Wizard People, Dear Readers
Brad Neely, 2005

You know, I don't especially enjoy writing negative reviews. I'm well aware of how often I've wound up panning the books I've read and the movies I've seen lately. And I've sought out good ones! I'm working my way through the Internet movie geeks' lists of favorites! But as of late, even when I've had positive things to say I've had to couch them in very qualified terms.

Not this time. This thing is a fucking masterpiece.

Wizard People, Dear Readers is an audiobook version of the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, written and recorded by the guy who did the George Washington video. It works like this: first, you download the MP3s — here's part one and here's part two. Then you get a copy of the movie. Start the movie, with the sound OFF, and immediately start up the first MP3. You may have to pause one or the other for a second or two to get them synched up but I found it was pretty easy. And then watch and listen as the addled narrator begins:

Privet Drive. The ominous fog makes the nighttime even more hoary and mysterious than usual here in suburban Britannia. Out from the shadows of God knows what dimension steps the oldest wizard in the books, the near-dead Dumbledore. He is clearly a powerful beast and walks with dignity despite his age and attire.
He sees a cat that he knows right before he sets to work. He produces a wizard's tool known as the Street Darkener, and, with a practiced angling of the arm, begins to siphon away the clarity made from mankind's bulbs. Magical deeds are afoot, dear readers, magical darkness a must.

The first time I heard this my reaction was not so much laughter as sheer awe. I do enjoy me some Rifftrax, but this is much harder than simply making fun of a movie as it unfolds — this is a work of art in itself, a compendium of astounding sentences most of which would be sure Lyttle Lytton winners.

As always when I'm writing about something really good, I just want to quote the whole thing at you. Let me restrict myself to one passage, chosen more or less at random:

All eyes are heavy. The day has been a storm of excitements, and the children, after laying out their uniforms and shoes, are quickly starring in each other's dreams.
It is a beautiful, pale blue night. All the children are burritoed up in their blankets. All except for Harry. Amid the semi-sweet chomping at headgear, we see Harry, stroking his bird, lost in thought, bathed in the cold water of moonlight.
"Who am I now?" he thinks as he winks at the night. And it seems to whisper back to him: "You are everything."

Oh, man. Where do I even start? The first paragraph is great: it's very sweet, right up to the "starring in each other's dreams" part, which is juuust inappropriate enough to make you squirm a little bit and think, "Uh, maybe that's a little too sweet." Then we get more lyricism, which crashes directly into the phrase "burritoed up" — bathetic, hilarious, and yet curiously evocative. Next comes a completely random adjective — where the hell did "semi-sweet" come from? — but on the video track we actually do see Harry stroking his bird! Ha ha ha ha ha! And he does wink at the night! And the erotico-religious overtones of the final exchange — the narrator's gravelly yet melting voice as he intones, "You are everything" — man, if you don't think that "You are everything" is the funniest possible punchline to that sequence, well, I don't know what to tell you.

And he keeps this up for two and a half hours!

Part of what allows this to stay funny for the entire running time is that the author employs lots of different types of comedy. There are the goofy names, of course — I'm partial to "Catface Meowmers," myself. The names are one of the many running jokes that start off mildly amusing and gradually grow hysterical by sheer repetition. For no reason whatsoever the narrator starts referring to Harry's girl sidekick as "the wretched Harmony," which is funny precisely because there is nothing wretched about her and yet he sticks with it. And then there are the bits in which he completely deviates from what's happening onscreen — he kills off the wretched Harmony at one point even though she is clearly standing there completely fine, and soon thereafter Harry pauses for a moment and the narrator launches into a reverie: "He sees himself dressed as a conquistador, crashing in the faces of werewolves and bigfoots with an enormous telescope. He then goes on to envision himself arriving on the coast of a then-undiscovered America. He mingles peacefully with the natives, and trades secrets of magic with their shamans." This goes on for another three paragraphs. I am certain it is better than whatever the original scene was.

That's actually worth noting — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the perfect movie to give this kind of treatment: silly enough to mock, sufficiently well-done to keep the alternative narrative clicking along, and enough of a phenomenon that the narrator's worshipful phrasings (he has the wretched Harmony say "I was in here, crying like an idiot, and these badass new gods came in and saved me") come off as satire rather than mere goofiness. I should also say that, as good as the writing is, the delivery is key — and that means you really need to get the updated version via the links above, rather than just watching the original on Youtube. It's much better.

So what are you waiting for? Get in real time with Harry's destiny! He is important and unavoidable!

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