A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.
– Episode 1: Pilot
Thus begins Welcome to Night Vale, a wildly popular podcast in the style of community updates for a small desert town, featuring “local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide” (from the official website).
Night Vale‘s novelty comes from the cavalier attitude towards strange and mysterious happenings. Or perhaps these happenings are only strange to us, the listener. If you are a resident of Night Vale, these happenings are completely normal. The Arby’s parking lot is a romantic spot where couples can watch the mysterious lights above the Arby’s sign. At the Moonlight All-Nite Diner, you whisper “check please” into the napkin holder when you want to leave. My favorite thing about Welcome to Night Vale is the way it plays with horror tropes and listener expectations, often to comedic effect.
To put it plainly, there appears to be catastrophic earthquakes happening right here in Night Vale that absolutely no one can feel. Well, submit an insurance claim anyway. See what you can get, right?
Episode 1: Pilot
Welcome to Night Vale seems limiting in its storytelling abilities–it is basically one man in a radio booth. But this limit opens the world for some of the most creative storytelling I have ever seen. It is amazing what can be done with nothing more than a dude and a microphone. The entirety of Episode 13 titled “A Story About You” is my favorite podcast episode of all time. As the podcast gained popularity, so did the cast. Instead of Cecil impersonating Night Vale townsfolk, he invites guests into his booth for interviews. Some notable appearances include Mara Wilson (of Matilda fame) as The Mysterious Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home and Jasika Nicole (from Fringe) as Dana Cardinal.
The town of Night Vale, guest actor or not, is populated by a diverse cast of characters, from old woman Josie to John Peters – you know, the farmer? and Hiram McDaniels who is literally a five-headed dragon. I have a fondness for Leanne Hart the editor of the daily Night Vale newspaper who wants to bring back print journalism by killing news bloggers with hatchets. And the Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL) introduced in episode 2 eventually becomes president of the PTA. Of course, we cannot have a weird little town without the scientist Carlos to explain the strange and mysterious with the help of science. Especially during the first year, Cecil becomes the biggest dork whenever he mentions Carlos. Their relationship is perhaps the most normal thing in the show.
Along those lines, to get personal for a moment, I think the best way to die would be swallowed by a giant snake. Going feet-first and whole into a slimy maw would give your life perfect symmetry.
Episode 1: Pilot
Welcome to Night Vale is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and is produced by Joseph Fink. Background music is by Disparation (link to his website). Cecil Baldwin is the voice of radio host Cecil and the end credits are done by Meg Bashwiner. Episodes are released twice a month with episode length anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes. The weather features one song by an independent musician or band.
October 2015 saw the release of the novel Welcome to Night Vale which tells the story of two women who live in Night Vale. Almost a year later in September 2016, transcripts for the podcast episodes were released in two volumes: Mostly Void, Partially Stars (volume 1) and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe (volume 2).
Welcome to Night Vale regularly tours the United States and sometimes the world. Tour dates for their live shows can be found by clicking this elegant and finely-crafted link.
Today’s proverb: Look to the north. Keep looking. There’s nothing coming from the south.
Episode 1: Pilot