The Best Show on WFMU

by Adam Reger

Nine or ten months ago, a friend turned me on to a radio program broadcast each week out of New Jersey, on the independent station WFMU. The friend told me I seemed “like someone who could really use the Best Show in his life.” While I took slight umbrage at that assessment, time has proved him right. The Best Show, a mongrel of a show featuring open call-ins, in-studio guests, and glorious semi-improvised call-in bits, is true to its name in being about the best thing going. The web archives have been invaluable to me as I’ve slogged through some slow days at the office. (I’ve also gotten deeply into the recordings of Scharpling and Wurster, which are the best bits from the Best Show compiled onto a series of hallucinatory and hilarious discs. Jon Wurster, an accomplished rock drummer, does a wide range of voices, from Hippy Johnny, the less-than-benevolent benefactor of a hippie commune, to Philly Boy Roy, an overly proud Philadelphian (complete with fantastic stuffed-up-nose accent), to Timmy von Trimble, the two-inch racist.)

As is only right, as I have fallen deeper into love with the Best Show I have sought to pay off my debt by spreading the word of this terrific show. So far as I can tell, others have not fallen for the show as I have, but that won’t stop me from trying. Today I put together a brief introduction for a friend who, fingers crossed, I think is a prime candidate to fall hard for the show. And I thought to myself, “I’ve got a blog now. Eventually, someone may read it. Why not post this primer there, too?” And in reply I thought, “Yes. That is actually a pretty good idea.”

And so here is a quick, somewhat arbitrary introduction to the Best Show on WFMU:

There are two archives: of complete (3- and sometimes 6-hour) shows, and of “gems,” which are (mostly) the parts described above, wherein Jon Wurster calls in doing various voices.

The gems are where I started. If you like those, and have the patience and luxury to listen to a 3-hour radio show, I’d move on to the full shows. They’re funny, Tom has good guests, and there’s usually one Wurster call-in per show.

The Gems archive here.

Within the Gems, a few good starting places:

-Bill Cheetah, a caller who’s surprisingly well-prepared to back up his trash talk.

-The manager of Club Pizzazz, presenting his ill-advised slate of upcoming events.

-Tom takes a call from Mike Sajak. Enough said.

For the advanced Best Show listener, the full-program archives are here.

Places to get started:

-Tom Scharpling and Paul F. Tompkins talk about the Gathering of the Juggalos. This one made me cry laughing.

-The following week, Jon Wurster calls in as a disgruntled Juggalo.

-Guest Patton Oswalt talks about Gallagher.

The full shows usually start with like 20 minutes of music, which made me almost not listen to them—the music’s often pretty good, but as I initially got sold on the comedy stuff I was impatient, plus I don’t like much of the psychedelic / British invasion-type stuff that Tom often plays—but if you hang in there or skip over it turns to more of a comedy show.

Enjoy! (And if you do enjoy, pass it on to someone else.)