Patreoning it Forward: The Best Show
As some of y’all may have discerned by this point, I am a big fan of the crowd-funding site Patreon. I love how it allows creators to work outside often cynical and soul-crushing industries, like, say, pop-culture media. It empowers iconoclasts to bring their art and soul and passion directly to their fans instead of having to pass the gate-keepers of culture.
On a more personal and selfish note, I appreciate that right now Patreon is all that’s allowing me to make a living as a pop-culture writer. I’m just barely able to scrape by, and that’s overwhelmingly because of Patreon, this site and you beautiful people. I am obscenely grateful for every pledge to this site so in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ve decided to begin a column punishingly titled Patreoning It Forward to highlight other creators who could benefit from your Patreon dollars.
It seems appropriate to kick things off with The Best Show with Tom Sharpling, which is not just one of my favorite podcasts, but one of my favorite things in the world, and that includes things like my dad and my dog. For many, many years, The Best Show was a staple of non-profit radio station WFMU before the show went off the air in 2013 before being reborn anew online a year later at http://thebestshow.net.
Tom has always been an underdog and an everyman despite being a comic genius who has worked very successfully in television in addition to being a podcast and radio icon and legend. For a podcast host, he’s surprisingly private. He’s not the kind of person who takes pride in bearing his psychological scars but if you listen to The Best Show long enough it’s impossible not to feel for the man, his pain and his frustrations.
Tom is a fighter and for a while, he’s tended to close out episodes with a hastily improvised motivational speech over a stirring emotional bed. It’s ironic on some level, like so much of what Scharpling does, but as with a surprising amount of The Best Show, on another level it’s achingly sincere. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regularly tear up when Tom gets emotional.
But The Best Show isn’t just Tom Scharpling and his brilliant comedy partner Jon Wurster, who calls in as a series of outrageous characters, many involved in the music industry. Over the course of decades, The Best Show has become an entire world onto itself, complete with beloved supporting characters like AP Mike, Jason Gore, AKA Dudio, AKA the Dude who built the studio and an army of regular callers, some famous, like Andy Kindler, and others just colorful, like Avalanche Bob.
I used to look at The Best Show’s three hours and see an intimidatingly vast ocean of time. Now I look at the show’s epic running time and delight in the knowledge that three hours out of every week are guaranteed to be a goddamn delight, and that every Best Show episode is at once its own thing and pleasingly familiar.
But don’t just take my word for it! Take the word of my younger self as well. Here is a Q&A I did with Scharpling & Wurster for a column I created for the A.V Club called Bestcasts.
And here are some rapturous odes to individual episodes of The Best Show I wrote for Splitsider, beginning with a column on the classic Scharpling & Wurster bit “The Auteur” followed by an even more effusive rave about “The Newbridge Wall” I also saw fit to pay tribute to Scharpling’s solo work in a Pod-Canon piece about the “Tom Can’t Complain” episode of The Best Show.
Then there was my three-part tribute to the epic Mother 13/First Band on Everest, which began here, continued here, and then concluded here. And, of course, I had to write about the glorious creative union of The Best Show and Hollywood Handbook here. And I started writing about The Best Show for Splitsider with a piece on its epic Mayubernatorial debate.
Holy fuck I have written about The Best Show an awful lot for Splitsider. I really appreciate that they have never asked me to write about Tom Scharpling or Jon Wurster less. Honestly, if all The Best Show ever did was introduce me to the majesty of Hollywood Handbook and Hayes and Sean, that would have been enough, but it has done so much more.
But The Best Show does not coast on decades of excellence. Scharpling is forever building on the Newbridge universe he has created with Wurster.
I don’t throw around superlatives like “great” and “hero” casually. No, I only use them to describe literally anything I enjoy. It’s not unlike how “badass” has slowly morphed over time from praise reserved for the truly awesome and audacious, like, say, a young Joan Jett, to an adjective used to describe anyone who does anything remotely impressive ever, a phenomenon The Best Show has adroitly satirized.
That said, Tom is a hero, a true great, and legitimately badass. He deserves your Patreon money even more than I do, and that is the highest praise I can give anyone.
Support Tom Scharpling and The Best Show at https://www.patreon.com/TheBestShow
While you’re there, why not kick in for a shekels for the Nate Dogg over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace