By: The Occasional

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K&A: Julie Klausner Interviews Tom Scharpling

From Issue #005 of The Occasional

By now, it's a comedy legend better ascribed to the Old Testament, but for those who don't know, please explain the origins of your partnership with Jon Wurster and how Rock Rot & Rule came about?

The Old Testament? I like that. Jon and I met a long long time ago – we started talking and we hit it off immediately. We were bonding over our mutual love of Get a Life and Chris Elliott, but the big breakthrough was when we realized that we each knew about an MTV VJ named Smash, who was an older guy the network hired for a very limited window – imagine an out of work classic rock DJ with a face like a catchers mitt trying to relate to 'the kids' – and once Jon and I started talking about Smash, we knew we'd be friends.

Fast forward a few years and I am doing a music-based radio show on WFMU. I'm starting to do more talking and comedy on the air. Jon and I were talking on the phone and at the time Oprah was being sued by the beef industry for saying bad stuff about them on her show. She won the lawsuit and when she left the courtroom she said “freedom not only rules, it rocks!” Jon and I kept talking about how amazingly weird and hilarious her statement was, and then we started listing all the things that ruled and all the things that rocked. This evolved into us creating a character who wrote a book about which bands rocked and ruled, and we eventually decided to try it on my radio show. It was the first call-in Jon had ever done and it went ridiculously well for our first call.

What are your thoughts on Chris Christie Post-Hurricane Sandy?

I still wouldn't vote for him but he definitely stepped up and did right by the people of the state. He was everywhere and was giving out hugs like they were food. The guy must be a really good hugger, right? And I will say that the first time he said something nice about Obama, I knew that Romney wasn't going to win the election. Christie is a smart dude and knew that if he played nice with Obama it would show the country that he could work with someone across the aisle. Although what was he supposed to do, tell Obama to take a hike because New Jersey doesn't need any help?!

How do you prepare for the show each week? I don't think people realize how much you have to map out the show and write the scripts for those calls with Jon.

Yeah, there's a lot of writing that goes into every episode. Jon and I do a lot of writing back and forth to get the calls in shape, and that can take a few days of kicking ideas around and getting them into shape, trying to make sure there are laughs and twists and surprises in the call. We work hard to make sure we're not repeating ourselves. It's a tightrope, trying to move the narrative of a caller forward – especially a recurring character – while keeping it grounded in some fashion.

What do you love most about doing The Best Show?

I love that no matter how much preparation I do – outside of the Scharpling & Wurster calls, I do a lot of writing for the rest of the show – there are moments when I'm inside of it, just saying whatever thoughts pop into my head out loud into the microphone as I'm thinking them. When a theme or a subject sparks something and I start talking about it and mine it for laughs in front of all the listeners and when that new idea pops up, it is the greatest feeling ever.

Who is your least favorite resident of the Hate Pit currently?

Wow, that's a hard one. I think the funniest one is that I threw both Brian Wilsons in – the Beach Boys genius and the pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I can't remember why the pitcher is in there, but I know the Beach Boy is in because he isn't releasing a concept album he once proposed called Pleasure Island, which sounded like the most awesome concept ever. I think Jeff Garlin is in because he made fun of Kanye West on the Tonight Show? He can come out and Kanye can take his place!

The rest of this interview appears in the latest issue of The Occasional

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