‘Welcome to Night Vale’ cast chats with WOUB Culture in time for the show’s 10 year anniversary and upcoming Ohio dates< < Back to
“Turn on your radio and hide.”
This is the essence of the eminent podcast Welcome to Night Vale, which celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this week.
What began as a humble podcast amongst friends has become an internationally touring podcast network.
One that is still amongst friends.
“Night Vale” began when writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor got their actor friend Cecil Baldwin to voice the host of their satirical radio show, set in a desert town where all conspiracies are true.
WOUB Culture had the great fortune of speaking with the current touring lineup of “Welcome to Night Vale,” including Cecil Baldwin (who voices Cecil Palmer), Symphony Sanders (who voices Tamika Flynn), and tour emcee Kate Jones (who voices Michelle Nguyen).
All three seasoned actors sat down to talk about the newest “Night Vale” live show: The Haunting of Night Vale, which has two upcoming stops in Ohio. The first is on June 21 at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre (317 East 5th St.), followed by a June 22 show at Lincoln Theatre in Columbus (769 E. Long St.)
Listen to WOUB’s conversation with the cast of “Welcome to Night Vale,” embedded above. Click on “play” in the Soundcloud widget. NOTE: This interview was conducted over Zoom, and while we’ve done our best to clean up the resulting audio, some background noise may still be audible to the more discerning listener. Please forgive us!
A condensed and edited transcript of the interview can be found below.
Ashley Weingard: So, we have Kate Jones here. I know you play Michelle on the podcast, but for the live tour you’re emceeing. What’s it been like emceeing for Night Vale for the first time?
Kate Jones: Emceeing for Night Vale is such a wonderful experience because the audience is so loving and so excited to see someone they know from the Night Vale world. I was cast as Michelle in 2014, so it’s been eight years that they’ve known my voice. And as they love to tell me, they fall asleep to me, which is weird, cuz I’m a comedian — but it’s fine. Do whatever you need to sleep! I think it’s a really special audience. They’re very loving and giving and they wanna have a good time. And it’s the easiest emceeing gig I’m sure I’ll ever have.
Ashley Weingard: Can we also expect to see the legendary Pac-Man suit on the tour?
Kate Jones: <laugh> You can expect to see the Pac-Man suit! It should be cleaned soon. I do switch to my ring leader outfit when it’s in cleaning, but yes, I wear the Pac-Man suit a lot.
Ashley Weingard: That is awesome. Next, I have a question for Symphony. You play Tamika Flynn on the podcast, and you also do the “Good Morning Night Vale” podcast. So the question that I had for you is kind of character related, but have you read any good books lately?
Symphony Sanders: <laugh> You know, I’m always in search of a good book. But lately I’ve been trying not to be too sad — so I had to put down the Octavia Butler stuff because it’s just like too real right now. But, you know, lately I haven’t been reading a lot. I’ve been on TikTok, which is rotting my brain, I think! <laugh> But I am always in search of a new good book. So if anyone has any suggestions out there, feel free to DM me!
Ashley Weingard: Now, Cecil, if I remember correctly, and this may have changed — but I believe you had an announcement that you were going to continue being a part of Night Vale, but this was going to be your last time touring for Night Vale. Is that still true? And if it is, can you tell me about how your last tour has felt?
Cecil Baldwin: I mean, I made that decision in 2019, before the pandemic and COVID and all of that. I think two years of being off of the road has definitely made me appreciate the live shows that Night Vale does — the fans that we have, getting out and performing in theaters once again. I think I’m still sticking to this probably being my last big tour for Night Vale. I just wanna take a look at how we tour, so that way it’s not like ‘go on tour for two months and then try and pick up your life again for two weeks and then do another tour and then pick up your life!’ Again, I’m looking for a little more continuity in my home life. I, however, want to continue doing the podcast Night Vale and appearing in Night Vale live shows for as long as I’m able. I would just love to, you know, actually enjoy my home a little bit more and maybe get out on the weekends as opposed to ‘yeah, you’re just gone for all these months, all the months.’
Ashley Weingard: So this is a question for all of you: as far as you can disclose, ’cause I know we don’t want to spoil the show for folks — but is your favorite part of the show? Also, I realize I didn’t say the name of the show, which is “The Haunting of Night Vale.”
Cecil Baldwin: Well, now that you said the name of it, I would say go read up on Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” because the show does contain a lot of really fun Easter eggs relating specifically to that. It’s a lot about what it means to be haunted by something, by a supernatural experience, or a memory or a word, or a phrase, or a gesture. Take a look over good old Shirley Jackson and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Kate Jones: My favorite moment in the show is one where Tamika Flynn pantomimes something that she saw happen at Big Rico’s Pizza. And I have seen it, I think, 18 times now and I lose my mind every time. That’s my favorite moment.
Symphony Sanders: Honestly, my favorite part of the show every time is just the moment that Kate says, “And now, the voice of Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin!” and hearing the crowd —
Ashley Weingard: Lose their minds?
Symphony Sanders: Yes! It gets them so pumped up, and that’s also my signal that we’re really starting, like it’s really happening. And it’s such a moment that’s filled with excitement for me. So just know that if you’re out in the audience that I’m backstage going, “squee! squee! squee!” and jumping around because I’m so pumped for the show to start.
Ashley Weingard: That’s always something that I’ve noticed about Night Vale is just like, you all have such a great rapport with each other and your excitement for working on the show always shines through.
Symphony Sanders: Honestly, I think that’s because not only are we colleagues, we respect each other’s work. But we’re also friends, you know, we’re friends who just happen to do this awesome piece of art together. We really are having fun. We have little inside jokes and things that amuse us and sometimes we surprise each other on stage. That’s my favorite thing. Oh! And I actually should mention this. Sometimes Cecil gets Kate to break on stage and it’s, it’s, *chef’s kiss* golden! It just goes to show you that it’s more to us than just the scripts that we have in our hands. It’s the experience that we have together and doing this show is just fun for all of us. <laugh> It’s fun for you, but it’s fun for us too.
Cecil Baldwin: I mean, there’s something very electric about doing anything live — live performance of any kind. But, you know, especially after being sort of solo and isolated for two years, I think all of us are just as excited as our fans to get out onto the road to experience new theaters, to experience new towns, to experience each other, to experience the audience and that electricity that Symphony was talking about — that start of the show, that pure electricity of “Yes! Wow. We are all in this together.” It really does kind of carry us through.
Ashley Weingard: I know the show was supposed to go on tour before the pandemic, and so many projects and things folded because of the pandemic. And I’m genuinely not surprised that this didn’t just because of how strong Night Vale is and how strong the fan base is, and how strong you guys all are — and just that rapport that you have with each other. The fact that it survived and you’re putting it on, even though the tour was supposed to happen before the whole world shut down and everything got crazy. But you’re still putting it on for us. That’s incredible.
Cecil Baldwin: I think a lot of people either discovered or rediscovered “Welcome to Night Vale” during the pandemic. So when faced with long days with maybe not a lot of activity, people dove back into podcasts and either discovered them for the first time or went back and re-listened or delved deeper and listened to more episodes. I think when this comes out, we will have just had our 10 year anniversary. There’s over 210 episodes of the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale,” which is daunting. Listen, it’s daunting for me to make them, and it’s daunting for a listener to think, “oh my gosh, where do I begin?” Or “how do I pick up again?” But I think a lot of people rediscovered this podcast, maybe it was something that they put on a shelf for a while, but they had time to go back and enrich their love of this strange little town or discover it for the very first time. And hopefully all those people have now convinced their boyfriends and girlfriends and parents and cousins and friends and everyone to come and see the live shows in order to make that experience even more unique.
Symphony Sanders: Like I always say, Night Vale: bringing families together.
I think a lot of people rediscovered this podcast, maybe it was something that they put on a shelf for a while, but they had time [during the pandemic] to go back and enrich their love of this strange little town or maybe even discover it for the very first time. And hopefully all those people have now convinced their boyfriends and girlfriends and parents and cousins and friends and everyone to come and see the live shows in order to make that experience even more unique. – Cecil Baldwin, the “voice” of “Welcome to Night Vale”
Ashley Weingard: I’m wondering: did the writing change at all for the live show after the pandemic?
Cecil Baldwin: It’s the same exact same script. The boys, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor are very thoughtful about their writing and their words. And they created a really amazing script. However, I will say that there are certain passages in this “Haunting of Night Vale” 2020/2022 script that are very prescient and very emotionally charged in light of the last few years that everybody’s been having. But it’s the exact same script. It’s just funny how you hear things differently based on what’s going on in the world and in your life.
Ashley Weingard: Yeah. And I have noticed that about Night Vale too. It’s just, the writing is so poignant and beautiful where, you know, they don’t have to write about what’s going on right now and it’ll still be relevant! <laugh> In all kinds of different ways. Well, is there anything else you guys would like to say about the show or any projects that any of you are doing that you would like to talk about?
Symphony Sanders: I think we kind of covered it, right? Like we talked about, the ten year anniversary is coming up on June 15, the day after this interview — which is amazing! We’re all on the podcast occasionally. Well, Cecil’s on it all the time. <laugh> I do “Good Morning Night Vale,” and I’m on “Random Number Generator Horror Podcast No. 9.” So you can find us out there on the internet. Just scream to the tubes. We’ll be there.