Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer this time around are Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster. They are the comedy duo behind “The Best Show,” a podcast hosted by Scharpling.
Since launching 15 years ago as a radio show on New Jersey station WFMU, it’s gained a huge following. Listeners tune in to hear Scharpling spin music, chat with celebrity guests, and most of all, conduct phone conversations with characters created and voiced by Wurster. They include “Philly Boy Roy,” who embodies all things Philadelphian, and “The Gorch,” a senior citizen who claims “The Fonz” was based on him, without permission.
They release a box set called “Scharpling and Wurster: The Best of the Best Show” on May 12 (ed. note: the original release date of March 31st was delayed due to a port strike). It features 20 hours of their finest exchanges. And guys, welcome!
Tom Scharpling: Hi.
Jon Wurster: Hello!
Brendan Francis Newnam: 20 hours!
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s several months worth of our show.
Jon Wurster: And you still need more!
Rico Gagliano: That’s why you’re here. So, you both have spent a lot of your lives in the independent music scene. Jon, you drum for Superchunk. Tom, you direct music videos. How did comedy start leaking into your rock ‘n’ roll lives?
Tom Scharpling: I’m not much for comedy, actually. It’s not really my scene.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh! That was a joke. But you wouldn’t know that, because you’re not into comedy.
Tom Scharpling: Right over my head.
No — my whole life, music and comedy were the two things that I was passionate about, and I really didn’t have any aptitude for making music at all. So I was a fan of music, doing the radio show, starting as a music show, and then slowly the balance changing to where comedy got more and more into it. And then Jon and I did our first call, which was called “Rock, Rot, and Rule.”
Rico Gagliano: That’s right, and “Rock, Rot, and Rule”… for those who don’t know, this was when Jon called into the show, pretending to be a rather snobby writer who had divided all rock bands into one of those three categories: they rocked, rotted, or ruled.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, for example, the Beatles. They rocked, right?
Jon Wurster: I think they only rocked. Because they had a lot of “stinkers.” I think that was the term.
Brendan Francis Newnam: They didn’t rule, they just rocked because they had some bad songs.
Jon Wurster: Exactly, yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: David Bowie rotted, if I remember.
Jon Wurster: Too many changes.
Rico Gagliano: He was bad because he kept evolving.
Jon Wurster: Yeah — same as Neil Young.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay.
Rico Gagliano: Obviously, the criteria was pretty random. Let’s hear a clip of “Rock, Rot, and Rule.”
Rico Gagliano: I wanna to go back to something that you said just a second ago, Tom. About, you know — you didn’t have musical aptitude, and you ended up in comedy. It does seem like comedy and music go hand in hand. Like “Saturday Night Live” has always had that rock ‘n’ roll component. What is the connection between comedians and musicians?
Tom Scharpling: I think they’re different! I don’t think it’s as much of a connection as people think they are. I just think they’re doing similar… they’re doing their own thing, maybe that’s the connection.
Rico Gagliano: They’re both kind of proud outsiders?
Tom Scharpling: Yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And they tour.
Jon Wurster: Yeah, and I think that’s the kind of indie rock/comedy connection back in the ’90s, when it kind of first started. Was that bands would trade these tapes, these comedy tapes, whatever they were — they could be prank calls like the Jerky Boys. And that’s kind of how Tom and I first got our stuff out there, the “Rock, Rot, and Rule” tape. We gave it to bands like Guided by Voices.
Rico Gagliano: This is pre-Internet, obviously.
Jon Wurster: Yeah, this is like, the late ’90s.
Rico Gagliano: You’d just hand out cassette tapes and people would dub them.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And they would listen to them as they were driving around?
Jon Wurster: Yeah. That’s kind of what you listen to during the day, because you’re blowing your ears out at night playing music. You don’t really want to hear loud rock in the van.
Rico Gagliano: All right — Well, you helped a lot of rock ‘n’ rollers get happily from one gig to another. You ready to help our listeners? They’ve sent in questions.
Jon Wurster: Yes.
Tom Scharpling: Sure.
Forking hoagies and hot-saucing cheesteaks
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Well, our first question comes from Alex in Lexington, Kentucky. And Alex writes: “Is there ever an occasion formal enough that it’s appropriate to fork-and-knife a hoagie?”
Rico Gagliano: So, it’s a formal occasion but they’re serving hoagies.
Jon Wurster: Well, if I’m correct — and I think I am — I’ve heard that every other Wednesday at the White House is “Hoagie Wednesday.” So, there’s no way they’re eating those with their hands.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, that makes it okay, though? I mean, in Philadelphia — I mean, growing up there — I feel like I’ve never seen anyone take a knife and fork to a hoagie.
Jon Wurster: I’ve never seen it. I just think —
Rico Gagliano: –Actually, I had my first cheesesteak in Philly last summer and I forked-and-knifed it.
Jon Wurster: No, you didn’t!
Rico Gagliano: I did — I used a fork and knife.
Brendan Francis Newnam: They don’t even have forks and knives! Did you bring your own fork and knife?
Jon Wurster: Was it because it was messy?
Rico Gagliano: It was very messy.
Tom Scharpling: Lot of Whiz.
Jon Wurster: Did you get Whiz on it or what?
Rico Gagliano: I did get Whiz — I got the authentic thing, with the Cheese Whiz on it.
Jon Wurster: Okay.
Rico Gagliano: By the way, the thing that nobody talks about on those cheesesteaks is the hot sauce! That’s what’s really making it, that grainy hot sauce…
Tom Scharpling: Wait, are you sure you had a cheesesteak?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, that’s not a cheesesteak. You don’t put hot sauce on a cheesesteak.
Tom Scharpling: No. Where’d you go?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Are you sure that was Philadelphia?
Jon Wurster: Was it a Mexican restaurant?
Tom Scharpling: I don’t know what you had.
Rico Gagliano: Guys, was I lied to?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, I don’t know, man. You were tricked.
Rico Gagliano: I feel like I’m losing my mind right now!
Tom Scharpling: You got a fork and a knife, you’re eating something with hot sauce all over it…
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s the equivalent of de Blasio taking a fork and knife to a slice.
Tom Scharpling: …Who knows what you experienced?!
Brendan Francis Newnam: But Alex, I think you got your answer.
The worst question of all time
Rico Gagliano: Yeah: save the fork and knife for the White House, and let’s quickly pivot from my shame to this question from J.R. in Los Angeles — far from Philly. J.R. writes:
“Most of the movies my friend sees… or the vacations she goes on… are THE BEST THING EVER! The hyperbole gets exhausting. How do I kindly rein her in a little? I figured as ‘The Best Show,’ you guys might know about superlatives.”
Tom Scharpling: Well, I use superlatives a lot, but mine go the other way. Where it’ll be like, “That was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.”
Jon Wurster: And it’s a sandwich.
Tom Scharpling: And it’s a sandwich. Maybe with hot sauce all over it and I’m eating it with a fork and knife…
Rico Gagliano: Guys! I’m sitting right here.
Tom Scharpling: …I would say, you can make adjustments to your friend, but you might want to make adjustments to yourself, also. You might not be excited enough about things. There’s probably a middle ground between the two.
Rico Gagliano: Have a little joy in your life.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, is it a middle ground, or are you suggesting that J.R. could be the worst friend ever?
Tom Scharpling: Well, first of all, this is the worst question I’ve ever heard in my entire life.
Mike Rutherford, Greg Luzinski, and vandalism
Rico Gagliano: Excuse me, guys. Sorry to interrupt — Our producer’s trying to tell us something.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes, we actually have a call… Let’s see if we can patch in this caller. They have a question for you, an etiquette question. Hello?
“Philly Boy Roy”: Yeah, hey! It’s Roy in Philadelphia.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Hey.
“Philly Boy Roy”: I got a question for yous guys.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, totally want to help you with your question. Is it a be-yoo-dee-ful day in Philadelphia?
“Philly Boy Roy”: Oh, it’s great, yeah. I’m doing this new thing where I put this hot pepper sauce on my cheesesteaks? Oh, it’s so good, yeah, ain’t no one else doing it!
Rico Gagliano: Thanks, Roy — thanks for the backup.
“Philly Boy Roy”: Okay, here’s the deal, what’s going on — it’s a very serious conundrum…
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay.
“Philly Boy Roy”: …I got a totally cool 1978 dune buggy that’s up on blocks in my backyard? It’s been there for like, the last two years ’cause I can’t afford no tires for it?
Rico Gagliano: Okay.
“Philly Boy Roy”: The other day my neighbor, Mike Rutherford — not the guy in Genesis but, you know, he got the same name — he left a note for me saying that Greg Luzinski — that’s the name of my dune buggy…
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, named after a Philadelphia Philly.
“Philly Boy Roy”: — Oh, yeah, the best ever, right?! Yeah, he could eat a lot of hoagies.
Anyway, my neighbor said that my dune buggy’s become this big eyesore and it’s making the neighborhood look trashy. My question is: how many days should I wait before I wrap Mike’s house in 50 rolls of toilet paper so he don’t think I did it?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, okay.
Rico Gagliano: All right — so it’s inevitable that the house is going to get wrapped with toilet paper. The question is how many days, Tom, should Roy wait before the wrapping begins?
Tom Scharpling: Well, Roy, I would say, I think you just go for it. You know where you’re going to end up with things. There’s no reason to prolong anything.
“Philly Boy Roy”: Well, it can’t go wrong, right?
Tom Scharpling: No — foolproof plan. You want Greg Luzinski to be street-ready again, right?
“Philly Boy Roy”: Oh, yeah! I got races coming up this summer.
Tom Scharpling: Yeah!
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Roy, there’s your answer: You’re free to walk across the street to Mike-Rutherford-not-Mike-Rutherford-from-Genesis’s house and… wrap away.
“Philly Boy Roy”: Start wrapping! Look out, Mike! It’s going to look like winter tomorrow!
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, and Mike, if you’re listening, get the hell out of Dodge because here comes Roy. Guys — Tom, Jon — thanks a lot for telling our audience how to behave.
Tom Scharpling: Thank you.
Jon Wurster: Thank you guys.