Readers, I won’t lie. My favorite Baldwin isn’t Alec or Stephen and it certainly isn’t Adam. No, my favorite Baldwin is Welcome to Night Vale‘s own Cecil Baldwin.
I’ve been a fan of listening to podcasts for a couple years now. There is something zen-like about heading out to shovel snow, going for a nice long walk, setting in to clean the house, or going for a long drive and at the same time listening to others talk about a topic you’re passionate about with the same amount of passion that you have, if not more. It says “Hey, you know that thing that others think you’re a little weird for liking? Well here’s a place where others are just as weird as you, and proud of it”. A nerd’s dream, if you will.
One of the podcasts that I never fail to miss an episode for is Welcome to Night Vale.
If you’ve never been introduced, then bare with me as I try to awkwardly describe it for you in an attempt to do it justice. Welcome to Night Vale is a recording of the community radio station of a small fictitious southwestern US desert town. One that has a Lovecraftian horror bend, but in ways that instead of triggering the fear reflex of your brain triggers the humorous. It pulls at that part of you that wants to laugh at horror movies instead of cringe from them. The sometimes disturbing imagery, but presented in a way that makes it relatable, entertaining, and thoughtful. It’s a subtle genius.
At the forefront of the show is its host Cecil Palmer, played by the silken-tongued Cecil Baldwin. This is not a euphemism. His tongue is actual silk.
But now imagine that instead of thin black wires directly connecting your head to your smartphone, imagine having the ability to see this sublime crossroads of horror and humor live, on stage, with a drink you may have overpaid for but you know the proceeds are going to keep a beautiful historic theatre in the black so you don’t mind. Awesome, right? I was lucky enough to do so, and it was certainly awesome.
On April 24th, 2016, this past Sunday, I and a good friend of mine made the easy trek out to Glenside, Pennsylvania, to the historic Keswick Theatre, where we had pretty good seats for Welcome to Night Vale‘s latest live show “Ghost Stories”. Wearing a shirt to honor the show, my Night Vale Spiderwolves baseball tee, we had no idea what to expect. I’ve listened to every episode and every live performance they had put out up to that point, but wondered how it would all be put together live. Was it going to be as good? Better?
In the end, it was exactly what I expected it to be, which made me very happy. It was an episode in format, like all the others, with it’s humorous asides, fantastic one-liners, entertaining weather, and poignant monologues. Although it was made all the more special because, like the beauty of live theatre, the audience was an integral part of the performance. So integral that when they tell you to silence your cell phones, you better do it. You don’t want it making any noise and possibly ruining any good moments. Trust me.
The show opened with the show’s musical guests, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, a couple from Austin who had quite a few thought provoking and moving songs to share with the audience. My favorite of the bunch was easily Danny Schmidt’s “Standard Deviation”, a song which has inspirations in quantum entanglement. His “This Too Shall Pass” was also quite moving, and you really should give it a listen.
After the opening act came Meg Bashwiner to introduce the show proper, followed by the star and host Cecil Baldwin. “Ghost Stories”, without giving too much away, is about Night Vale’s annual creative writing competition where the citizens submit a ghost story to be judged by the powers that be. It mainly focused on Cecil’s entry, but also included interviews with Deb, the advertising sentient patch of haze played by Bashwiner; Steve Carlsberg, Cecil’s not-so-favorite brother-in-law played by Philadelphia’s own Hal Lublin; and Melony Pennington, the town’s talkative computer programmer played by Molly Quinn. The show’s prolific creators also made their own appearances with Joseph Fink portraying Dr. Teddy Williams, manager of the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, and Jeffrey Cranor as Station Intern Jeffrey Cranor. Surprisingly, Intern Cranor lived until the end of the show. All of this was underscored by the phenomenal Disparition, with weather by Schmidt & Elkin.
Along the way Cecil also brought fan favorites such as the Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner and the ever popular Horoscopes. Intern Cranor may have lived to see the end, but it wouldn’t be a live episode without some station intern not making it, now would it? All this, and only a minimum of New Jersey bashing. When seeing any show in Philadelphia, a little Jersey bashing is mandatory.
Overall, if you have a passing interest in podcasts, I heavily suggest looking up Welcome to Night Vale. If you have an interest in Welcome to Night Vale, I highly suggest looking up a live performance. And if you have an interest in Welcome to Night Vale‘s live performances, then… well, I don’t have much else to suggest. Good job, I guess.
“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. But, because of distance, not for millions of years.” – Proverb, Episode 66.
P.S. – Danny & Carrie, Congratulations! If you ever read this, might I suggest Tamika if it’s a girl or Dylan if a boy. :)
P.P.S – Full disclosure, I support Welcome to Night Vale financially with a small donation every month. I am a “Weird Scout”. I also suggest supporting the art that you love as well, if you can. We need more great art in this world.