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The Best Show on WFMU was its own social network

Best Show fans are devoted, and last night was no different.


Audra Schroeder


Posted on Dec 18, 2013   Updated on May 31, 2021, 11:29 pm CDT

Last night marked the end of the Best Show on WFMU, after 13 years on the air, and the Internet support around it showed just how special and influential the Tuesday night radio show was to many people.

I was turned on to the show through friends who had a radio show in Austin, and though their call-in comedy was a bit different than host Tom Scharpling’s, their approach was the same: The devotion to bits, the inner circle references. When Scharpling’s left brain Jon Wurster would call in as one of his characters, the sketch came together. Riffing and improvisation on a radio call-in show isn’t easy, but Scharpling and Wurster were old pros.  

The first time I heard the show was a bit featuring Paul F. Tompkins, in which he and Scharpling listened and reacted to the promotional commercial for the Gathering of the Juggalos, circa 2009. They just couldn’t keep it together, and by the end, I was in tears with them. That’s sort of how the show worked, how it drew in fans.

And Best Show fans were, and are, devoted, as the #BestShowForLife hashtag making the rounds last night and today proved. The show was about extended family, and those learning about it for the first time never felt excluded. Here’s what one listener wrote today:

“The show is like a friend or a blanket. It’s comforting and dependable. It radiates kindness even when Tom Scharpling is hanging up on callers. I consider it a feminist show, and Scharpling is a feminist art hero to me. This may be my delusional own thing, but sexism is called out for sure and my existence is never the butt of a joke. A few weeks ago a caller called in to thank Tom for his non-sexist humor. I may have cried.”

Everyone found something to relate to on the show, and she’s right, it is very much a feminist show, as well as a show for music fans, and pop culture fans. And it lasted more than a decade, so it was able to span several iterations of online social network revolutions. But it was its own social network.

Final #BestShowForLife thought: I once called in about MySpace. Just relaized, @scharpling outlasted Myspace. #onlyfriendsoftomthatmatter

— Paul Bruno (@UnblinkingEar) December 18, 2013

And their fans knew just the right way to pay tribute:

Whoever posted this on the forums is the best. #BestShowWFMU

— Ryan Gallo (@DeadlyRhythm) December 18, 2013

If you’ve never heard the show, you can roll around in the archives right here.

Photo by John Dalton/Flickr

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*First Published: Dec 18, 2013, 6:37 pm CST