A Chat With ‘Welcome To Night Vale’ After Making It To Five Years

This Friday, the popular surreal sci-fi comedy podcast Welcome To Night Vale will be kicking off another U.S. tour covering most of the south and western states, followed by a new tour of Northern Europe. The show has earned a cult following that cannot be matched by any other show in the genre, as they create stories told through the silky and sultry voice of a community radio news reporter.

The show recently hit their five-year anniversary in June, which in the land of podcasting makes them legends at this point, along with releasing albums and books to match the content with their own weird mystique. Today we chat with co-creator Jeffrey Cranor, and the voice of Night Vale Cecil Baldwin, about their success and the tour they’re about to head out on.

Cecil Baldwin & Jeffrey Cranor

credit//Welcome To Night Vale
BC: The show has hit the five-year milestone, which in podcast years is amazing. What does it feel like to have a show with that kind of longevity?

JC: Five years doesn’t feel like that long a time, although in the world of podcasting, it seems to be ages. So many new, fantastic shows have cropped up since we started. We’ve even heard from some shows how much an influence Night Vale has been on them, that we’ve inspired them to create a show. I can’t think of a better compliment. I love that Welcome to Night Vale drew such a large audience since 2012, but in all honesty, it’s so much fun to do, I think we’d still be making it even if we still only had a couple hundred listeners.

What kind of reaction do you get from fans these days now that the show and Cecil have become iconic with pop-culture now?

CB: I’m still taken aback whenever someone recognizes me or Welcome to Night Vale out of context of the live shows! It is so beautiful to be synonymous with a project that prides itself on being surreal and dark, and yet quite hopeful in its message. People all over the world have named their pets after me, gotten tattoos related to Night Vale, not to mention sending me photos of glow clouds, dog parks, etc. What I love about the success of Night Vale is that this is all coming from an independent production, not on any major media outlet. It is a true cult success—which is an amazing feat, considering the onslaught of entertainment available online these days. I was at a bar up the street from my apartment in Brooklyn the other day; and after I had my drinks and meal, she noticed the name on my credit card and put the voice with the name! When I get recognized “IRL” it’s always just as surprising to me as it is to the fan. There’s something about the intimacy of a podcast or radio show that really cements the listener’s relationship with the narrator. And, as Night Vale continues to tour the world, more and more people are getting to know me as more than just a disembodied voice, and are more likely to recognize me.

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I’ve seen the character of Cecil slowly become a cosplay icon over the years. What do you think was the biggest factor to people wanting to dress up as him, tattoos, third eye and all?

CB: Mike Rugnetta of PBS’s Idea Channel put it most astutely when he asked the question: If you can’t cosplay it, is there really a fandom for it? Because of its aural nature, and the lack visual character description, Night Vale leaves a lot open to interpretation regarding how these characters look and dress. What’s fascinating is that the fans of Tumblr/Reddit/etc. stepped in and created the iconography of their own in order to cosplay the characters of Night Vale. Do the writers of Night Vale ever mention sleeve tattoos, a third eye, dapper purple vests and bow ties? Nope. But these icons have become synonymous with the characters of our show, purely through the fan’s level of involvement. And now, when they are at a Comic Con, fans who are in the know are able to spot each other and connect over the podcast. Personally, I embrace all the interpretations of Night Vale! Nothing brings me greater joy than going to a Comic Con or a Night Vale live performance and seeing the creativity and passion of fans who dress up as their favorite characters.

You’re gearing up for another short tour of the U.S. What’s it been like for you to take the show on the road the past few years?

JC: Coming out of the theater world, it’s wonderful that the podcast translates so well to the stage. A lot of that is thanks to Cecil Baldwin, who’s a uniquely talented performer who connects so intimately with the audience. It’s remarkable to see a single actor on a stage have so much mastery over the energy of the room. Also, Jon Bernstein (aka Disparition), who performs the backing music live on our tours. Like Cecil, Jon is brilliant at creating the mood for each show, reading not only Cecil but the room. Touring Night Vale, we’ve also gotten to see so much of the world, traveling to 35 U.S. states, and 16 different countries in the past three years. We sold out a theater in London’s West End. We’ve been at LA’s Orpheum, Dallas’ Majestic Theatre, Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, and NYC’s Town Hall, and so many other historic and lovely venues.

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Later this year you’ll be traveling to Europe! What are you most looking forward to during that tour?

JC: Going back to the West End! We’ll be at the Apollo in October, performing under the proscenium for the musical Wicked. Some of our best, most energetic shows have been in London, and we are always stoked to perform there. Also, the Rival Theatre in Stockholm is one of our favorite venues in the world. Plus, the trains in the UK and Europe are so much faster and more reliable than here in the U.S. It’s pretty nice to not have to be in a van or a plane every day.

Any personal thoughts you want to send to the fans for their support after all this time?

CB: All I can say is—keep listening! And also, take the time to support the writers, musicians, artists, and actors who have worked on the show. Night Vale has gathered such an amazing roster of talent over the years, and pretty much every single person involved is concurrently working on their own projects. Find them and support them! The best way to keep independent arts alive in this world is to be pro-active in supporting an artist, either financially or simply by telling your friends and family about music or theatre or writing that you enjoy!

About Gavin Sheehan

Gavin has been a lifelong geek who can chat with you about comics, television, video games, and even pro wrestling. He can also teach you how to play Star Trek chess, be your Mercy on Overwatch, recommend random cool music, and goes rogue in D&D. He also enjoys standup comedy, Let's Play videos and trying new games, along with hundreds of other geeky things that can't be covered in a single paragraph. Follow @TheGavinSheehan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vero, for random pictures and musings.

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