Art by Sacha Irick
Midterms are over and the fall slump is hitting everyone hard. Thanksgiving break starts on Nov. 27th and before we know it winter break will be upon us. During this dull monotony of awaiting one seasonal break after another, the lethargy is thick enough to cut with a knife, but what can be done? Well, for starters,nothing rustles up energy like getting into a new thing, be it a new book, television series or movie franchise. However, the crux of the issue is that you still have things to do; you have to be in motion. So why not start listening to a new podcast instead?
“Welcome to Night Vale” has been hitting the podcast charts with its bi-monthly episodes (with updates the 1st and 15th of every month) for almost a year and a half now, but only recently has it amassed a huge cult following online thanks to its anniversary episode, “One Year Later.” And depending on when you check, WTNV is No. 1 or 2 on the list of most downloaded podcast, always in competition with “This American Life.”
“What is ‘Welcome to Night Vale,’ though?” you might ask. Well, it is a fictional community radio show in which the delightful host Cecil (played by Cecil Baldwin) reports on the daily happenings of Night Vale with his sweet, melodic voice that will lull you to sleep under the right circumstances.
Night Vale isn’t just your normal little town, however. Co-creator of the show Joseph Fink has described the town as a place where all conspiracy theories are true. Another description that is apt is to imagine if the setting of “Courage the Cowardly Dog” had its own radio show with some Lovecraftian horror mixed in. Thats how strange things can get in Night Vale.
From the malevolent Glow Cloud that joined the PTA at the local school and the Man in the Tan Jacket and Deer-Skinned Suitcase, to Old Woman Josie and her Angels (one of which is black, if that sweetens the deal), to perfect, brilliant, beautiful Carlos the Scientist (who holds quite a special place in Cecil’s heart), there is really no shortage of delightful characters. Also, there’s a five-headed dragon who had to serve time for insurance fraud, and let’s not forget the Faceless Old Woman Who Lives In Your House.
A seeming mishmash of zany events with no correlation from episode to episode, a story arch does begin to unfold for the listeners. Not only that, but characters are never really explicitly described, so your imagination is the limit in envisioning the characters and any plot pieces left intentionally black for us to fill in.
This show has become so popular they have even just finished wrapping up a slew of live shows for the year in both the East Coast (where they’re set up) and the West Coast. I had the good fortune of watching one of these shows when it came to The Largo in LA and, I have to say, there is nothing like it. There are plans in the works for more live shows next year, so if you begin to listen now, and enjoy what you hear, you can watch actual performances of the show.
If you’re still not convinced, at least check out their Twitter @NightValeRadio for some bite sized examples of the subtle genius of this podcast. Their Twitter is actually a great supplement to the show, as they do update that daily, which is helpful when the 15 days between each new update starts feeling like an eternity.
So if you cannot seem to kick the fall sloth off your back, put on some headphones and let the gears of your imagination take over for a while. I guarantee you your ears will be loving The Weather.
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As published in the Nov. 14 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.