Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: Best Show

Tom Scharpling Twitter Novel

Yes, those words do all go together. I’m late to the game on this, but apparently Tom Scharpling, host of the Best Show on WFMU, has been writing a novel called “Fuel Dump” on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. Some generous soul collected these “tweets” in one place, but apparently he or she (understandably) got sick of it at some point, because looking at the Fuel Dump Twitter feed, the story seems to have advanced way beyond that.

To the extent that I understand the plot, it so far involves Michael Richards (a.k.a. Kramer) showing up at someone’s door with a shotgun, a Cigar Aficionado freelancer pursuing an interview with Kid Rock, the freelancer’s elderly uncle divulging the whereabouts of a buried treasure to an unscrupulous nurse and her beau, and Senator Joe Lieberman appearing at an aide’s house covered in blood and enlisting her help in burying a body in the woods. Listening to Tom talking about it, it sounds like he’s met the considerable challenge of making each “tweet” advance the story without being completely boring.

Recordings where people laugh

I’m listening to an episode of The Best Show on WFMU (which I slavered over here) from a couple of weeks ago. Jon Wurster is in the studio as Rick Spangler, “a record producer with a diverse resume.” Although usually unflappable, Wurster here cracks himself up repeatedly, playing it off as an effect of pollen and breath mints, and glossing over the covered-microphone silences as his having fallen out of his chair.

And I am loving it. It’s reminding me of this Elliott Smith cover, “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” a Hank Williams, Jr., song, which is on the CD that comes with Autumn de Wilde’s Elliott Smith photo book. I think the CD is called “Live at Largo,” if a CD in the back of a book can have a proper title, but in any case that’s what the music is: recordings from a show at Largo in Los Angeles (which, just to make this post splinter off in as many directions as possible, here is a New Yorker piece describing the scene at Largo (though you have to have digital access to get at more than the abstract, so maybe save yourself the click if you don’t want your interest piqued and then rudely stifled)).

But anyway the reason I love the song is that Smith laughs repeatedly during the song and sounds, generally, happy. He totally blanks on part of the lyrics, which I’ve now discovered to be “corn bread and iced tea took the place / Of pills and ninety proof.”

Also, here’s Hank Williams, Jr. playing the original. Not surprisingly, I prefer the Elliott Smith version. Last weekend I picked up a cassette of Hank Williams, Jr.’s greatest hits at Salvation Army (minus any kind of cover or case, which made it all that much more thrilling) and by Tuesday I was pretty well done with it. Country music remains, like the films of Jerry Lewis, way better in theory than in my actual experience of them. It is a great song, though.

And another plus is that I now get the self-referential line Williams, Jr. throws into the Monday Night Football theme at the end, when he goes, “All my rowdy friends are here on Monday night.”

The Best Show on WFMU

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.)