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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 31, 2018

This week’s guest is stand-up comedian and host of the TV Guidance Counselor podcast Ken Reid, someone I have known for years in the Boston scene and whom I’ve covered occasionally for the Boston Globe. Reid is a good friend to have if you enjoy horror or comedy in film or television. On TV Guidance Counselor, he gives his guests a copy of TV Guide from their childhood and hashes out what they would have watched that particular week. Chances are, Reid has seen whatever show or movie his guests have seen, and probably owns the soundtrack. “I like to lead my life like the friend you go to to learn how to kill the monster that lives next door,” says Reid. “’I have a book on that somewhere,’ like that kind of thing.”

I’ve always enjoyed our conversations, so I’m happy to have him on the podcast, and also happy to have comedian and actor Jessie Baade back on the show as co-host. We dove right into obscurity in the very beginning when Reid mentions an exploitation movie that was just released on Blu-Ray, and we talked about certain children’s movies, like The Peanut Butter Solution, that probably never should be shown to children. As a stand-up, Reid doesn’t function like many of his peers. He doesn’t crave people’s laughter. It’s not a high for him. What he wants to be able to do is walk in a room, tell the stories he wants to tell, and control the crowd. And the stories he tells have surprisingly little to do with pop culture. They are more personal, about his father getting his pants ripped off on an amusement park ride or his sister’s Make-A-Wish experience with Boy George and a cage of ferrets. I won’t describe that here – trust me, you’re better off hearing the story from him on his comedy albums or better yet, live.

By the way, in our discussion about music, I mention a Beatles’ song people are still arguing about, trying to identify the opening chord. The song is actually “A Hard Days Night,” not “Help,” which came to mind first. And it should be mentioned, you can hear Reid’s adorable clan of dogs barking every so often in the background.

Our featured track of the week is “Momento de Clareza” from the upcoming album, Relax by Alexandre Kassin, who just goes by “Kassin” for this release. Kassin is an accomplished producer – he’s worked with Bebel Gilberto, among dozens and dozens of others, and he’s played bass with Caetano Veloso’s bands. This is him stepping out on his ownThis is a grooving track with popping bass that reminds me of Paul McCartney’s more danceable stuff from the late 70s and early 80s. It’s light, upbeat, a perfect summer soundtrack song, but it’s about an experience Kassin had narrowly missing a flight with his band that wound up crashing and killing 95 passengers. Kassin apparently enjoys mixing, as he says, “dark lyrics and happy sounds.” Relax is out May 11 from Luka Bop, and you can find out more at