Tom Scharpling talking to a 17 year old girl about growing up.
  • Tom: High school, I will tell you. I found high school to be the worst years of my life. Are you looking forward to college?
  • Caller: Yes.
  • Tom: Yeah that's a mistake too. Don't get to worked up about that. And how about after that? You looking forward to being out on your own, kinda like being out in the world and doing your own thing?
  • Caller: Sure why not?
  • Tom: Yeah that's a little overrated as well. Anything else you are looking foward too?

It was sometime around 2010 when I finally, after years of hearing its praises sung, started listening to The Best Show on WFMU, with host Tom Scharpling. Part of why I’d never gotten invested was the heft of the show: it’s hard to set aside three hours at a stretch to listen to a radio comedy program. But then I got a night-shift job at a sleep lab, from six to six, with tons of down-time, and it wasn’t long before I became something of a rabid fan. Nearly every episode in the show’s history was available for download, and I would sometimes listen to as many as three of them in a night, sometimes having to bite down on my hand to keep from laughing out loud and waking up the patients I was supposed to be monitoring. 

I don’t remember exactly what was going on at the time, but I do remember I was in a kind of down place in my life, and it was around then that I fell hard into comedy and podcasts: all I would do at work was listen to the seemingly endless stream of material that was pouring out of the internet. I don’t want to say comedy saved my life or anything dramatic and corny like that, but it was definitely a kind of life raft (no joke, I accidentally typed “laugh raft”) that I floated to safer shores upon. 

The sturdiest of those vessels, though, was always The Best Show. It was the hardest to get into, and it’s the hardest to sell people on, because it takes genuine dedication to sit and listen to a 35-minute conversation between two people that often has no obvious huge punchline. But you give it a little time, and god how it gets its hooks into you. There’s no way to explain its brilliance, or its strangeness. You just drink it in. 

I don’t work nights anymore, and so once again it’s become harder for me to listen with the religious intensity I had six or seven years ago. But I know the show is there for me, and I’ll always be appreciative of it, and what it did for me, when it made me feel a little less alone, and a lot happier. 

It’s Tom Scharpling’s birthday today. A hand, please. 


“Tom declares that Mike is to not allow any dude callers on the show tonight, but a bedridden man called Chick manages to call in just in time.”

“That’s something I learned from talking to comedy writers over the years – they work twice as hard to tell you why something you liked wasn’t worth you liking. F that S! If somebody likes something I made, it’s not their fault that I pictured it coming out differently in my mind than it did. They’re actually closer to the thing than I am at that point!”

Tom Scharpling, The Best Show On WFMU Magazine

Former Survivor contestant Reginald Monroe discussing his falling out with Kiss member Peter Kriss.
  • Reginald Monroe: At the time I was on that steroid that was going around Newbridge; Quadruple Thunderfudge?
  • Tom Scharpling: Okay. I remember hearing about that.
  • Reginald: It ended up getting outlawed everywhere, including outer space.
  • Tom: Wow. It's actually outlawed in outer space?
  • Reginald: Yeah. You'd smear it all over yourself and it was literally the consistency of fudge.
  • Tom: Uh-huh.
  • Reginald: And I had just had a smearing session and when he shot that [go-]kart at me, Tom, I just went nuts. And I beat him with it. It took five cops and an earth-mover to stop me.
  • Tom: To stop you from … I guess if people didn't stop you, who knows what could have happened.
  • Reginald: Right. Yeah. I think I would've smeared him.

Songs my future band will cover #58 - Rock and Roll Dreams Will Come Through

One of my favorite things in existence hit a major milestone this week. The 500th episode of The Best Show on WFMU aired this past Tuesday. I love the comedy of Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster and with their extensive music backgrounds, I feel like I’m in tune with more than just their comedic sensibilities. This is the Ted Leo version of maybe the best segment they ever wrote.


Scharpling & Wurster:  THE BEST OF THE BEST SHOW - Numero Group 203

Almost all of Wurster’s calls or occasional in-studio appearances were meticulously scripted and planned out, and eventually worked to build out this expansive universe of strangeness and disrepute centered around the fictional town of Newbridge. Considering that each did it while also maintaining thriving careers (Scharpling as a writer/producer on Monk; Wurster as one of indie rock’s most in-demand drummers) makes their efforts seem even more Herculean.” –Paste Magazine

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes, and it’s no coincidence that the history of podcasting has mirrored the history of indie rock – aficionados such as Scharpling and Wurster toiled in relative obscurity, followed by a watershed moment that attracted epic inflows of imitators and carpetbaggers.” – Globe and Mail

Scharpling & Wurster are keeping the fine art of two-person comedy alive. Some of the funniest stuff out there!” - Conan O’Brien

Listen, I’m not going to sugar coat it; this is a 16 CD boxed set of phone calls. Almost everything about this is technologically redundant. However, I promise this is one of the funniest things you’ll ever own. Scharpling and Wurster are the greatest.” - John Oliver

Scharpling & Wurster are like an old married couple. Except when they argue it’s funny and not depressing. This collection includes hours of fake calls, fake outrage, and fake knowledge. The real part is that it’s always funny.“ - Amy Poehler

I love Scharpling & Wurster. Their comedy has brought me so much pleasure over the years. And now with this boxed set, you can either relive the magic or experience their classic comedy for the first time. All for the price of $2,500.” - Paul Rudd

Scharpling & Wurster are purveyors of some of the most bizarre and brilliant comedy I’ve heard in ages. If you want your brain thoroughly melted, this  collection should do the trick nicely.” - “Weird Al” Yankovic

These twisting, strange, impossibly funny dialogues describe a world as complete as any novel, and a style of comedy no one has ever done before, because no one else can.” - John Hodgkin

Scharpling & Wurster (not in that order) are top shelf comedic surgeons.” -  Zach Galifianakis

Philly Boy Roy: You’re into Paul McCartney, right?
Tom Scharpling: Yeah I’m a big Paul McCartney fan.
PBR: Is it true that song “Jet” was originally called “Boat”?
TS: I’ve never heard that.
PBR: Roy Junior was telling me. He said that originally it was like “Boat! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo! Boat!”
TS: And then he upgraded it to “Jet”?
PBR: Well he changed it to “Jet” because he thought it would get him free flights on Pan Am. Is that in any of your Beatles books?
TS: I’ve never heard that.
—  The Best Show 7/5/2011

Inspired by a favorite Richard Scarry book, I drew some pages for a children’s book starring Philly Boy Roy. Manners, Philly Style teaches young readers how to behave as well as Roy.