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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.

Jan 26, 2018

When I first spoke with Christopher Titus, he was coming through a turning point in his career. It was around 1997 or ’98, and he was playing the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Buffalo, NY, where I was writing for the Buffalo News. Titus had been staging a show called Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding at theaters in Los Angeles, and he was trying to make it work in comedy clubs. It impressed me not just because it was funny, but because he wasn’t afraid to talk about a lot of heavy topics, to let the serious points be serious and then bring people back up with a punch.


In that show, Titus talked about his mother’s suicide and his father’s often rough treatment of his kids and alcoholism – Titus was cured of that by falling into a bonfire and having his friends abandon him. The stories sometimes painted a bleak picture of his parents, but he also preserved their dignity. He credits his mother with helping create him as a comedian, and made a point of mentioning that he never went hungry, even though his father sometimes did to feed to family.


That show became a model for what Titus has been doing ever since, writing thematic, 90-minute specials with the feel of a one-man show and the punch of a club act. His new one, Amerigeddon, is about bringing America together in the age of Trump, at a time when the public discourse is about separation.


I’ve only spoken with Titus once since Buffalo, for the Boston Globe in 2010 when he was working on his Neverlution show. I was happy to see he was popping into town for a one-night-only gig at Laugh Boston on a Wednesday night, and was able to sit down with him before his soundcheck to talk about Amerigeddon, politics, his new movie Special Unit, and a lot more.


At the end of the conversation, keep listening for “When the War Began,” a track from Matt York’s new album, Between the Bars. York is a talented songwriter and performer, and he’s also next week’s guest on the Department of Tangents Podcast.