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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.

Feb 15, 2017

<a href="" target="_blank">Nick Vatterott</a> doesn't like being strange for the sake of being strange. He won the Andy Kaufman Award in 2011, but he's uncomfortable with the idea that his own best work, or Kaufman's for that matter, was about doing something off the wall with no inherent payoff or punchline. That's what makes the strangeness work -- it's leading up to something. Vatterott got his comedy training in Chicago, never thinking there was a hard divide between stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. They're all supposed to be funny, right? So why limit yourself. Do all of them. That's part of what makes him so intriguing as a comedian. If you've never seen him, here's a quick sample, his set from <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon</em></a>. You can also find his latest album, <em>For Amusement Only</em>, on his <a href="" target="_blank">Web site</a>.

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I sat down with Vatterott before his recent show at <a href="" target="_blank">The Gas at Great Scott</a>. We swerved around subjects from sports to ghost hunting, talking about his stand-up philosophy and training along the way. After the conversation, stay tuned for "The Strongman of North America," a song from the <a href="" target="_blank">Chandler Travis Philharmonic</a>'s new album, <em>Waving Kissyhead Vol 2 & 1</em>, which I <a href="" target="_blank">reviewed for the New Release Roundup</a>.