Consider this a long form drunk text. You’re not supposed to delve deep into emotions immediately after the fact. You sleep on it. You process your feelings and then, rationally, you look back on the situation and understand it in totality.
This is no time for any of that.
Anytime in the last three years, if you had asked me what’s my favorite thing, you’d have been told Arsenal Football Club and The Best Show on WFMU. One is a multi-billion dollar global soccer team and the other is a show on free form radio done for free, for the last 13 years. Guess which one I’m losing?
The Best Show on WFMU is a three hour call in show based out of Jersey City, NJ that airs 9-midnight every Tuesday. It has aired, current as of 10/30/13 at 12:53am, 556 times. Thirteen years strong. The last episode is happening December 17th and I’m honestly heartbroken.
The host of The Best Show, Tom Scharpling has shaped my sense of humor more than any other single person apart from perhaps Jon Wurster, who writes along with him(in addition to drumming for Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, and Bob Mould all of whom I love). Tom has always taken the position of the fighter. Scrappy, crafty underdog who is fighting on behalf of everything that is good. Or his idea of good, anyway, which I happen to subscribe to. Tom is the voice of the downtrodden. A genuine working class hero raging against the man in all his forms, be it Hollywood, third rate game show hosts, Brooklyn tall bike culture, or Chris Christie.
The last one is especially important. I don’t think Tom has made a big difference politically, but he’s especially invested in the state of New Jersey as a lifelong resident. Having spent 24 years in New Jersey myself, this means a lot.
After Hurricane Sandy Tom sat in the WFMU studio playing an all New Jersey music set(Titus Andronicus, The Feelies, Ted Leo, Misfits, Monster Magnet, Yo La Tengo, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen) taking calls on a $9 burner phone. The power was still out in half the state. People’s homes and business and lives in general were in tatters, but Tom was there. The Dollar Menu Dickens was on air, finding ways to raise money to help victims and the station.
The Best Show has also introduced me to a near endless amount of music and comedy that I love and brought me closer to the things I loved already. Julie Klausner, Ted Leo, John Hodgman, Marc Maron, Andy Kindler, Chris Gethard, Titus Andronicus, AC Newman and so, so many and I am forever grateful.
Then there are the people I’ve met through the show on twitter and in real life. They’ve all been incredible. They make the show even better, laughing along with everyone following the #BestShowWFMU hashtag every Tuesday. Hell, even spending an hour and a half on the phone with Jason from Huntsville, the Alabammy Comet, talking about improv.
I left New Jersey for New York City in February. I came here to do comedy. Tom inspired me so much and instilled an attitude that I always try to emulate. If I’m being honest with myself, I know I don’t have his work ethic. Not many do, but that’s the next step. The end of the show means there’s a huge void and someone needs to fill it. If you’re a fan of the show, and you do comedy, I think you have a responsibility to step up now. This is it, man. Make the things you’d love to see or hear because Tom isn’t there to do it for us anymore.
We’ve got seven more episodes, and while this really hurts, it’s our chance to show how much it meant to us. I love Tom and Jon and AP Mike and everyone else who had anything to do with getting the show to me.
Tom does this for free, by the way. This has been unpaid for 13 years. It’s all part of the struggle. That’s New Jersey. The state makes you who you are, but at some point you need a bigger stage, and I hope that time has come for Tom Scharpling. I hope his decision brings him bigger things. Springsteen so often sang about getting out, but equally important is getting over. It’s Tom’s turn to get over.
Fans that I meet, they’re like me, they have this optimism to them. They’re smart enough to know how brutal the world is and they know all the ugly words for all the things that are bad about everything, but they’re compelled to want things to be better. They want to be happy. They want to like people. They want to hug people. They oftentimes don’t know how to do it. And they have a lot of stories about how they failed to do it right in a world full of people that know how to hug people and take it for granted. They are misfits that are proud to be misfits, but at the same time, desperately hunger to fit in because it feels good.
Women are funny. I’m getting that out of the way right at the top. I don’t feel the need to argue a case for that because there are plenty of current examples and I’m not too great at giving history lessons. There are probably several fine books about Carol Burnett.