Podcast Review: ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ Absurd Community Radio

By: Noah Young, Production Manager

‘Welcome to Nightvale’ is an incredibly successful podcast, and an important cultural moment for podcasts as a whole. Since its debut in 2012, it has changed very little in its format of “Fictional Radio Station” that fills your half-hour with stories of the absurd town of Nightvale and the story of its inhabitants. You hear the traffic when it ceases to be, when the deadly street cleaners are in town, sports, and updates on the town’s secret police.

The concept is simple and repeatable. The writers Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor are free to satirize current events, to make social commentary, or to make you laugh so hard that you cry. In its 8 years and 177 episodes of running, it has never been stale, and the town of Nightvale keeps being bombarded by increasingly existential threats. Most recently, the Brain snatching robots from the future that people willingly bought into in search of living forever. And the Obelisk which holds all knowledge but only one randomly selected person can hear it every 10-15 years. They only get one question, and sometimes the answer is too dark to know.

While the concept has remained the same, the characters who inhabit Nightvale have not. They grow and develop relationships. Town leadership changes, interlopers become family, and even the radio station’s pet cat whoremains suspended four feet off the floor of the men’s restroom gets a wholearc and story relevance. Since the reality altering ‘Sandstorm’ episode, each of the characters face a challenge that leaves the whole town changed. So while the location never geographically changes, the characters are far from stagnant.

Sounds interesting, right? Everyone thought so. Much like Ghengis Kahn, Nightvale’s genes can be found so many other podcasts. Ranging frommore or less clones such as ‘King Falls AM’ to something more nuanced like ‘The Bunker’ and ‘Kakos Industries’. The latter deserving of its own article and immerses the listener as a shareholder of a LITERAL Evil corporation. The writer, producer, and main actor for Corin Deeth, Conrad Miszuk is a genius who while still shares the genes of ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ strikes out on his own to become something more. The humor and low brow shenanigans of Kakos Industries are something that I deeply need in my life.

The format of being a fictional radio station transfers so well and so sustainably to a podcast that it almost seems like a no brainer. The impact of‘Welcome to Nightvale’ on the podcasting community has been to show that a podcast CAN be successful and the market for audio drama is alive and well.