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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 9, 2017

The Department of Tangents Podcast is back from a brief hiatus with a comedy and music packed EP32! The main interview here is with The Upper Crust, the world’s leading Rocque band. They have a great new rock and roll record out called Delusions of Grandeur, and I spoke with the band at their CD release party at Once Ballroom in Boston before they hit the stage. Most bands would kill to have either great songs or a great shtick, and The Upper Crust has both. When I told them I felt that AC/DC and Mott the Hoople sounded like strong influences, they pointed out they had a couple of centuries on both of those bands, so it was a moot point. You see, they first got together in the 18th century, a band of aristocrats performing high-voltage rock in their finest silk and platform boots for the unwashed masses. It sure beat working for a living. You’ll hear guitarist/singer Lord Bendover and bassist Count Bassie talk about their history and philosophy, with drummer Jackie Kickassis joining in here and there. A couple of samples from the new album: “Little Castrato” “Heads Will Roll: Before the main interview, though, you get a few minutes with Australian sketch group Aunty Donna, who are in the midst of their first North American tour. I saw them at the Wilbur in Boston Monday night, and they put on an impressive show. There are six members, including a live director, film director, and composer. Only three appear onstage, and once that show starts, they never stop moving. They sing and dance, there are pop culture parodies, live-action silent movies with a Katy Perry soundtrack, and a lot of wonderful silliness. If they are coming to your town, you should see them. I grabbed all six members after their show, and after they had greeted a few hundred adoring fans for hugs and autographs. Wrapping things up, a track from Ali Wong’s new album, Baby Cobra. The Netflix special by the same name put her in the spotlight last year, and she has just released the audio only for it. You can hear a signature bit, “Leaning In,” at the end of the podcast.