Welcome to Night Vale
I was going to write about more graduation-y stuff today. But to be honest, if I spend any more time thinking about post-graduation plans, I might just melt into a puddle right here in the coziest lounge on campus. (The coziest lounge on campus is also notoriously warm, so the puddle thing is a threat on multiple fronts.) Today I’d rather talk about something very, very weird.
A podcast called Welcome to Night Vale.
If you’ve been around Julie and me at any point over the past three weeks, we’ve probably told you about this podcast. We’ve probably raved about its weirdness and its sounds and its precisely placed words. And beyond that, we’ve probably been wildly unsuccessful in explaining what Night Vale actually is, because it might just be the most difficult thing to describe ever.
(Author’s Note: The writers of Night Vale are in no way sponsoring this blog post. Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor don’t know we exist at this point, but someday we hope to meet them and ask about their childhoods.)
In our quest to convert all of our friends to fellow Night Vale listeners, we have been successful exactly one time. Our friend Adam fell asleep the first time we played the podcast for him. Granted, we were on our way home from an exceedingly energetic Matt & Kim concert, and he’d spent about two hours making sure crowd surfers didn’t fall on other people’s heads.
We’d thought we’d lost another potential friend fan—our last potential friend fan, if we were being honest with ourselves. (All other attempts at conversion had been a little bit like telling a Louis CK joke in church. Funny for us, but uncomfortable for everyone else.) But then, a few weeks later, Adam texted us. He’d gone back and listened to all of the existing Night Vale episodes! He was officially a friend-fan! Julie and I rejoiced like the nerdy evangelists we are.
Last weekend, Adam, Julie and I saw a live Welcome to Night Vale show. The writing was funny and bizarre and concise and poignant. Some audience members dressed up for the show, which we thought was especially impressive since the podcast format doesn’t really offer any visuals for costume-making. It was possibly the nerdiest thing we’ve ever done on a Saturday night—and it was our favorite Saturday night in a while.
We’ll take a swing at a summary here. Listeners are welcomed to Night Vale with community radio broadcasts that include local weather, traffic, a community calendar, and live coverage of the daily disasters and tragedies that plague this quiet desert town. Just remember to obey the Sheriff’s Secret Police, never look directly at the hooded figures in the dog park, and be aware that your every move is being recorded. You should be fine.
(Shout out to Jules for that sweet-ass paragraph. I’m calling Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor tonight to see if they need any more writers.)
In Night Vale,
- A Faceless Old Woman secretly lives in your home (and has been trying to figure out your wifi password for months).
- You may encounter a man in a tan jacket with a deerskin suitcase full of flies; once he’s out of your sight, you can’t remember what he looks like, or even if he was there at all.
- A sentient patch of haze sometimes reads advertisements on the radio.
- Wheat and wheat by-products occasionally turn into lethal venomous snakes and take out most of the town’s population.
- Old Woman Josie lives out by the car park with a group of tall, cloaked angels. It is illegal to acknowledge the existence of these angels. All of Old Woman Josie’s tall, cloaked “friends” are named Erica.
- Vague, yet menacing government agencies put on most community events.
- If a malevolent Glow Cloud appears and starts raining dead lizards and crows on unsuspecting citizens, don’t panic. That Glow Cloud will someday become president of the Night Vale school board.
- Librarians are the most terrifying creatures in existence.
- A beautiful new dog park has just been built in Night Vale. Only hooded figures are allowed in the dog park—no humans or dogs. Whatever you do, do not look at the hooded figures.
- Clocks don’t work, and time is probably a hoax.
In the middle of each episode, Cecil—the show’s host, owner of arguably the greatest speaking voice ever—brings you to “the weather.” The weather is not actually a weather forecast, but a song by an independent artist. Sometimes the song is hip-hop, sometimes it’s indie-pop, but most of the time it’s folky and strange.
(Danny Schmidt performed the weather when we saw Night Vale live.)
If you’re not into supernaturally absurd dystopian podcasts, thanks for reading all the way to the bottom of this post. If you’re even the slightest bit curious about any of the things we just laid out for you, listen to this podcast. It is entertaining and unsettling and clever and so, so weird. All the episodes are free, and I’ve included a few of our favorites below.
This is our last attempt at Night Vale evangelism – after this maybe we’ll shut up about it. Probably not, though.
ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD,
Hannah & Julie