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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 22, 2019

Carole Montgomery is 61, and she won’t hesitate to mention her age onstage. That is somewhat unusual in an industry obsessed with youth. But Montgomery is proud of her age. She has been doing comedy for roughly forty years, slugging it out in the clubs and balancing stand-up and family. She <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jerylbrunner/2019/03/17/women-of-a-certain-age-star-in-a-showtime-comedy-special/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">told Forbes online</a> she once had to leave her baby son with a bouncer while she did her set, and found the bouncer rocking him in his car seat afterwards, afraid to pick him up to comfort him.

That’s part of the experience of the comedians on the Funny Women of a Certain Age tour Montgomery has been producing for the past couple of years, which led to a Showtime special of the same name with Montgomery, Fran Drescher, Vanessa Hollingshead, Kerri Louis, Lynne Koplitz, and Luenell that premiered in March. I sat down with her when she came to Laugh Boston for a local edition of the tour, along with Boston comedians Christine Hurley and Andrea Henry.

Christine Hurley has played the Comics Come Home benefit at the TD Garden with local luminaries like Lenny Clarke, with whom she frequently shares a bill, and Denis Leary. Andrea Henry was on Nickelodeon’s Search For America’s Funniest Mom, co-wrote the book <em>Real Kids Jokes By Real Stand-up Comics</em> with <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2018/07/20/dot-ep66-comedian-myq-kaplan-plus-new-music-from-the-rails/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Myq Kaplan</a>, and writes short films. Part of what makes this show so funny is the fact that, while all the comedians might have some shared experiences, their perspectives are all different. You’ll get a taste of that in the following interview, taped in the Green Room of Laugh Boston after the show.

You can find the <em>Funny Women of a Certain Age</em> special on Showtime and find out more about the tour on Twitter under <a href="https://twitter.com/woacacomedy" rel="noopener" target="_blank">@woacacomedy</a> and on the tour’s webpage at <a href="http://www.womenofacertainagecomedy.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">funnywomenofacertainage.com</a>. You can find Montgomery at <a href="http://www.carolemontgomery.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">carolemontgomery.com</a> and on Twitter under <a href="https://twitter.com/nationalmom" rel="noopener" target="_blank">@nationalmom</a>, Hurley at <a href="http://christinehurleycomedy.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">christinehurleycomedy.com</a> and on Twitter under <a href="https://twitter.com/churleycomedy?lang=en" rel="noopener" target="_blank">@churleycomedy</a>, and find Andrea Henry at <a href="https://andreahenrycomedy.weebly.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">andreahenrycomedy.weebly.com</a>.

Our featured track this week comes from Lucette, and it’s the title track from her latest album, Deluxe Hotel Room, which is available wherever you can get good music as of May 17. I first got the chance to see Lucette when she was opening up for <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2016/11/30/dot-podcast-ep16-alejandro-escovedo-burns-something-beautiful/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Alejandro Escovedo</a> in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at The Music Hall’s more intimate blackbox room. She played an exquisite solo set on piano supporting her 2014 debut album, Black Is the Color, which was produced by <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2016/04/01/department-of-tangents-podcast-ep-3-producer-dave-cobb-music-from-morgane-stapleton-with-chris-stapleton/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Dave Cobb</a>. I’ve been looking forward to her follow-up ever since. It turns out the past four years have been a fairly dark period in her life, and that’s what the album is about. She mentions on Facebook that this track is a bit of a Rosetta Stone for the rest of the songs. “The title track itself pretty much encapsulates it all,” she writes, “it explains the past 4 or so years for me, and explains a lot of where the other songs came from.”

She wrote it in Toronto, where she was put up for a gig in a hotel room she couldn’t have afforded on her own, with a “massive deposit” on her credit card. She started humming, and then writing that song in that hotel room about how the experience made her feel small. <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2016/04/15/new-release-roundup-4152016/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Sturgill Simpson</a> produced, and you can hear Lucette expanding her palette of sounds. You can hear the full album on Spotify, or <a href="http://www.lucettemusic.net/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">find out more about it and Lucette’s upcoming tour dates on lucettemusic.net</a>.