#billyjoelsucks: The greatness of The Best Show and Tom Scharpling

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(Illustration, by Jeff Owens, lifted from Best Show’s Facebook page)

Starting my freshman year in college, I felt compelled to go on long walks, often at night. My friends referred to them as my “crazy walks.” It could be 1 a.m. on a Monday night in the middle of winter, and I’d throw on a jacket, grab my discman (I’m 31 aka old), and wander the streets of Scranton, Pa. In general, nothing “crazy” happened (although I once looked into the window of a store to see a man vacuuming in nothing but his underwear). I was usually just restless, so I’d head out, listen to some music, calm down, return home and go to bed.

After graduating college, the restlessness/long walks continued, but the soundtrack, starting in 2007, changed. Instead of listening to Bruce Dickinson sing “The Wickerman,” “The Trooper” and several other songs starting “The …” for Iron Maiden, I often found myself listening to Tom Scharpling’s “The Best Show,” which consists of three hours of mirth, music and mayhem.

The first time I remember listening to “The Best Show” (then on WFMU, now on thebestshow.net) was after I had just moved to Hoboken, N.J. My roommate, @danieljohnbryan, was a huge fan. We were drinking a few beers (hopefully Coors Light tall boys, in honor of AP Mike) and playing one of the all-time great baseball video games (MVP Baseball 2005) on a Tuesday night, and Dan had the show on in the background. It was the Dec. 7 episode, and the main things I remember from it are Tom utilizing a sound machine to turn bad callers into “ghosts” after he hung up on them, Tom’s glorious takedown of the Bob Dylan movie “I’m Not There” and Tom lauding the comedic aspects of “The Sopranos” (“You can’t throw a shoe without hitting something funny on that show,” if I remember correctly).

I didn’t become a Best Show enthusiast immediately, but it was the start. I didn’t listen live that often at the time (9 p.m. to midnight, every Tuesday night), but I started downloading episodes on my Zune — yes, I owned/loved the Zune — and would put them on while heading to work the graveyard shift at my job. Soon enough, I was hooked. Tom, his comedy partner Jon Wurster and call-screener/all-around legend AP Mike put together the most entertaining show I’d hear/watch week in and week out.

On multiple occasions, I’d be walking along the waterfront in Jersey City on a Tuesday night and look like a complete lunatic due to the fact that I’d be laughing out loud as a result of something on the show, be it Tom freaking out over an impending cicada awakening, Wurster saying something completely ridiculous (“Crack a hymnal much? It don’t sound like you do!”) or AP Mike loudly opening a can of beer at the most perfect/inopportune moment (Chiku). Then you had the callers — regulars (Spike, Jason from Alabama, Julie from Cincinnati, Fred from Honolulu), randoms (Terry from Woodstock) and terrible (many). The show is like nothing else out there, and it’s more fun than anything else out there, too.

The most-recent episode, however, had to deal with some tragedy before it got to the fun. Tom’s dad recently died unexpectedly, and after missing last week’s show, Tom returned last night. He spent an emotional first hour discussing his dad (“If you like me, you like him.”), and how hard this time has been (including a story of a good-intentioned Pizza Man making Tom and his family feel even more sad. “Don’t you have a calzone to heat up?”).

Then, after admitting how hard it was to put together a funny show right now, Tom did just that.

Best Show 4 life (and Billy Joel sucks).

Brian Cougar

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#billyjoelsucks: The greatness of The Best Show and Tom Scharpling

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