On Tuesday night (July 27), Tom Scharpling began the daunting task of hosting a 24-hour long episode of his usually three-hour weekly radio program The Best Show. Organized around the paperback release of his memoir It Never Ends, it was also a celebration of the show’s recent full-on relocation to the Forever Dog studio in Los Angeles after over two decades of broadcasting from New Jersey. Across a full day, there were live music performances and huge name guests appearing over the phone and in the studio—the equivalent of eight episodes packed into one marathon. The show, still being uploaded episodically, is below.
It was a taxing process. Scharpling, who had been up since 9 a.m. Tuesday, never managed to take a proper nap or eat a full proper meal while broadcasting. After the show ended on Wednesday, he was still mingling, cleaning up, and attending to some necessary post-show business. Walking out of a 7-Eleven later on Wednesday night, he began to feel the physical toll set in. “I felt my body starting to shut down—my legs were like cement,” he said. Even when he got home, he was still buzzing from adrenaline and couldn’t fall asleep right away.
So how was he doing the morning after? “I think I’m good,” he told Pitchfork on Thursday. “I’m not exactly sure about a few things. I’m pretty numb. I’m still charged up still, but I’m also still so tired. So I don’t know what to do with myself, honestly.”
Discussing the show required for Scharpling to recall his conversations with the hours-long back-to-back parade of guests. The show opened with a call from his friend Kurt Vile, who played the live debut of his (watch my moves) closer “Stuffed Leopard” over the phone. After an in-studio performance from Islands’ Nick Thorburn, Scharpling sat down with Sudan Archives (and her dog) to discuss her upcoming album Natural Brown Prom Queen. Late at night, he and Jon Wurster got Peter Buck to tell some R.E.M. stories over the phone. As the show began to wind down on Wednesday evening, there were acoustic performances from Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and Jess Cornelius.
One particular block, around 11 a.m. Pacific, stood out as a lifetime highlight for Scharpling. “I knew there was gonna be one hour where I got to say, ‘Our next guest is Jarvis Cocker,’ and nobody was gonna believe it,” he said. “And then a half hour later, I was gonna go, ‘OK, everybody, we’re going to throw it over to the theater and on stage right now is Mike Watt’ before he played a set of Stooges covers as hard and as punishingly as possible.”
Not only did Cocker sit down for a phone interview where he discussed his new book and the state of the Pulp reunion, but he also repeatedly told Scharpling—who has long publicly spoken about his love for Pulp—that he’d been reading It Never Ends. “I couldn’t believe it was happening. That was a foundation rattling moment,” Scharpling said. “It was almost like some lifetime fantasy camp thing where I’m getting to do all these things that I should never get to do, and I got to do all of it. And there were 20 more things like that.”
By the time he was on the phone with Cocker, Scharpling described himself as “pretty wobbly.” That was evident in his 7 a.m. phone conversation with John Oliver, who teased Scharpling extensively for sounding palpably tired and having basic sentence structures fall apart. “The first thing to truly start to go was the ability to successfully string together a sentence to my liking,” Scharpling said. “‘Oh, it’s John Oliver, he’s gonna be funny, I’ve gotta be funny too, here we go!’ Imagine doing that when your brain is starting to leak from your ears.”
Scharpling’s comedy partner Jon Wurster showed up in the studio to do some of his best known characters, including a fictional Bruce Springsteen “addressing” the recent uproar about ticket prices. Conan O’Brien cracked jokes in conversation with Scharpling, but laughed relentlessly in conversation with Wurster’s chain-swinging “real Fonzie” character the Gorch. Near the end of the show, Wurster’s Philly Boy Roy dropped by the studio.
All told, the show featured appearances from Nathan Fielder, Jo Firestone, Chris Elliott, Julie Klausner, John Hodgman, Redd Kross’ Steven McDonald, John Vanderslice, Jon Daly, Jake Fogelnest, Adam McKay, Lance Bangs, Kevin Corrigan, Andy Kindler, Adam Conover, and many others. Many of the guests reflected how Scharpling builds community with the show: Mary Lattimore and actress Martha Kelly (of Baskets and Euphoria) returned to The Best Show together after meeting and becoming friends when they both appeared an episode earlier this year.
During the marathon, Scharpling insisted he’d never do it again. The next day, he was feeling a little more optimistic about the possibility. “That’s the kind of thing you say when all you can think of is eating food and going to sleep: ‘Of course I’ll never do this again,’” he said. “There’s a version of things where we could do something like that again. But I don’t know, I’m just gonna let the dust settle on this one first.”
Just as the show hit the 24-hour mark before the live feed cut out, everybody in the studio cheered for him as Scharpling emotionally thanked his team who helped him pull it off. “I had the greatest time, and I cannot believe that all of those things happened,” he said. “I’ll get hit with these waves of just wanting to cry from happiness with how amazing some of those moments were. That the Best Show could do that just blows my mind.”