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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.

May 4, 2018

The Women In Comedy Festival is one of my favorite annual events in Boston, and has been since its more humble beginning in 2009, when most of the shows were held in one venue, ImprovBoston. It has expanded in some way every year, and this year, they brought in some scouts all over the industry to see some of the amazing talent – 115 acts in all. I bounced around to different shows all five days of the festival, and tried to catch people at after parties or between venues. I got four on site, which make up this episode, and one other by phone, with headliner Emma Willmann, which will be next week’s episode.

I interviewed three stand-up comedians and one filmmaker for this week’s episode – Nina Daniels, Will Martin, Tina Friml, and Dawn Smith. I’ll give them each their own introductions as they come up. Daniels calls herself a triple minority in comedy – a black woman who plays the cello. You can find out more about her and her web series, The Model’s Diet, on Martin had a standout set on one of strangest showcase of the week, “Rated G n. R,” a mix of clean and blue standup backed by a Guns n’ Roses cover band, Cocaine Tongue. He’s on Twitter at @MrWillMartin. Friml killed on the NBC Comedy Spotlight show, and she’s been doing comedy less than two years. Dawn Smith used to work on political ad campaigns. Now she makes fun of them on Paid For By, the web series she created, wrote, directed, and co-produced. Smith has two episodes done and is looking for funding to finish up the series, so if you hear this and you’re inclined to help, you can find out how at

This week’s featured track comes to us from wife and husband team The Smoking Flowers. It’s called “Young & Brave,” and it’s the first single from their upcoming album, Let’s Die Together, out June 8. If you come to the Department of Tangents site on Monday morning, you’ll get to see the video in which they play some of their favorite musicians, from Johnny and June to John and Yoko to all four Ramones. You’ll get to see the video and read a short e-mail interview with the band.