Why we’ll miss The Best Show on WFMU

Catch free-form radio’s funniest venture while you still can. Plus, listen to our favorite bits from the program’s 13-year run.

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  • Photograph: Mindy Tucker

    Tom Scharpling, right, with pal and Best Show regular Ted Leo

  • Photograph: Jason Arthurs

    Jon Wurster

Photograph: Mindy Tucker

Tom Scharpling, right, with pal and Best Show regular Ted Leo

On October 29, Tom Scharpling shook the alternative-comedy world—or at least a fervently devoted, vocal slice of it—when he announced that his three-hour extravaganza, The Best Show on WFMU, would retire to the great radio dial in the sky. For 13 years—and nearly 600 episodes—the most popular program on the independently operated, Jersey City–based station WFMU has brought an addictive dose of hilarity and downright weirdness to hundreds of thousands of comedy and music fans. Luckily for you, there’s still time to tune in to the madness—the call-in show officially signs off December 17.

1. Jon Wurster

Scharpling’s comedy partner (and the drummer for Superchunk, the Mountain Goats and other indie-rock outfits) has proved to be the perfect foil for Best Show’s host, calling in as a barrage of motormouthed, self-deluded and (usually) totally pathetic characters from the fictional city of New Bridge, New Jersey. Check out our fave Wurster moments—wherein he tells the tales of a dictator-like power-pop fan, among other oddballs—from the biweekly best-of podcast Best Show Gems:

Augie Richards, Owner of Ye Old Burger Barn (2001)

Mike Healy Argues with Tom About DVDs (2002)

Power Pop Pop-Pop (2007)

R.B. Calls About the Gathering of the Juggalos (2009)

2. The guests

The Best Show has acted as a launchpad for rising comedians (Chris Gethard; Julie Klausner; last week’s TONY cover boy, John Mulaney) and a laid-back virtual hangout for more-established folks (Zach Galifianakis, Patton Oswalt, Todd Barry, Tim and Eric). We particularly love when a vet checks in—such as Martin Short, who in 2009 indulged Tom’s obsession with awesomely bonkers ’90s flop Clifford with a long, fascinating chat.

3. Tom’s complaints

Throughout each episode, the host segues into a variety of tirades—against everything from Sons of Anarchy to the phrase warm meal—with enough insight to not seem like, you know, just a cranky dude. Here are two classics:

Ryan Adams Unfair Record Review (2003)

Tom versus Billy Crystal (2006)

4. Crazy callers

Part of what keeps the WFMU staple so dynamic is that, despite its high rep in comedy and music circles and ability to book big names, at heart it’s still a call-in show—which means that any weirdo can give his or her two cents.

5. The music

Each show kicks off with a half hour of tunes, during which Tom keeps his finger on the pulse of up-and-coming indie labels (Trouble in Mind, HoZac) and the cream of the garage-rock crop (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, King Tuff). The host occasionally welcomes a rocker into the studio for a set; listen to this visit by Kurt Vile in 2010:


The Best Show on WFMU airs Tue 9pm–midnight through Dec 17 (wfmu.org).


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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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