Written by Joshua Baker. Media by Alli Haug.
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead as we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.” These words, uttered by the apparently immortal radio host Cecil Palmer, begin our brilliant stay in the odd little town of Night Vale.
For those of you that do not know, “Welcome to Night Vale” is one of the most popular podcasts in the world at this moment. The show plays out like a community radio news show from the strangest town you can imagine: a town where literally anything can happen.
The uniqueness and brilliance of Night Vale is in how it treats its own strange subject matter. Night Vale is not a fantastical journey to a strange and foreign land; it is an everyday home where the weirdest happenings are accepted as mundane events. An imminent apocalypse by a giant, mind controlling, glowing cloud (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD) is as normal to a person in Night Vale as a trip to the library (which has about the same chance of getting you killed as the first event).
Even better, the characters treat the events as such. There is no “straight man” who acts as we would. The citizens of Night Vale have their own strange logic to match their strange town. On top of this, events that we would consider normal have their own extraordinary connotations in Night Vale. For example, street cleaning day is the most horrible experience imaginable; it sends the whole town into a panic and leaves many dead.
Night Vale isn’t all horror, however. There is a cute cat who hovers at a fixed point in the men’s restroom at the radio station. It gets about as much coverage as any other news. Also, Old Woman Josie has angels (who definitely do not exist and anybody who acknowledges the existence of angels will be severely punished by the City Council) who help her with household chores and are in a bowling league with her. The brilliance of this show, as mentioned before, is that it makes all of these things seem normal and after you listen to the show enough you begin to feel like Night Vale is your home, too.
The person who walks us through the daily life of Night Vale is the previously mentioned radio host Cecil Palmer, who is voiced by Cecil Baldwin, to the great confusion of the fans. The show would not be complete without Cecil’s warm and welcoming narration. Part of what makes him so great is how much he cares about his town. He has strong opinions on just about everything. These opinions don’t usually make sense, but they aren’t supposed to. He has a blind trust in his obviously corrupt and terrifying government, and a deep hatred for STEVE CARLSBURG, who honestly doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy.
However, these strong opinions don’t make Cecil unlikable, they simply add to a character that deeply loves his town and the people in it. While Cecil does speak passionately and enthusiastically on many subjects, he still talks in that same calm, radio host voice that makes everything seem just fine most of the time. He is a brilliant character that is very well-voiced. The fact that we hear about nearly all of Night Vale’s events through Cecil’s voice alone adds to the great mystery and comedy that the show provides.
Night Vale thrives on the unknown. It thrives on describing things in ways that make them impossible to fully comprehend. This adds an air of intrigue and even deeper humor. “Welcome to Night Vale” is at the same time inviting and foreboding. It is humorous, terrifying, and occasionally inspiring. It is a thrilling experience that nobody should miss out on.
Episodes can be found on any podcast app or on the Youtube channel. The “Welcome to Night Vale” crew also makes regular live show tours around the world. I highly encourage any person to at least listen to the first three episodes before deciding whether or not to continue. “Welcome to Night Vale” is not something everybody will enjoy, but for those of us that do enjoy its absurdity, it is one of the most incredible experiences that modern media can provide.