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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 11, 2017

Rita Rudner has been working on an autobiography lately, a considerable undertaking for someone with her history. She has been writing and performing stand-up comedy for thirty-eight years, starring in her own specials, in plays and movies, and traveling around the country. That's before you figure in her pre-comedy days as a singer and dancer on Broadway. That was the career path she expected to follow, and looking back, she sees a life full of unexpected twists and turns.

"Everything surprised me," she says. "Because I never thought I’d be… I only thought I’d ever be a dancer. I never thought I’d be a comedian. I never thought I’d marry someone who lived in Australia. I never thought I’d adopt the most fabulous child in the world. And I never thought I’d have a beach house. So everything surprises me."

I spoke with Rudner for the Boston Globe as part of a story on this year's Women In Comedy Festival. This is the last of three podcasts dedicated to the WICF -- EP28 was a round-up that included interviews with Femmedy Trio, Caitlin Gill, Reformed Whores, Erin Judge and Kaytlin Bailey of Cake Comedy, and WICF founders Michelle Barbera and Elyse Schuerman, and EP29 was my late-night conversation with Petey Gibson. We covered a lot in the conversation, from those early days to her appearance in Boston, from the show business advice she gives to her teenage singer/songwriter daughter to the glamour of grout. Since I couldn't fit all of it into the Globe article, I decided to release the interview as a podcast episode for all of you kind folks to enjoy.

After the interview, stay tuned for "Little Castrato," a new song from The Upper Crust's new album, Delusions of Grandeur. Next week on the Department of Tangents Podcast, Lord Bendover, Count Bassie, and Jackie Kickassis join me to talk about how they first got together in the 18th century, entertaining the lowly, and rock and roll. You can listen to and download this week's podcast in the player below, or subscribe and review on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and wherever you prefer to get your podcasts. To MP3 Converter (