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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.

Oct 26, 2018

Gad Elmaleh has a fascinating story. He was born in Casablanca, went to college in Montreal, and then moved to France where he became a stand-up superstar. Three years ago, he moved from the place where he is most popular to America, where he was somewhat known but not a huge star. He was still learning English, and his goal was to get good enough to be able to do an hour in English. He accomplished that quickly, releasing his American Dream special on Netflix earlier this year. 

This interview wasn’t meant to be a podcast episode. I spoke with Elmaleh a few weeks ago for The Boston Globe, since his The Dream Tour was headed here. But after we were done, I realized there was no fat on this. It was a good 45-minute conversation, with an amusing starting point and a definite closing point.

And we covered a wide range of topics. Sure, Elmaleh is selling out theaters all over the world, but what he really wants is his own talk show. We talked about the difficulties in trying to do stand-up in a language you are still learning, and Elmaleh says he’s only at about 80 percent in terms of being able to execute the ideas in his head. We also talked about what it means to be considered an “American style” comedian in France, and what the scene is like there. Plus, I learned he’s a drummer, which is a plus in my book. He is a delightful person to talk to, and I’m hoping I can catch up with him a bit down the road, when he feels he has finally “made it” in America, to see what his perspective is then. 

This episode's featured track is a collaboration between Robbie Fulks, who was a podcast guest on EP8, and Linda Gail Lewis. I got to see Fulks and Lewis live about a month ago in Boston, and it was pure joy. I’m going to be doing a full review of the album on the blog, but I’ll say here that Wild! Wild! Wild! is a treat. Fulks is a great foil for Lewis, and man do they have fun together onstage, and you can hear it in the studio, as well. There are some hardcore honky tonk songs, like “I Just Lived A Country Song,” jazzier numbers like “Your Red Wagon,” and ass-shaking, piano beating rock and roll, like this, the title track. When I spoke with Fulks and Lewis after the show, they both seemed amenable to collaborating again in the future. And I hope for all of our sakes they do.