As we are all no doubt aware by now, Night Vale of Welcome to Night Vale is a friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and Cecil Gershwin Palmer is the radio host who narrates all the community goings-on to his lovely listenership. But what about the part of the community which wants to watch a podcast rather than listen to it? That’s where today’s web crush comes in.
Welcome to Night Vale in ASL is exactly what the title says: the stories of Night Vale told through American Sign Language, which is the sign language used most often throughout the U.S. and many parts of Canada. As carohoku, the series creator, says, the videos are “[f]or the viewers who are deaf, who like to sign, and/or who don’t like to hear stuff”.
Each video shows carohoku in truly excellent Cecil cosplay, signing each episode for the Night Vale community at large. (Seriously, the Cecil cosplay is on fucking point.) And carohoku’s commitment to the character makes these videos a joy to watch — you can feel Cecil’s rage when he signs about Steve Carlsburg, and he always sighs, lovestruck, when signing about Carlos of the beautiful hair. Although I’m only a casual Night Vale fan, I’m also a (hearing) ASL student, and I was super thrilled to discover these videos while looking for ASL videos to watch online. Did I want to learn how to sign “glow cloud” in ASL? Hell yeah I did.
Aside from being both entertaining and educational, Welcome to Night Vale in ASL has a number of other positive things in its arsenal. Namely, there has, especially recently, been a significant amount of controversy over people who claim to interpret or teach ASL online, yet aren’t fluent in ASL, and thus end up showing everything clumsily or incorrectly. Because the people who make these videos and websites are hearing and can communicate well in both spoken and written English, their opinions are often given preference over the opinions of people who are actually d/Deaf. This is part of the form of discrimination known as audism, and it pretty much means that your favs, such as Paul and Tina of Frozen songsigning fame or Dirty Signs with Kristin, are problematic. Many Deaf people have written or vlogged about how these performers are misrepresenting and appropriating Deaf culture, and, although he is hearing, CaptainValor has written a brilliant takedown of such appropriation on his website. Please don’t support these people.
Fortunately, that is not the case here: carohoku is a native ASL user and has translated each episode from English to ASL himself. For Episodes 2 and 3, he also has “ASL Gloss” as a subtitle option, which is useful for the viewers among us who want to see the signs as he’s signing them. ASL is a language with its own unique grammar and syntax—not a system of random gestures—and this is a good way for hearing people to start figuring that out.
So if you’re an ASL user, if you’re a Welcome to Night Vale fan, if you want to experience a new language, or if you just don’t like to hear stuff, check out Welcome to Night Vale in ASL today. You can also check out carohoku’s tag for the video series on his Tumblr if you want to see gifs of Cecil and the hooded figures answering viewer questions, and you can check out his tag on Deafness for questions, answers, and opinions on ASL and Deaf culture.