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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.

Apr 20, 2017

For EP27 of the podcast, I talked to the comedians of the Awkward Sex and the City tour, including the show's creator, Natalie Wall. Wall started the show in New York City, where it runs every month with a revolving groups of guest storytellers at an adult toy store called The Pleasure Chest on the Upper East Side. Wall says she wanted to do something a little different, and she's always been comfortable talking about sex and dating. So she started a blog first, and then enlisted some comedian friends to turn it into a showcase show. It's developed a bit over the past five years or so, and now has a new stable of regular comedians -- Anita Flores, Bobby Hankinson, Karolena Theresa, and Jen Keefe. I spoke with all five of them at Nick's Comedy Stop in Boston about Awkward Sex stories, and what drew them to talking about it.

I spoke with Wall about how the show got started. "I like universal themes that are kind of taboo," she says, "especially for women to talk about."

The stories cover a wide range of activities, from sweet to graphic, and you would think after a while, Wall would run out of people who want to discuss the most intimate details of their lives so publicly. Some have shied away, but Wall has not faced a shortage thus far. "Most people are like, 'Yes, put me on the show!" she says. "I've got a thousand stories, let me do the show a thousand times."

After the conversation, keep listening for a new track from Bloodshot Records recording artists Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, "Nothin' Feels Right But Doin' Wrong," from their new album Sidelong. It's a great, raucous, twangy song, something any Americana or rock and roll fan should want to check out.