Dan and Jeff
Entertaining the Muggles with Potted Potter
By Leni Paul
With shades of Hogwarts, I sat down in a secluded corner of a library – sadly, not an enchanted one – to chat (over the phone) with the Olivier-nominated British comedy writing/performing duo Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. They are better known as Dan and Jeff, creators of the popular stage parody Potted Potter. We talked for nearly an hour about the birth of their show, their time spent creating, writing and performing, and their thoughts on the current Potterverse.
While watching the witty show, you can’t help but wonder what – besides Harry Potter (duh) – inspired the show? Dan and Jeff explained that they were originally asked to create a five-minute street show for the people waiting in line for the new book. (The show itself was a recap of the previous books that had come out in the series prior to Half Blood Prince, as that was the book that was being released at the time.)
They immediately took the job. They loved the books and were very excited to be a part of the whole Potter phenomenon, if only in a very small way. They may have also joked that, “[We were] nerds that wanted to be first in line for the books!” That is completely understandable.
The show itself has been running for close to twelve years now. Looking back, there must have been some material that the duo had to remove and wished to keep. Specifically, (slight spoilers) in the play, there is a bit where the lights turn off and then on again – to reveal one of the characters eating a chocolate cake off the floor.
Asked about if there were any jokes which didn’t make the cut, they disclosed that, “Anything we put in the show is a joke we like. We might test a joke. If it doesn’t hit, it goes into a dark box as is never seen or heard again.”
In regard to the cake bit, Dan did some quick math and calculated that he’s wound up eating cake off the floor close to five thousand times. However, that there’s also a bit where Jeff gets slapped, so in the end it works out.
They made a compromise. “When we get rid of the cake bit, we’ll get rid of the slap,” Jeff said. A pact was made.
Dan also sadly revealed, “After doing the cake bit for twelve years, I can now say I dislike cake and Nutella – which is what we put on top of the cake.” Talk about suffering for your art.
The show is a speedy seventy minutes. Considering the length of the series, that means a lot of stuff has to be digested. How did they decide what part of the books made it into the show? After all, the total run time of all the movies is just under twenty hours.
Jeff explained, “It was really difficult, because there’s so much information. Eventually, what we decided to do – because we hadn’t read the books in a while – we jotted down what we remembered. [We] figured that those were the important points to include in the show.”
Another determining factor about the content was the fact that they incorporated the seventh book into their show just days after its release!
Jeff said – while Dan laughed, because he already knew the story – “We read [the latest book] on the train. Well, Dan read, because he’s bigger, and I wrote because I know that. So, he read the books and I wrote down the parts that were memorable to him, that he thought were funny.”
This also reveals why the seventh book is told differently than the rest of the series. Plot points are revealed intermittently throughout the show, as Jeff (the character) is scandalized that Dan (the character) hadn’t read the book yet.
However, as stated above, they’d been doing the show for twelve years. Eventually it was time to pass the baton to other actors while they worked on new shows. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to wonder if they were ever worried about other people acting in their show.
“It’s our baby, so we do get nervous, because once they’re up there, there’s nothing we can do,” they agreed.
But, being the comedic geniuses that they are (they’re British so they’ll disagree with that statement), they joked that, “…we’re mainly nervous that the other actors are going to do it better than us….”
After giving the notion more thought, they concluded, “It’s also weird, because [the other actors are] essentially playing us. They’re copying our mannerisms. Sometimes, they play us better than we do!”
The show features audience participation. As such, there are moments where the actors are left to improvise. Consequently, does this mean that there were topics that the creators forbid their actors discuss?
They thought for a moment before deciding that, “We’re pretty strict on it being family friendly, so cussing is definitely not allowed. Because Harry Potter is family friendly, we want our show to be family friendly.”
This definitely makes sense, as the audience is usually jam-packed with children that weren’t even born when the final film was released in 2010! Since the audience demographic is always on the younger side, there is always the question as to whether or not the audience will understand some of the jokes.
This is especially true when the show performs in locations that separate the audience and the performer due to a language barrier. On performing in America in 2012, Jeff revealed that, “Certain words didn’t translate, like ‘cheeky’ means mysterious. Wait!” he laughs. “It means mischievous! Ah yes, he cheekily hid the plans!”
Finally, we concluded with two very important questions: what are their thoughts on the Fantastic Beasts films and what do they think J. K. Rowling would say if she saw the show?
They responded that the Fantastic Beasts films are like the new Star Wars films; they’re really good, but they’re not the original.
In regard to the Rowling question, Jeff laughed, “We know that she would adopt us, love us and take care of us.”
Dan took a slightly safer stance. “I’d like to hope that she would like this, because this is coming from a place of love,” Dan said. “Yeah, we’re nerds, and British. We show love by making fun of things.”
All in all, it was a great time that concluded with an invitation to ice cream should they ever visit America again. Dan and Jeff are lovely lads that are certainly gifted in the field of comedy. Keep on the lookout for their other shows Potted Panto, Potted Sherlock, and Potted Pirates and all the magic they are undoubtedly going to continue making.
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 4, 2019.
Pictures © 2013 Courtesy of Potted Productions. All rights reserved.