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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 29, 2019

If you have not heard Erica Rhodes’s comedy, you have the perfect excuse to dive in on June 18, when her new album, <em>Sad Lemon</em>, comes out. Rhodes has been performing in some fashion since she was a kid, modeling at five and playing the voice of Garrison Keillor’s conscience on <em>Prairie Home Companion</em> at ten. She was a dancer as a child, then dedicated herself to playing cello before discovering acting and attending the Atlantic Theater Conservatory. That’s where she got some advice from David Mamet, that she needed to fix her voice if she was ever going to have a career, an experience that wound up as the subject of a joke on the new album. Turns out, she says, he was right.

If Rhodes’ voice, high-pitched and friendly-sounding, was a liability in acting, it’s an asset in comedy. It allows her to speak honestly about subjects like aging, living alone, and revising your life’s expectations and keep the mood light. There’s a natural buoyancy in her stand-up. And she writes smart stuff. When you’re thirty, you start talking about how you’re old, she says. Then when you’re forty and realize you really are old, you realize you could have been young for an extra ten years. Her mother is relieved that she never had to face abuse by Harvey Weinstein. “She’s like, ‘I know you weren’t ‘cause I told your father, if she had been, she’d be a lot more successful.’”

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<em>Sad Lemon</em> is Rhodes’ first comedy album, but it is the work of a seasoned performer. The jokes are tight, the performance is loose, and you get to know some of who Rhodes is through her material. And she has only been doing stand-up comedy for roughly six-and-a-half years. Rhodes says she is not afraid to fail, a hallmark of any artist who wants to improve in their craft, and that has allowed her an accelerated growth rate as a comedian. She also loves language – as illustrated by her grammar material on the album – and that doesn’t hurt either. We covered her beginnings in show business, acting in horror movies, and he dedication to her true craft, stand-up comedy.

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Look for her Sad Lemon on June 18. You can find out more about her on her website are <a href="http://ericarhodescomedy.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">ericarhodescomedy.com</a>, or on <a href="https://twitter.com/ericarhodes" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Twitter under @ericarhodes</a>.

Our featured track this week is “Daylight Matters” from the new Cate Le Bon album <em>Reward</em>, which is out as of May 24 on the Mexican Summer label. When I first listened to this, to me, it had a kind of breezy, summer song vibe. If you’re listening casually, responding to the laidback groove and Le Bon’s airy vocals as she sings, “I love you, I love you, I love,” you might be forgiven for thinking this is a nice feel good track. If you’re listening a little closer, you hear Le Bon is singing, “I love you, but you’re gone/If I’m never going to see it again/It’s too late now/Your money’s lent/Dreams I’ve had and never shared/Sacrificed/The daylight matters.” There’s a wistfulness that tugs at your heart. Take a look at the video, as well, which opens on a concrete building on what looks like a snow-laden field. A few shots later, you find out that it’s a barren beach at low tide. Le Bon wanders around in a bright red hoodie, the brown grass turning momentarily green as she passes. It’s a groovy, playful lament.

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Le Bon is heading out on tour in support of the album in June, and you can find the dates on her website at <a href="http://www.catelebon.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">catelebon.com</a>, and follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/CateLeBon" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Twitter under @catelebon</a>.