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The Department of Tangents Podcast

Years ago, playing a sort of improv game with friends in which we all picked super powers based on our personalities, I dubbed myself “Tangent Lad.” I was not a very strong superhero, and I could not defeat a super villain on my own, but I could distract them with Monty Python quotes and football trivia. I have many times since apologized to an interview subject in my capacity as a journalist by saying, “I am either very good or very bad at tangents, depending on how you feel about tangents.”

I had a rough time coming up with the concept and naming this blog/podcast. I knew I wanted to create a place where I could address things I’m passionate about – comedy, music, and horror. Finding a name that communicated all three of those things proved a bit impossible. I bugged my friends, and they all tried to help. To no avail. Then I thought, maybe I’m approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe my lack of focus should be the focus.

As a journalist, I have written for The Boston Globe since 2000, starting out writing CD reviews and then writing a regular column on comedy for seven and a half years. I still contribute there, and to Kirkus Reviews, and other publications. I’m also a musician, and released my debut full-length album, Blue Skies and Broken Arrows, in March of 2015. And I’ve been publishing short horror fiction for a couple of years.

I like to climb into things I love and see how they operate. That’s what the Department of Tangents is for. I’ll be writing regular features, essays, and news bits about the big three – comedy, music, and horror – and offering clips from people I’ve taped interviews with over the past nearly twenty years of writing. Some of the best parts of the interviews I’ve done have been completely off-point and inappropriate for print. I’ll get to explore more of that here. I’m also hoping to convince some friends to tell me about the things they love that I might not even know about, and pass that along to you.

The DoT podcast might be short or long, depending on where the conversation leads. You cant purposefully create an interesting tangent in conversation – it has to happen naturally. But I can confidently forecast that there will be moments in the individual podcasts where things veer off wonderfully.

The main thing here is love. To write about the things that make I’ve loved forever, and some new things that might stand the test and be around, at least for me, for decades to come. I’ve had to be critical in my writing at times, and it might not all be nonstop roses here, but in the end, what I really want to talk about is the good stuff. That’s why I will regularly write about things I think are “Perfect,” even if someone can demonstrate empirically that they are flawed. Still perfect to me.

Also, fish.

I hope you, dear anonymous surfer person, will come to expect only the highest-quality, free-range, grass-fed tangents. And I hope some of you love the same things I do and find it useful. Or at least a welcome distraction until the others get here.

Sep 15, 2016

Happy to present to you my conversation with author, comedian, and musician <a href="" target="_blank">Dave Hill</a>. Hill is a busy guy these days. He just released his second book of essays, Dave Hill Doesn't Live Here Anymore, he's on the road doing stand-up and storytelling, and developing a new television pilot. Hill has a distinctive voice as an essayist – he can give himself over to silliness and then comment on something more serious in a way that leaved you no choice but to stay engaged, if only to make sure you’re following his tone correctly. Among the praise heaped on Hill's writing from Michael Ian Black, Malcolm Gladwell, Jim Gaffigan, Todd Barry, and his sometime touring partner Janeane Garofalo is this from Dick Cavett: “The next president’s first official act should be to declare Dave Hill a living national treasure. He is a major figure among American comic writers, past and present. When reading his stuff, I laugh so loud, the neighbors complain.”

You may also have seen Hill doing stand-up, with a mix of shorter, sillier gags and longer stories. And that's his band, <a href="" target="_blank">Valley Lodge</a>, playing the ebullient theme to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Hill does a lot of things, and does them all very well.    

We kicked things off with an unexpected anecdote about how Hill, an accomplished guitar player, once auditioned to play with J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. There is a lot of talk about the new book, which tells the story of how he reconnected, or maybe connected for the first time, with his father after his mother died. And a special thanks to Joyce Linehan, who brought Hill to Boston for a salon-style reading and conversation. She was kind enough to let us do the interview at her house.

After the interview, stay tuned for new music from Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys. For your listening pleasure, I have included Come Black Magic, the first single from their new album of the same name. If you like what you hear, please visit <a href="" target="_blank">Sickert and the Toys on BandCamp</a>, where they are running a special that allows you to <a href="" target="_blank">buy and download the band's entire catalogue for as little as six bucks</a>. Take advantage of that while you can.