The round glasses; the strategically placed lightning bolt; the white owl; the broomstick. If you’re like me and have grown up with a deep, cherished love of Harry Potter, a familiar face immediately springs to mind. With over half a billion books sold in 80 languages, “Harry Potter” is a series familiar to many and a symbol of nostalgia and childhood innocence.
Now imagine the seven-book, eight-movie series and remove the nostalgia. This is the intent of Mike Shubert, the 26-year-old host of the growing “Potterless” podcast. Shubert, along with a different guest every two episodes, releases a podcast once every other week, recounting his experience reading the “Harry Potter” series for the very first time. The only catch: he seems to have removed those rose-colored glasses that many of us don whenever we want to revisit the magical series.
Each episode, of which there are currently 51, features Shubert describing details of a few chapters of a book at a time, going over the notes that he takes as he reads, and discussing his initial reactions, thoughts and predictions with a snarky, snappy and sarcastic sense of humor. His guests — lovers and haters of the series alike — are there to provide their own unique takes while attempting to stay away from any spoilers.
While the podcast’s tone is overall one of casual comedy, Shubert’s humor can get a bit harsh at times if you’re like me and enjoy the happy feeling you get whenever you hear the familiar music or read the familiar words of “Harry Potter.” Having a background in engineering, paired with a few more years under his belt than those who first read the series in their youth can cause Shubert’s view of the series to be critical and sassy. He frequently questions the physics behind the magic, points out holes in the plot and passes judgment on characters’ decisions, that a younger audience would never notice.
Instead of getting wrapped up in the magic of a children’s book, Shubert and his guests provide a comical, and sometimes too-critical rendition of a familiar series. This is disclosed in the description of the podcast and is the appeal for many listeners hoping to revisit the series with a new perspective.
The “Potterless” podcast also hosts a unique opportunity for listeners to be a part of something larger. Shubert set up a Patreon page for the podcast — a website where fans can sign up to donate a certain amount of money per episode, to help Shubert purchase equipment, travel to events and produce the podcast. With each rising level of donations, members are offered more gifts in return, starting with access to stickers and a shout out on the show, to special merch, special question and answer sessions with Shubert and exclusive additional episodes. On top of this, each month Shubert donates one dollar for each “Potterless” Patreon member to a charity, chosen from a list of suggestions from his listeners. His most recent donation was $478 to the Ghana Educational Collaborative.
Shubert’s cynical view of “Harry Potter” is one that’s taken with a comedic goal in mind. While his opinions are sometimes over the top and can frustrate those who don’t want all of the magic of “Harry Potter” shattered, his jokes land well, his guests are always entertaining and I find myself laughing along as I relive the “Harry Potter” series in a new perspective. I suggest this podcast to any level of “Harry Potter” fan.
The “Potterless” Podcast can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and the “Potterless” Podcast website.