I’ve reviewed movies, TV shows, comic books, and documented pointless events in my life, but this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a podcast! I listen to a handful of podcasts, mostly about movies or hosted by comedians, and sometimes I tell me friends about them. The first I had heard of Welcome to Night Vale was from my coworker Aaron who knew I liked podcasts and spooky stuff. HE KNOWS ME SO WELL! He mentioned that it was a radio show from the fictional town of Night Vale and I think that’s when I stopped listening. It sounded cool! While talking to my roommate Dracula, the subject of Night Vale also came up, but he hadn’t listened to it yet either. It seemed like within two weeks, any time the topic of podcasts came up, the conversation turned to Night Vale. Since I was supposed to have a couple of long flights ahead of me, I downloaded all of the episodes, recently started listening to them, and….only got through the first ten.
The description of Welcome to Night Vale being a radio show from a fictional town is 100% correct. However, possibly because of my poor listening skills, the fact that weird things are happening in this small town for comedic purposes was something I was unaware of. There are a LOT of interesting set-ups to some really creepy concepts and imagery, but these setups mostly end up being for the sake of making an absurdist joke. There are ghosts, aliens, cults, monsters, conspiracy theories, and anything else that could live inside Stephen King/H.P. Lovecraft/Edgar Allen Poe’s head. The structure of the show is a series of announcements and pieces of news, so each bit lasts 2-3 minutes and each episode is 20-25 minutes long. Throughout the ten episodes that I listened to, there were some recurring pieces of news that played a role throughout, but there still wasn’t much of a narrative to the whole thing. The only constant in each episode is that all of these things were taking place in Night Vale. Oh yeah, there’s also a segment in each episode known as “The Weather” the highlights various types of independent bands/musicians and it COMPLETELY takes me out of the momentum that the episode was building.
I accept that it’s my fault for having a preconceived notion of what this podcast would be like, because I should have known ahead of time it was comedic. Despite being a little disappointed that I wasn’t creeped out by the show, it strangely sparked a lot of creativity in me. Maybe not in this blog post, because it’s very uncreative, but hearing the setups of the different news pieces made my brain automatically start trying to think of where the piece was going. Even though the show would turn it into a joke, the listener still has a very bizarre and surreal environment or scenario being formed in their head, so I can see why so many people enjoy it. It feels a lot like a Don Coscarelli film in the way that you’re not sure whether to laugh at the absurdity of a situation or be unsettled by it. Even though I don’t like the Weather segment on the show, most of the music used throughout the episode works with the voice of the host (Cecil Baldwin) for some really creepy effects. Even though Welcome to Night Vale isn’t totally my thing, I can see why so many people enjoy it and hope it spawns other similar absurdly creepy podcasts. Maybe I’ll give it a few more episodes to see if it gets better, but other people have said it’s pretty much more of the same. But as for now, I’m just going to lay down on the floor and listen to some H.P. Lovecraft audiobooks.
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