Tag Archive: Tom Scharpling


I just listened to “The Best Show on WFMU” starring Tom Scharpling, and the question on everyone’s lips was, “Could this really be the last show, or one of the last shows?” There were three camps among the callers, more or less. One camp adamantly doesn’t want Tom to quit. The second camp wants him to take some time, if he needs it. And the third camp whined about the feel of the show, which was admittedly funereal. This great show, heard by thousands if not millions the world over, might just come to an end “in a matter of moments,” if Tom so decides it.

I called in to the show as a member of the second camp. I said that people, all of us, take Tom for granted. Maybe he needs to leave the world alone for a while so we can all remember what it’s like without him, without his hilarious, spirit-raising program on Tuesday nights every week from 9:00 to midnight. We can all take a stab at life without the Best Show, realizing that, like his listeners, Tom Scharpling is a human being like the rest of us.

Tom responded to my sentiments calmly, assuring me that, “It’s fine. I’ll get through it.” I had a sense he may be tiring of hearing people say such things to him, one way or the other of the two non-whining camps (he had virtually no tolerance for the third).

I admit, one incentive for calling was his declaration that “this could be the last show.” And I’ve only called one other time, and didn’t speak to Tom directly. So yes, I called because, like so many others, I wanted my piece of the Best.

I met Tom Scharpling at WFMU studios while I was volunteering there, and I could tell he is a man of two personas: one public, one private. But his feeling seems to be that the public persona has taken over. Even my well-intentioned call was received with the public persona; granted we were on the radio, but even expressions of admiration and understanding from his fans had to be met with that professionally-maintained distance, as though he doesn’t allow himself to truly feel anything, or believe that anyone’s concern is genuine. It was sad to hear.

Of course, the thought occurred to everyone (I was chatting on the FriendsofTom.com messageboard during the show, so by everyone, I mean everyone on there), that this might just be some colossal joke. One caller compared it to James Brown’s stage act, wherein the Godfather of Soul pretends to start leaving the stage, and his co-performer places the cape on his shoulders, only for him to return a few moments later, and “the crowd loved him even more.” Tom dismissed this analogy, not without deserved indignation. My instinct is not to trust comedians; from Kaufman to Cleese, everything is a target of ridicule or, if you like, comedy. Even, or perhaps especially, people’s feelings.

But I can’t help thinking that Tom might be serious. His statement–“it’s fine”–just sounded so…unrehearsed. Maybe he did get tired of hearing from the three camps, even though he certainly made his feelings the subject of the show. I just hope he knows that all the people who called in with nice things to say were only trying to say that they’ll understand if he takes some time for himself. As Tom reminded his audience and himself, “we all have rough patches.” Very true, sir. But we want you to have that Zest For Living that you inspire in all of us.

My capacity for empathy has the advantage of having actually met the man. Sometimes I see more unhappiness in people than is actually there. It’s just that I know what it’s like to feel taken for granted, to feel like my dreams weren’t being given their due. And I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone the Best in the world.

I wanted to end my call with Tom on a funny note, to raise the mood and win recognition as a great caller, but I knew I wouldn’t. I get very nervous when I call radio shows, (I even write down all the things I want to say beforehand in case my mind goes blank. It’s saved me one or two times), and rather than end with a gaffe that might sour everything, I wanted to just say my peace and leave it at that. I hope it got across. It might not have been a “man’s call,” but hey. We all have rough patches, and rather than be perfect, we do what we can.

Tom Scharpling

This dude makes me laugh like a bastard, 8-11 pm on 91.1 WFMU East Orange, 90.1 WMFU Mount Hope, http://www.wfmu.org.
Even though he uses a what I might consider “jerk humor,” from time to time, he’s enough of a human being that I can always relate, and I wish I could just assert myself, no questions asked, no matter what anyone thinks, to give people what they deserve. And he makes many many people laugh, including me.