The Horror and Humor of the “Welcome to Night Vale” Podcast

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“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…”

– From the introduction to Episode 01: Pilot


“Welcome To Night Vale” Podcast

While countless people have become podcast fanatics over the years, I’ve never counted myself among their number, for the same reason I generally refrain from audio books and talk radio. But after checking the first few episodes of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, I may just joined the ranks.

Considering it is currently the “most Popular Podcast in the US”, I’m clearly not alone.

If your geek obsessions include the weird horror of H.P. Lovecraft and twisted dark humor, you may just drink the Kool-Aid as well.

But don’t take my word for it, have a listen to the pilot episode and decide for yourself:

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Welcome to Night Vale is a bi-monthly podcast produced by Common Place books, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, with narration courtesy of Cecil Baldwin.

Unlike most podcasts, Night Vale eschews the interview and talking point format in favor of a unique spin on narrative storytelling. Most episodes follow a twisted version of a community radio news show, discussing local politics, gossip, and news stories.

If that sounds painfully dull to you, then you haven’t yet experienced the format when combined with a darkly menacing supernatural hotspot like the fictional town of Night Vale.

Subjects of discussion include the latest revelations from Old Woman Josie’s angelic protectors, the last activities of the Sheriff’s secret police, the opening of the new Dog Park in which dogs, humans, and other non-Hooded Figures are not permitted to enter. In fact, it’s probably best if you don’t look at it too long, either.

A hybrid of humorous and horror elements doesn’t seem to make much sense at first glance, but if you consider recent offerings, such as Joss Whedon and Drew Z. Greenberg’s excellent 2011 film, The Cabin in the Woods, then you know just how well such disparate mash-ups can work with audiences. At least in the right hands.

Fortunately, this is the case with the talent behind Welcome to Night Vale. Writers Fink and Cranor provide a perfect blend of dark, often subtle humor and horror story themes which are only augmented by the pitch-perfect for radio narration provided by Cecil Gardner.

Though it lacks the typical three- or five-act narrative structure found in films and television shows, it uses the faux-radio show format to it’s best to tell both episodic plots based on a theme, such as the aforementioned dog park opening, as well as serialized storytelling in the form of story “updates”, such as the ongoing struggles of the Night Vale Herald, mostly due to its editor-in-chief’s extravagant spending habits.

Despite its unique narrative format, the creators aren’t content to risk letting the writing get stale through repetition, and break up the typical format with different approaches on occasion (for a great example, check out Episode 13: “A Story About You”.)

In closing, if you’re looking to get your weird horror fix, along with a healthy dose of darkly cynical humor, listening to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast is the clear choice.

Plus, it has been deemed mandatory by the all-wise, all-powerful City Council…

The Welcome to Night Vale podcast can be found at iTunes, Soundcloud, and Feedburner, among others.

 For more information, check out the podcast’s official page at Commonplace Books.