The creator of The Best Show—a long-running music and comedy call-in show that transformed from radio to podcast—looks back on a storied career that began with teenage mental-health struggles and zig-zagged from writing for New York punk zines to auditioning for The New Monkees to gigs in television and directing music videos.
Scharpling is a natural storyteller, with an eye for absurd minutiae, and he brings those talents to bear in the written word just as easily as he does on the radio ... Sincere revelations about the host and writer’s lifelong struggles with depression, suicidal impulses, and the harsh psychiatric treatments he endured in his teenage years all appear ... Scharpling’s nervousness in opening up about these experiences is both palpable and endearing, as he writes honestly about many of the hardest chapters of his life with bracing clarity. If there’s a downside to this rigorous self-examination, it’s that Scharpling’s understandable discomfort with the subject matter—and the sense that he’s trying to work out, on the page, all that has happened to him during his darkest days—also impose a degree of distance on his naturally wry voice. The wit never recedes fully, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that those chapters are for their author first, and the person holding the book second. The paradox, then, is that it sometimes feels like the reader learns more about Tom Scharpling from a chapter in which he recounts his obsession with a Wizard Of Oz arcade machine on the Jersey Shore than from meditations on his mental health. Not because Scharpling’s writing on the heavier stuff isn’t compelling, but because the way he embraces the goofy workings of the coin-pusher game provides such a clear window into the parts of his mind that bring him joy. The Best Show has always been a program predicated on dumb, delightful play, and it’s in the embrace of that spirit—and the showing, not telling—that Scharpling’s memoir really shines.
... even for fans who have clocked hundreds of hours listening, his new memoir, It Never Ends, reveals someone nobody could’ve known from his shows ... It Never Ends weaves together two different kinds of books. One is the writing you’d expect given The Best Show’s brazen steamroller of chumps ... The other side of It Never Ends is Scharpling’s heartbreaking origin story, and a chapter titled 'It All Falls Apart' is as raw and vulnerable as he has ever been ... The book’s darkness and jokes work hand in hand ... There’s a natural discomfort that comes with writing about things you’ve bottled for decades, and Scharpling could easily use comedy as a defense mechanism. But whenever he detours by busting his own chops, he never flinches away from the deeper truth. There are sad, borderline uncomfortable stretches, and each laugh that follows a harrowing detail is a reminder of exactly whose memoir this is ... Early on in It Never Ends, Scharpling promises that the book will make you laugh, cry, and then root for him because he’s the underdog. The first two things are undeniable, and while that last part is played as a joke—he compares himself to Rudy and Seabiscuit—he’s also not wrong. When Scharpling writes about his resilience and work ethic, it’s legitimately inspiring.
It’s an exploration of a troubled past rendered with self-deprecating frankness, walking us along the path that brought him to his current place. There’s an earnestness to it all, despite the constant self-awareness—an unwavering honesty, even in the face of clear misgivings about sharing these stories in their entirety. Oh, and it is also wildly funny. At the drop of a hat, Scharpling can pivot from a heartfelt expression of vulnerability to a weird and hilarious aside. It’s a book that keeps the reader constantly off-balance, much like Scharpling’s comedy; ordinarily, that isn’t an ideal way to construct a book, particularly a memoir, but here, it’s the perfect choice ... There’s a nakedness to it, a leap-before-looking energy wherein it seems that he almost can’t believe he’s telling us all of this even as he’s telling us all of this ... It Never Ends does eventually end, but it’s the kind of book where you almost wish it didn’t.