My first tattoo was something I’d wanted since I was about twelve: the three little stars that surround the chapter titles in each Harry Potter book. Igrew up reading and rereading Harry Potter, like most people my age–and like most people my age who love the series, I’ve always wanted to capture the feeling of reading them for the first time again. Harry Potter fans now have an answer to that experience: Multitude‘s Potterless.
Potterless is a magical journey following Mike Schubert, a 25-year-old man, reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, as he sits down with Harry Potter fanatics to poke fun at plot holes, make painfully incorrect predictions, and rant about how Quidditch is the worst sport ever invented. With his podcastic voice, uncanny sense of humor, uniquely sharp mind, and arsenal of witty and insightful guests, Mike Schubert will take you on a journey through your childhood, this time with the rose-tinted glasses off. People are calling Potterless “hilarious and engaging,” “down-to-earth magic!” and “like watching a baby learn to walk.”
Potterless is Harry Potter seen in today’s world without the lens of nostalgia, and the results are usually hilarious. The podcast isn’t a scathing takedown of the Harry Potter series, but it isn’t a sappy hug-fest for the books, either. Potterless takes a genuine approach instead of using an extreme opinion for laughs. It’s a refreshing take found in too few hyper-reactionary fancasts. Host Mike Schubert makes for an energetic and charismatic narrator as he documents his reactions, theories, and analyses with his guests. He shifts easily between the role of fan and critic, making Potterless an equally enjoyable listen for people who fall on both sides of the fence with the books. This is especially true when it comes to the listener’s sense of dramatic irony when Schubert gets excited about a very wrong theory or when he goes on one of his trademark rants about how Quidditch is a terrible sport.
The guests add to this, too. While the guests have all been fans of the series, most have been happy to take a critical look back at the series while still being nostalgic. Some recent favorites have been Multitude’s own Eric Silver of Join the Party criticizing the lack of Jewish witches and wizards at Hogwarts or Hannah McGregor of Witch Please lovingly tearing down Ron Weasley. The guests are all fans who offer up interesting takes on the book as people who have had more time to sit with them than Schubert, or could offer up perspectives Schubert might not otherwise have. The expert/novice dynamic is standard in the single-topic conversational podcast genre, and for good reason. It offers up a way to educate while still entertaining regardless of the listener’s own level of expertise.
And, of course, experiencing the Harry Potter series right now comes with a different sociological context than it did when it first came out. Between J. K. Rowling’s uncomfortable (to say the least) treatment of native cultures or the casting of Johnny Depp in the Fantastic Beasts films, Harry Potter doesn’t have quite the same effortless whimsy it initially did for so many of us growing up. What’s nice about Potterless is that these issues are brought up, but they don’t necessarily hinder Schubert’s enjoyment of the books. The discussions are pertinent, but the point is still finding joy in a piece of media that brought so many other joy in the past. Potterless set out initially to be a funny podcast about a grown man reading a book series for children, and it is–but it’s often also a practice in balancing being a critical fan but still a fan.
The editing and production work in Potterless are also worth mentioning–something that might seem strange upon first listen, but that’s exactly why it’s noteworthy. Unless Schubert is an expert at conversations that are high-energy, cohesive, entertaining, without any need for edits (which I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by), the edits in the episode are usually so smooth they’re almost seamless. As Potterless‘s end credits endearingly list off, Schubert manages just about everything in the podcast including its editing. This seems like a silly thing to comment on; it should be a given, of course, for conversational podcasts to have some classy editing like in Potterless. If only this were the case in reality.
Potterless is the perfect listen for anyone who’s familiar with Harry Potter, whether they grew up loving or hating the books. Schubert is an effortlessly comedic host, and the guests add a layer of reflection and analysis that adds some nice depth to each episode. This podcast makes it easy for listeners to–as they say at Hogwarts, according to the show–wizard on.