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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.

May 16, 2018

This episode is a continuation of EP60 of the podcast in that I got to see Emma Willman perform a lot at this year’s Women In Comedy Festival, and caught up with her by phone shortly after to talk about the festival and everything she’s got going on. She was on the last season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and she’s waiting to hear about next season. She’s got a fifteen-minute Netflix special coming out on August 31. And a lot of her current momentum started with an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in September of 2016, which I wrote about for the Boston Globe here.

I had not seen Willmann do an extended set live in a while, and she absolutely crushed both times I saw her do stand-up at the festival. That happens sometimes, when a comedian goes away for a while and comes back, you notice how much they’ve grown more than you would have if you’d been watching them right along. And Willmann has taken at least a couple of leaps forward since she left Boston. I saw her do a short set on an NBC showcase and then a longer headlining set at her own show, plus a taping of the WICF-sponsored podcast Person About Town, which is up on WICF.com right now if you’d care to head over there and listen when you’re done with this episode.

You can find out more about the festival at <a href="https://wicf.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">WICF.com</a> and more about Willmann at <a href="http://www.emmacomedy.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">EmmaComedy.com</a> or follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/emmawillmann" rel="noopener" target="_blank">on Twitter @emmawillmann</a>.

Our featured track this week is “Runnin’” from <a href="https://twitter.com/Wajatta4real?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Wajatta</a>, a collaboration between Reggie Watts and producer John Tejada, a bigwig in the underground DJ scene. Most people probably know Watts as either James Corden’s bandleader or from his time on Comedy Bang! Bang! But if you’ve seen him live, you know what a comic and musical genius the man is. He makes loops and improvs lyrics and sounds and ideas in front of an audience, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen. Watts provided the hooks and loops and Tejada produced the final product, a spacey, dance-minded collection of grooves and hooks. The album is called Casual High Technology, and it was released May 11 on Comedy Dynamics.