Imagine it's 11:30 at night and you're listening to one final podcast before you fall asleep. And the one you choose sounds like a community radio station in a small desert city that might have been taken over by aliens or a shadow government. In Night Vale, murders and massacres are commonplace, not to mention bleeding mailboxes and glow clouds.
(Welcome to Night Vale merch at TopatoCo)
To coin a phrase, Welcome to Night Vale.
It's dropped back to #4 on iTunes, but this summer, "Welcome to Night Vale" reigned as #1, beating even "Radiolab" and "This American Life." It's written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and usually narrated by Cecil Baldwin. In the wake of the podcast's success, a Night Vale novel is promised next year, and the team is in the middle of a West Coast tour, with dates next weekend at Largo at the Coronet.
When I reached him in Seattle, co-creator Joseph Fink understood when I told him his show reminds me of the AM radio station in my home town, mixed with Art Bell's "Coast to Coast," and maybe a little Garrison Keillor. But, nope.
"I think those comparisons are very flattering," he said. "I actually have listened to little to none of any of those things. ... I wanted to do a podcast and I didn't want it to be like any podcast I was already listening to. And so I eventually came up with the idea of this town where every conspiracy theory is true, and then we just go on with life."
I said "Welcome to Night Vale" is, at its heart, people getting on with their lives, and Fink agreed.
"Well, yeah. I feel like that's what people really connect to in Night Vale. Night Vale is terrifying. There are terrifying things all around, and people die constantly, and yet the citizens of Night Vale have to just keep going on and living their lives within the circumstances they have. And that's true of real life, too. Real life it terrifying, too. ... And in that way, we are very similar to the people of Night Vale; it's just Night Vale exaggerates that a little bit. And it's aliens instead of cancer. But it's the same basic idea of just taking the circumstance you have and dealing with it the best you can."
Listen for much more, and to hear KPCC's Molly Peterson tell us about her favorite episode of "Welcome to Night Vale."