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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.

Jun 25, 2018

This is yet another episode springing from the 2018 Women In Comedy Festival here in Boston. It had been a very long time since I’d gotten the chance to catch up with Julie Goldman, so long that neither of us could quite remember exactly when we’d first met or talked. I interviewed her for the Boston Globe to preview the festival, and the conversation went so many different directions, I wanted to follow up and make sure I got her on the podcast.

I saw a lot of great sets at the festival, but Goldman’s might have been the best. She absolutely destroyed the room at the NBC showcase show, so much that I was worried for the people who had to follow her. It’s curious, given her ability to destroy a room, that she says she has trouble getting booked in clubs and on festivals. Unless it’s an LGBTQIA-related event. If it was just about what you do in the room, Goldman would get booked anywhere. We get into that a bit early on. “I don’t know what else I have to do to prove I’m a normal comedian,” she says. The bottom line is, she's got the skill to play anywhere. “If you’re funny, they’ll be with you no matter what," she says.

Goldman has a podcast called Dumb Gay Politics with her co-host Brandy Howard, and I caught her a few days before she had former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci on the show. She tells the story of how they met and how he came to be on the show. And you can check out that episode, "The Mooch Is A Menche", by clicking here. You will also learn in this episode how Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner are humanity’s last, best hope, and Goldman and I both urge you to check out Brooks’s vastly underrated film History of the World Part I.

And on to our featured track is “Feathered Indians” from Tyler Childers from his album, Purgatory. That was released in August of last year and was produced, appropriately enough, by David Ferguson and Sturgill Simpson. I say appropriately enough because Childers is establishing himself as part of this group of contemporary Americana singer/songwriter/bandleaders that can punch you in the gut and still feed your head, of which Simpson is a standard bearer along with Jason Isbell and a few others.

Childers’s writing is raw and vital, and the wail and moan in his voice draws a straight line back to his most passionate bluegrass and country forebears. He’s on tour through most of the rest of the year, and you can find dates and music on his Web site.