I listen to a number of podcasts regularly. I’ve written before about being a pretty big fan of many of Kevin Smith’s Smodco podcasts (Hollywood Babble-On with Smith and Ralph Garman, Fatman on Batman, and, of course, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old are a few favorites), for example, and, since I started seeling Lisa (a fellow podcast enthusiast), I’ve adopted a few more as my own. She’s gotten me into Ask Me Another (a trivia/puzzle game show produced by NPR) and Good Job, Brain (also trivia-related), as well as Thrilling Adventure Hour (a brilliant podcast done in the style of 1930’s radio theater). Add The Comedy Button (a hilarious show hosted by a bunch of video game developers who take insulting one another to the level of an art form) to the mix and my iPhone is often pretty full of podcasts to listen to on the bus ride to and from work these days.
Well, recently Lisa discovered a new one that many of her friends had been listeninmg to. She started listening, despite originally being put off by the fact that the show presented an ongoing story and had already been on for over a year. She bit the bullet, started downloading the show’s forty-some episodes to her phone and started listening.
Almost immediately she started telling me how fantastic it was.
“It’s so… weird,” she said with a smile. “It’s… well, listen, because I’ll just mess it up.” And she played me just a snippet of Welcome to Night Vale. I heard a man with a perfect “radio voice” explaining about the new dog park in the desert town of Night Vale. “The City Council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Sommerset, near the Ralph’s,” intones the voice which belongs to actor Cecil Baldwin, “They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible that you will see hooded figures in the dog park. DO NOT APPROACH THEM. DO NOT APPROACH THE DOG PARK. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and, especially, do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you.” I was instantly hooked and also began downloading episodes which I’ve been listening to at every opportunity for the past couple of days, in an effort to get caught up with her. The show is on twice a month and tuns anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes in length, usually.
It’s hard to describe Welcome to Night Vale as it’s pretty much unlike mostly anything you’ve experienced before, yet it is strangely familiar at the same time. It’s easy to make comparisons with David Lynch’s and Mark Frost’s late eighties/early nineties television drama Twin Peaks as it has that same sort of “off” humor about it. In fact, like I did with Twin Peaks, I find much of Welcome to Night Vale absolutely hilarious, whether it’s ment to be or not. I can’t help it though. That stuff about the dog park is bizarre and disturbing, but also funny to me. The line “Today’s proverb: ‘Nice Bola tie’ is the greatest compliment anyone can receive” is funny! In a twisted kind of way, i suppose.
The best way to describe the show may be to say something like, “imagine Lake Woebegone Days being written by Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft instead of Garrison Keilor.” How else does one describe a show that is presented in the format of community radio updates presented by just one person and includes lines like, “It’s election season again, and you know what that means! Sheriff’s secret police will be coming by to collect certain family members so that everyone votes for the correct council seats and there’s no confusion.”
The narrative is bizarre, but flows brilliantly and it is easy to imagine Cecil Baldwin as an actual small-town radio talent simply reading these outlandish things that, to him and the residents of Night Vale, are actually mundane and commonplace.
If you possess a smart phone, a tablet of any kind, an iPod, or a computer, you have no excust to not belistening to Welcome to Night Vale. And i haven’t even touched on the weather reports yet.
You can learn a lot more about Welcome to Night Vale by visiting http://www.commonplacebooks.com