The Difference Between a Chump and a Champ is U!

Thanks to the graciousness of host Tom Scharpling, I was able to visit the WFMU studios in beautiful downtown Jersey City during the second Best Show marathon program this Tuesday. To say this was a thrill would be a vast understatement. To say that it made me one with the cosmos and eternity itself…that’s probably an overstatement. So let’s say the experience was somewhere in the middle.

It was amazing to see the sheer amount of work that goes into the marathon, from all of the Phone Slaves taking pledges to wrangling all the premiums to feeding the assembled host (which was amazingly done by WFMU’s own Terre T, one of the coolest people in existence). It felt a lot like being backstage at a Broadway production or a live TV show circa 1957, with folks coming and going at breakneck speed in confined quarters to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible. Except that not a single person involved received a dime for their work. It was all, literally, a labor of love.

And as if witnessing The Best Show raise an unbelievable $80K+ for WFMU wasn’t enough, I got to see funnymen Patton Oswalt and John Hodgman lend their talents to the cause. I also captured some of these moments on video, thanks to my lil’ iPod. The picture quality is not stellar, but the audio is pretty good, and their historic import compels me to share them with you. (You can hear the actual show here.)

In this first clip, Patton Oswalt riffs with Tom about the middle aged “teens” featured in Grease, and theorizes about how PBS pledge drives could be improved with unbridled rage. You’ll also see the hustle and bustle of the phone room, as volunteer operators take pledges and folks run in and out on missions of vital importance. If you listen closely, you can hear John Hodgman (who was standing just behind me) answer a question about the current alive-ness of Sid Caesar.

In this clip, Mr. Hodgman battles Patton in a Sci-Fi Trivia Contest (aka Nerd-Off), with questions supplied by Tom’s co-host for the evening, Therese. At the end of this video, they answer a Dr. Who-related question in unison, which causes me (and much of the rest of the room) to lose it and blow out my poor, tiny iPod mic. You can also see Best Show producer AP mic snapping a few pics and knocking back a well-earned brewski.

Once The Best Show triumphantly passed the $80,000 mark, Tom closed out the show with an all star performance of Donovan’s “Atlantis”. Patton Oswalt and John Hodgman alternated on the spoken word intro, as FOT Ramsey (quality caller!) provided guitar accompaniment. As Evan “Funk” Davies (another awesome WFMU DJ who I got to meet for the first time) provided the beat, and a whole room of DJs and FOTs sang the stirring chorus. In this video, you sadly cannot hear Patton’s Goodfellas-inspired ad libbing. Almost as sadly, you can hear my harmonizing. All I can say is, I was caught up in the moment. Anyone not made of stone would’ve been, too.

I also have some stilled photography, if you’re into that sort of thing. These were taken with a cell phone so, again, apologies for the quality. Here’s a long distance pic of Tom just as the show began, imploring folks to call in and pledge to cause.

tom_instudio.jpgHere’s Tom (now wearing full chef regalia), John Hodgman, Patton Oswalt, and Terre T planning some future hilarity mid-show.


In this pic, Patton Oswalt prepares to bring the magic, as the phone room rages around him.

patton_studio.jpgHere, Patton and John Hodgman prepare to do battle in the Sci-Fi Trivia Battle.

john_patton_nerdoff.jpgEven after the show, the job of Chump Steamrolling was not done. Here, Patton and John sign a few items for some lucky pledgers.

patton_john_terre_postshow.jpgWhile The Best Show’s pledge performance was record breaking, WFMU still needs your help. If you haven’t pledge, use that widget thingy on your right and get pledgin’. If you’ve already pledged, maybe pledge again? Every little bit helps steamroll another chump.