This is not a song. This is an excerpt from The Best Show on WFMU, a live comedy radio show that aired for 13 years. Tom Scharpling, the host, broadcast his final show in December 2013. I love it. I miss it.
The Best Show speaks to me. I started listening when I moved to Lewisburg for my job. My family stayed back in Morgantown for a year, so I went home every weekend. It’s a four-hour drive, and to pass the time I listened to podcasts on my commute. I listened to a lot of the Best Show and I got hooked. It took me a few listens to get into it, but once I did I fell in love.
Miles and I listened to the Best Show a lot. On long drives, we listened to the podcast. On Tuesday nights, we sat together and listen to the live broadcast. We laughed together and recounted characters like Gary the Squirrel or Vance the Puppet and we laughed.
In July 2014, Miles and I went to Rochester, New York. He attended a week-long workshop at Rochester Institute of Technology, and I had to stay with him in a local place we found through Air BNB. We spent a lot of time together. It was our last long trip together. On the drive up and as we drove around Rochester during the week, we listened to Best Show Gems, a collection of the best of the Best Show like Scharpling’s phone calls with his comedy partner Jon Wurster. We laughed and laughed and talked about what we liked about the Best Show. It was a fun trip. We ate good food and Miles learned so much from the workshop. And in between the food and sleeping and workshops we drove and listened to The Best Show and laughed together.
My favorite thing about The Best Show is that it’s a call-in radio show. Scharpling is at the mercy of whoever calls in and whatever they want to talk about. It’s a tightrope walk on the airwaves, but he handles each call deftly with his super-quick wit and encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and rock music. “The Order of Everything” puts Scharpling’s brilliance on display. He doesn’t always go where you’d expect. He avoids the cheap laughs that cussing and toilet humor could deliver and lets even the most inarticulate callers have their say. Scharpling’s timing and the tension he creates between his gruff, unpredictable persona and callers of all stripes– the earnest, the pandering, the obnoxious, the burned out, the cloying, the clueless– keeps it moving and keeps it funny. It’s slow-burn comedy that unfolds gradually from call to call, from topic to topic, and from show to show. It works. It works great.
It is hard to describe the Best Show. So instead of explaining it, I think you should just listen.
The Best Show is coming back soon as a streaming live internet show and podcast. I really look forward to its return.
“The Order of Everything” is a great introduction to the Best Show.
This is not a YouTube clip, but you can listen to it online or download it. You can also find “Best Show Gems” on the Apple podcasts app or in the iTunes store. This clip is 1 hour, 22 minutes long.