ones fit over it… But on a more serious note, I balance the workload by spacing things out so that I never have to cram. That’s why I read and record far ahead of release dates (I even had 6 episodes in the can before posting my first) and edit little bits here and there throughout the week. I have the natural tendency to procrastinate until a deadline approaches, so I basically have to fight myself constantly. Also, having Kelly do all the website work helps immensely because I think if I had to wear a web designing hat as well, my head would explode (and then I couldn’t wear any hats!).
Speaking of podcasts, are there any podcasts you want to recommend (I’m always on the hunt for new podcasts)?
OH BOY, DO I! Seriously give Spirits and Join the Party a listen if you haven’t already. They are wonderful shows hosted by wonderful people. What’s fun about the shows on Multitude is that in terms of subject matter, they all have solid overlap. If you like Harry Potter, you’re probably down to clown with creepy myths and Dungeons & Dragons. However, the styles of the shows are very different, so you won’t lose that sense of variety. And though it isn’t live at the time of publishing, it will be soon so I’ll tease it here; check out my new podcast H-O-R-S-E I’m making with Eric Silver. It’s all about basketball but not about the games and stats, just the drama and funny stories. It’s going to be incredible, trust me.
One last question (and let’s end this on a silly/cringe note). Screw, marry, kill: Trelawney, Umbridge, McGonagall.
Kill Umbridge, obviously. Screw Trelawney because I honestly don’t think I could be in the same room as her for more than a few hours. Marry McGonagall because she’s perfect.