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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 30, 2017

There is a concept in improv called "Yes, And..." which basically means that you take whatever reality your scene partner has presented, accept it, and build on it. It's what keeps a scene going and leads you to unexpected places. Which is exactly what happened with this interview. I had expected to talk to Petey Gibson, stand-up comedian, improv performer, and creator of the wonderful Mary Dolan character, for ten or fifteen minutes and include the interview in Episode 28 of the Department of Tangents Podcast along with the other interviews I had done at the Women In Comedy Festival. We started the interview at 2:26 AM, sitting in the lobby of the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, which is also home to Laugh Boston. The WICF 2017 after party had just wrapped, and I caught Petey on her way out. What was supposed to be a quick interview turned into an hour of conversation, stopped only because both of us needed to get home and sleep. It was a delightful conversation, and we told stories I'm sure neither of us had planned to tell on a podcast, in addition to covering Mary Dolan, working in Los Angeles, improv, vaudeville history, Petey's Somerville series, and the difference between being yourself onstage as a stand-up comedian and being someone else doing character comedy. You can get a bit of a taste for Petey's comedy in the clips below. After the conversation, stick around and listen to "Sing To Me" by Amy Helm from her Didn't It Rain album. Helm is my guest for Episode 30 of the podcast, which will post later this week. Stream or download Episode 29 in the player below. If you liked this episode, you can subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or wherever quality podcasts are downloaded. Meals With Mary - "Breakfast Sexfast" Petey Gibson Stand-up The Somerville Series