Friday, 6 February 2015

Welcome To Night Vale

Image Source: Wikipedia
Written By: Anna Fell

Publisher: Commonplace Books
Producers: Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Writers: Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Starring: Cecil Baldwin
Base Country: United States
Genre: Comedy
Episode Running Time: 30 Minutes
Aired Since: June 15 2012

Created in 2012 by the series’ writers Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor, the fictionally-based podcast Welcome To Night Vale has skyrocketed in internet fame over the last couple of years, leading it to have frequently made the iTunes ‘Top 10 Audio Podcasts’ list, having made its way to the top of said list after receiving over 150,000 downloads within one week.

Welcome To Night Vale is an ongoing series produced by Commonplace Books and available on iTunes for free that releases two 30-minute episodes per month, all of which include the voice-acting talent of Cecil Baldwin. He plays the part of Cecil Gershwin Palmer, the host of a community radio station located in the fictional and mysterious desert town of Night Vale.

The series has been likened to the classic TV sci-fi show The Twilight Zone in terms of absurdity and surrealism; Welcome To Night Vale creates constant twists on reality norms in pairing them with dark, conspiracy theory-like situations, such as a dog park in the town that no dogs (or people, for that matter) are allowed to enter. Oh, and there are also ‘hooded figures’ wandering around said dog park that you shouldn’t go anywhere near or even look at or you may blink yourself out of existence.

Welcome To Night Vale is first and foremost a comedy series, with the humour deriving from its absurd characters and situations, and especially from its narrator’s blatant, na├»ve and often up-beat delivery of such dire and odd situations, and his voice, the tone of which can range from dark and ominous to that of an excitable ‘Valley girl’ in seconds. But the show also includes many beautiful moments that come from the uniquely descriptive, creative writing style that examines life, death, love, fear and the unknown.

It’s been said that part of Welcome To Night Vale’s breakthrough came through its growth in popularity throughout the social media blogging site Tumblr, where many have embraced its creative writing and diverse, interesting array of characters by singing its praises and producing stacks of fan-art. Tumblr is where I first came across talk of the show, and so I decided to have a listen to the pilot episode to see what all the hype was about, despite having never taken to any podcast series before.

I was unsure what to make of it from the initial listen, as I had no idea what it was going to be about at all, and was quite thrown off by its strangeness – things such as playing a song and saying that that was the weather update – but after listening to a second and third episode, I had gotten into the swing of how things worked on the show (such as quickly learning that EVERY weather segment was actually going to be an indie, folk or rap song by a relatively unknown artist), and I was very glad to have discovered it. Welcome To Night Vale at this moment has produced over 60 episodes, including recordings of live shows that they have performed to sold-out venues on tours all across Europe and the United States. And the team behind Welcome To Night Vale has no intention of stopping any time soon; they are even in the process of creating a book based on the series.

I see it as no surprise at all that the podcast went from new and barely known to a chart-topping sensation that is planning its third big tour so quickly. The writing of Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor is of such a high quality, and I personally would go as far as to rank them right up there with the very best of surreal, creative writing talent. However, I also see it as no surprise if you have not heard of Welcome To Night Vale as, at the moment, the series only really has internet fame and isn’t a household name due to its lack of exposure to more public, mainstream media such as involvement in news outlets or television.

Nevertheless, I whole-heartedly recommend the podcast to anyone (as it is suitable for all ages), and although I understand that its sense of humour and all-round quirkiness may not be to everyone’s taste, I’m sure that most will be able to appreciate its beautiful, imaginative, comedic writing, and find as much enjoyment as I have in spending time relaxing and immersing oneself in the weird and wonderful world of Night Vale.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good