Who, what, and why?

If you’ve heard of me, it may be because of Sex at Dawn, the bestselling book I co-authored with Cacilda Jethá back in 2010, or Civilized to Death, that came out nine years later. Perhaps you heard me spouting stoned nonsense on Joe Rogan’s podcast, or caught me on Netflix’s “Monogamy, Explained,” or saw my TED talk about primate penises and prehistoric human sexuality, or you’ve heard my podcast, “Tangentially Speaking,” which has been around for a decade, racking up over 500 episodes and some 30 million downloads. Or maybe you thought I was that other Chris Ryan, who writes books about macho war stuff. I’m definitely not that guy.

However you got here, welcome!

And I may ask myself, “Well, how did I get here?”

In the early 80s, when I was in college, I read an essay by Robert Frost that contained this sentence: “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, a poem must ride its own melting.” I decided that my life would be like a poem. I’d ride my own melting as far as it took me.

So I set out to see the world. My weird resume includes stints gutting salmon in Alaska, teaching English to sex workers in Bangkok, running self-defense classes for land-reform activists in Mexico, counseling homeless kids in San Francisco, negotiating leases with Hasidic jewelers in New York’s Diamond District, translating from Ebonics to standard English for a Spanish film festival about the origins of hip-hop and Delta blues, editing and translating texts for the largest porn company in the world, and giving massages to cancer patients and fashion models in Barcelona.

After a visit to the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland in my early 30s, I decided to get a PhD in psychology and subsequently try to write a book based on my dissertation, which was about the prehistory of human sexuality. That book, Sex at Dawn, was an instant New York Times bestseller. It’s been translated into over twenty languages, and changed my life considerably.

But what came before the book offers a better sense of who I am and what I’m interested in than the famous author/talking head bullshit.

What’s This Podcast You Mention?

“Tangentially Speaking,” is generally recorded on the road, often when I’m rolling in my big red Sprinter van, “Scarlett Jovansson.” It features rants and raves, as well as conversations with comics, bank robbers, drug smugglers, porn stars, authors, hobos, ne’er do wells, adventurers, and a guy who keeps getting bitten by rattlesnakes

“Tangentially Speaking” scores 4.8 (out of 5) on iTunes with over 2,000 ratings (although JordanP153 gave it just one star and declared me to be, “a mediocre saggy old man child”). But then Harperseventeen came along and said, “This podcast convinced me that I could have whatever life I wanted and helped me through some extremely challenging transitions. It’s always been a light in the dark, and has inspired me in more ways than I can count.” Reviews like that are what keep this saggy old man child going strong!

Why Support This? (What’s in it for me, Chris?)

Standard podcast episodes are freely available on all podcast apps. Free subscribers will also get monthly newsletters, email alerts for new episodes and posts, as well being able to participate in comment threads. Most everything else will be for paid subscribers only. I’ve chosen the lowest subscription rate ($5/month or $50/year) to avoid pricing anyone out, but if you honestly can’t afford it, and really need the whole enchilada, drop me a line at chrisryan@substack.com and we’ll work something out.

In addition to everything mentioned above, paying subscribers will get:

- TOMAs (Talking Out My Ass). These are episodes where I tell a personal story about various experiences I’ve had over the years, ranging from the time I spent Memorial Day weekend in a  prison in Alaska for stealing a Snickers bar, to when a scorpion stung me while I was tripping on a temple in Tikal, Guatemala, to my experience on the set of a porn film for which I eventually won an AVN award for “Best Non-Sex Performance.”

- BROMAs (Bonus Ranting Out My Ass). This is where I switch on the microphone and rant about whatever’s on my mind: politics, a personal situation I’m dealing with, a book I’m reading, the state of the world, etc.

- Periodic AMAs. (Ask Me Anything). I answer, or at least entertain, listener/reader questions.

- WMTBG? (What Makes This Book Great?). Modeled on Rick Beato’s fantastic YouTube series where he unpacks popular songs, I flex my frustrated literature professor muscles by sharing why I think a particular piece of writing is incredible. Previous episodes have focused on short stories "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," by Ursula K. LeGuin, “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian, and “The Liar,” by Tobias Wolff, as well as the essay, “What You Can't Say," by Paul Graham. Upcoming episodes will feature the work of Carl Jung, Walt Whitman, Milan Kundera, and Ernest Hemingway.

- TSBC. (Tangentially Speaking Book Club). Every month or so, we’ll pick a book, a few short stories, maybe a poem, then get together on a Zoom call to talk about it. I learn a lot from the group every time.

- Personal Instagram-like photo/essays. I travel a lot and live in a van (“Scarlett Jovansson”) much of the year, (often down by the river). These are photos and anecdotes that had been going up on Instagram that I’ll now be sharing here instead.

- Free downloads of all three of my ebooks: Tangentially Reading, Talking Drugs, and Talking Sex.

- Access to all archived episodes (including well-known folks like Dan Savage, Joe Rogan, Mary Roach, Angela White, and Simon Rex, as well as hundreds of equally fascinating people you’ve never heard of).

Subscribe to Tangentially Speaking with Chris Ryan

Small-batch, hand-crafted, artisanal. From bestselling author and OG podcaster Chris Ryan.


Books: Sex at Dawn, Civilized to Death, Tangentially Reading. Podcast: Tangentially Speaking.