As a comedy fan and podcast listener, 2014 has been a weird year for me, because most of it has been spent without Tom Scharpling’s Best Show on WFMU. I’ve been a huge fan of the show, broadcasted and streamed on New Jersey’s mammothly awesome freeform radio station, since I started listening about seven years ago. When the show ended its 13 year terrestrial radio run last December, I was cast adrift, trying to fill a three hour hole in my public transit commute each week with substandard comedy podcasts and tiresome NPR chat shows. I’d already devoured much of the Best Show’s back catalogue and started re-listening to random episodes, eagerly awaiting the show’s return later this month.
The return of the Best Show, which is returning in a slightly different, ad-driven, internet-streaming-only format in the next few weeks, inspired this Tom Scharpling appreciation post. Let’s get into it!
There’s a lot of ways to introduce the Best Show’s intimidating oeuvre to people, but this clip from a 2013 show is one I’ve used the most. In 10 minutes, Tom goofs on Game of Thrones (the TV show and book series alike) and nerd culture with amazing finesse. He imagines lines from the TV show he’s never seen and figures out what the “R. R.” in New Jersey expat George R. R. Martin’s weird name means.
Quality comedy broadcasting. There are some insanely memorable lines in that clip, right? Describing GRRM’s hat as a “choo choo hat” does it for me every time.
Near the end of the show’s run, Scharpling began hanging up on bad callers using the introduction to Bad Company’s “Bad Company” and someone recently made a nearly hourlong compilation of every time this happened. This is a decent time investment and is also 100% worth your time.
Outside of the Best Show, Tom’s also worked as a music video director, crafting blowouty clips jampacked with comedy icons and referential in-jokes. His video for The New Pornographers’ “Moves” features appearances by Paul Rudd, Bill Heder, Wyatt Cenac, Julie Klausner, Todd Barry, Donald Glover, and his longtime collaborator Jon Wurster, whose sprawling in-character calls to the Best Show have come to define the show’s sensibility.
Tom’s also a very good Twitterer, maintaining his curmudgeonly radio persona in this shortform format. Here’s some favorites:
HOW MANY LESSONS CAN THE FAMILY ON MODERN FAMILY LEARN??????? MY FAMILY HAS LEARNED MAYBE TWO LESSONS IN 80 YEARS
— scharpling (@scharpling) October 20, 2014
If the robot in HER was so smart, then why did she tell that dork to learn the ukelele?
— scharpling (@scharpling) November 29, 2014
Black Friday shopping tip: Hide inside a hollowed-out skid of 22 JUMP STREET Blu-Rays and leave it on the Best Buy loading dock.
— scharpling (@scharpling) November 23, 2014
When will baseball finally allow the five run grand slam? It’s time, baseball. Allow it.
— scharpling (@scharpling) August 6, 2014
I hope this Kurt Cobain doc shows him complaining about MTV and Rolling Stone while working with them over and over.
— scharpling (@scharpling) November 25, 2014
One last thing before we go, I’m going to post another great clip from the Best Show, featuring Tom dissecting a ridiculous song by Byrds for 7 minutes. It’s a great distillation of one of my favorite aspects of the show, where Tom dismantles every part of some arcane piece of forgotten pop culture. I am very excited that the Best Show is coming back soon. I missed it!