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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.

Mar 8, 2018

I was very happy how this interview came together. Some of you may know I have covered the comedy beat for the Boston Globe for the past seventeen years or so, and one of the best parts about that job is coming across someone who is really funny and maybe just coming into their full voice, and you’ve never heard them before. A few weeks before this interview, I had not heard of Jess Salomon. She has been through Boston, having gone to college at Tufts, but didn’t start doing comedy until she went back to Montreal. And there’s an important step in between that – she studied law, went back to Montreal, and got a job working for the U.N. tribunal on war crimes.

It’s a great backstory, which I found after seeing she was coming to town to play CitySide Comedy. It should be noted, I would not have found any of that had her videos not shown her to be a smart, funny comedian, politically-minded at times but also personal and personable. I was glad when she agreed to sit down for the podcast while she was in town. A little bit more about how she went from war crimes to comedy – she originally started working on a very dark workplace comedy based on her experiences at the U.N., a project she is still working on. Then she got onstage at an open mic in Amsterdam, of all places, because she could get there from the Hague, where she was working. She got the bug and hasn’t looked back since. She is an all or nothing type of person, she says. Which is good, because it’s hard to get anywhere in comedy without that.

Our featured track of the week is a chapter from the audiobook version of comedian Laurie Kilmartin’s Dead People Suck: A Guide for the Survivors of the Newly Departed. It’s an odd sort of audiobook, admittedly a morbid subject, but infused with Kilmartin’s wit and buoyed by personal stories. It’s a mix of live readings and studio tracks. It’s a tug at the heartstrings, a cup of cold water in your face, and a lot of laughs. Find out more at www.kilmartin.com.