Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Interview with Tom Scharpling

Tom Scharpling
I am extremely excited to say that I had the honor and pleasure to interview Tom Scharpling. He was gracious enough to take some time to talk to me about all sorts of fun stuff.

You may know Tom as the writer and executive producer of the Emmy award-winning TV show Monk. He is also one of the hosts of the Low Times podcast and has directed music videos for great acts such as Ted Leo, The New Pornographers, Aimee Mann, and Titus Andronicus.

Thankfully, Tom finds time to host my favorite show (on radio or TV) The Best Show on WFMU. WFMU is a free-form radio station based out of Jersey City, New Jersey and Tom has been hosting The Best Show there since it started in 2000. I've been a devoted listener for years and although I know a lot about Tom from his stories on the radio, I was interested in finding out a little more about the geeky side of Tom.

Onto the interview!

The Fat Lantern: I have been a die-hard fan of The Best Show on WFMU since 2007. I have every show since then on my iPod and I listen every day at work. If my headphones are on, 99% of the time they’re playing The Best Show. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

Tom Scharpling: Thanks for doing this interview with me, son. You’ve been a great supporter of the show and I appreciate all your enthusiasm. It means a lot to me.

The Fat Lantern: You reference comic books from time to time on The Best Show, and you’ve had some big names on your show such as Matt Fraction and Michael Kupperman. Your interest in comics is evident. Are you a comic subscriber or do you occasionally purchase comics when you’re in the mood to read?

Tom Scharpling: At this point I’m someone who goes to the comic book store and buys a ton of stuff and then takes forever to read it. I’m so all over the map in terms of my comic book consumption and while I wish it was a little more regular or structured, I don’t see it changing anytime soon. It’s sad, right?

The Fat Lantern: You’ve spoken many times about your love of the Marvel character Iron Fist. Is there anything in particular about the character that you identify with?

Tom Scharpling: I always loved the minor Marvel characters when I was a kid. I preferred The Defenders to The Avengers, and the ultimate second tier characters were Power Man and Iron Fist. I love how he’s a third-rate Tony Stark, who is really a third-rate Bruce Wayne. That makes him what, sixth-rate? And he comes from that awesome era of Marvel titles where they overturned every aspect of popular culture for comic book material – Dracula, Ghost Rider, etc. And combining a kung fu dude with a blacksploitation character is the greatest. If they blow it with the movie – which should be an R rated 1970s period piece – I’m done with superhero movies forever.

The Fat Lantern: It seems like when it comes to “The Big Two” (Marvel or DC), you’re a Marvel guy. Have you read anything from other publishers that you’ve enjoyed as much as your favorites from Marvel?

Tom Scharpling: Every time I try to cross the street with DC, I realize I just don’t have the feel for it. I grew up on Marvel and that has kind of formed my thought patterns in all things comics.

I do like certain things I read from all different publishers! It’s ultimately about the work, not the corporation.

The Fat Lantern: Have you ever been to a Comic-Con? If so, what was the dumbest thing you saw there?

Tom Scharpling: I went to Comic Con in San Diego years ago – maybe 2005/2006? – and the dumbest thing I saw was me and my comedy buddies having a drink too many and trying to have the pedi cab guys race through the streets of San Diego like we were riding chariots in a crummy old movie. I learned something about personal dignity on that trip.

The Fat Lantern: Were you into action figures as a young man? If so, what was your favorite toy?

Tom Scharpling: I have been known to buy the occasional action figure for my work desk. My all-time favorite figures were the MARS ATTACKS figures that came out around the release of the movie. I loved them so much!

The Fat Lantern: When I go to a comic shop, I get tempted to buy items other than comics (such as mugs or calendars, for example). Is there anything in particular that usually catches your eye other than the comics at a comic shop?

Tom Scharpling: I have learned to respect the limited amount of space in my house and curtail my purchases of non-essential items over the last few years. I will occasionally buy a pack of some sort of trading card but on the whole I’m pretty responsible with that kind of stuff.

The Fat Lantern: One of my favorite features of The Best Show is hearing Mike, the associate producer and call screener for The Best Show, cackle in the background as you host the show…

So you’re Batman. Between you and me, is Mike your Robin or your Joker?

Tom Scharpling: I actually think Mike might be Batman at this point. He’s the one moving through the streets of Bayonne at night, dealing with the people. I’m more like Commissioner Gordon.

Scharpling and Wurster
The Fat Lantern: While I have your attention, I have to tell you about one of my all-time favorite moments of The Best Show. On November 9, 2010, Jon Wurster called in as Rick di Betto from “di Betto and Nephew's Fine Dining”. In terms of the Wurster calls on The Best Show, it's one of many hilarious calls. However, there is one part of the call that is easily one of the top 5 funniest things I have ever heard in my life. The exchange between you and Jon when Jon starts saying "mozzarella", attempting to do an Italian accent, while you get more and more frustrated, is something I have rewound and listened to easily hundreds of times. I come from an all-Italian family (I'm the first generation that was born in America and not Italy), so the pronunciation of certain Italian words has always been a thing in my family. Growing up, I was taught to say Italian words, such as mozzarella, with an Italian accent (and I've spent all of the time since then training myself not to do that). Did you know Jon was going to say mozzarella like that? Is that something that you've found funny outside of The Best Show?

Tom Scharpling: I think that was a surprise! Jon has the ability to just lay me out with funny things he either holds up his sleeve before the show starts or comes up with on the fly. He’s without a doubt the funniest person I’ve ever met and has to be Top 10 funniest on the planet.

Me and Tom Scharpling
I want to give a huge thanks again to Tom Scharpling. It was so exciting to get answers to these questions and to hear more about what makes him tick. You can tune in to listen to The Best Show on WFMU with Tom Scharpling on Tuesday nights over at wfmu.org and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. I also recommend that you subscribe to Best Show Gems on iTunes. It's the best of The Best Show. Be sure to follow Tom on Twitter and check out the website for The Best Show on WFMU, FriendsOfTom.com. And for even more fun, follow Associate Producer Mike and Tom's comedic partner Jon Wurster on Twitter.

I agree with Tom that Jon Wurster is one of the top 10 funniest people on the planet, only I'd put Tom Scharpling right next to him on that list.

1 comment:

  1. Do criminals cower in fear when they hear "chi-ku"?