Imagine if A Prairie Home Companion was cool. And had monsters. And good music. And wasn't A Prairie Home Companion at all.
That's Welcome to Night Vale.
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor's breakout podcast is about an unmapped Southwestern town peopled by characters like "The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home" and plagued by bone-dry scones at PTA meetings or a malevolent army of doppelgangers.
WW talked to them back in January about why they're such chick magnets.
Willamette Week: Has the show's popularity surprised you?
Jeffrey Cranor: We're artists and we like making things, but we never had any expectations. When it blew up, it came out of nowhere.
Joseph Fink: I think the real surprise is how our listeners are so different from us. The majority are women who come to our shows. We weren't planning the show for anyone specifically—we're mainly writing to be entertaining for ourselves, and to have something to do. We're just hoping someone beyond our family listens.
Cranor: Our following grew through social media and culminated around our one year anniversary. We wrote this queer relationship storyline that was like "will they, or won't they?" and people responded positively because that's different from what you see on TV, where it's usually some comedy about a gay character wanting a straight one.
There's a lot of weird stuff in your podcasts—where does the inspiration come from?
Fink: If you're waiting for inspiration, it doesn't come. But we know our actors well, so we direct through casting. To form the character of Cecil Palmer, having Cecil Baldwin in mind helped. We also can push them. Hal Lublin who plays Carlsberg can do so many voices and impersonations, so we made his character impersonate a lot of the other characters at our live show, just to challenge him.
Cranor: Deadlines are the number one inspiration. Once I feel the burn I stop editing myself and let the process take over.
Do you expect it to go further than the podcast and the book?
Cranor: We love writing for Night Vale, so if Harper wants to publish more, we're on board! As far as moving into film or something, we definitely get people interested and we have those discussion. Our goal is not to have someone write us a check and we hand over the rights. Night Vale is the world we've created, and we would need to find the right people to collaborate with and keep that world going.
What do you think about being compared to Prairie Home Companion?
Cranor: I don't know even enough about Prairie Home Companion to say if that's good or bad. I grew up listening to sports radio and hits from the 70s, and our inspiration comes from monologue performers mainly, like Holly Hughes and Ted Miller.
So, how would you describe your show?