Welcome to Night Vale — Its Mysterious Rise to Fame

If you’re a frequenter of the podcast section of the iTunes store, you may have noticed a certain series that’s mysteriously jumped to the top of the charts—right up to the #1 most popular podcast in many countries, and it’s been there for at least a week, despite almost no one knowing what it was for the year that it was already broadcasting.

This podcast is called Welcome to Night Vale, and is altogether rather impossible to describe. iTunes, with its limited constrictive genre system, has it listed as “comedy,” but that’s only a very small part of the show. “Dark humor” might fit it more, but even that is fairly lacking.

The basic premise is this; it’s a community radio show in Night Vale, which is a desert town somewhere in the southwestern United States, narrated by the host, Cecil. And Night Vale has supernatural creatures roaming around, but most of them aren’t hidden away in the dark corners of the night. Everyone in the town knows about them and has to deal with them—the management of the radio is/are some unseen beast/s that almost never leaves its/their office, the library has no entrance and can only be entered through waking up there against your will, a glow cloud passes by and drops a variety of animals on the town, and said cloud later becomes the head of the high school’s board.

Throughout this all, Cecil keeps a generally matter-of-fact tone, and the town’s view of these events is summed up fairly early on with the line, “If we had to shut down the town for every mysterious event that at least one death could be attributed to, we’d never have time to do anything, right?”

The show is somewhat random, with plenty of news stories that vary from episode to episode, though there are some threads that carry on throughout the show, the most notable being Cecil’s relationship with Carlos the scientist, notably one of the few things that the host gets emotional about during the broadcast.

So it’s not quite a “comedy,” but that’s not to say it’s not ever funny. The incongruity of Cecil’s calm tone and the absurd events happening around town is enough to laugh at sometimes. The show also occasionally takes on a comforting tone of all things, with Cecil giving some heart-felt advice to his beloved listeners—and, depending on what gets to you, there may be a few stories that you find genuinely terrifying.

I’d love to leave you with a, “so if you like [show], check out Night Vale!” but I’m really not sure there’s anything that I could compare it to. Just give an episode a listen—it’s completely free, after all—and you might just find out why it’s such a popular podcast.

Welcome to Night Vale can be found in the iTunes store or at http://nightvale.libsyn.com/ and comes out with new episodes on the 1st and 15th of every month. It’s a production of http://www.commonplacebooks.com/. Check it out!

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