Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Consumption: The Best Show on WFMU

"Hello, this is John Hodgman, here to collect your pledge."

It's disarming to hear such a distinctly familiar voice as I heard last night. I called WFMU to pledge to The Best Show, which I started listening to a couple years ago via the iTunes podcast. Since hearing just a couple of the surrealistic, long-form skits that Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster put together, (I recommend the 6/29/09 Planet GG or the 8/9/10 Big Bill & Little Bill segments from this page as entry points) I've been hooked.

I had originally planned on pledging $75, to earn the Best Show prize pack, the crown jewel of which is a 7" of GG Allin covers, cleaned up of all explicit lyrics by The Mountain Goats, Ben Gibbard, Ted Leo, and others. But earlier in the day I told Tom that I'd instead offer $1 for each new Twitter follower I gained throughout the day.  Thanks to his re-tweeting, I had 91 new followers by the time the show rolled around.   By happenstance, my phone call routed to John Hodgman's station, and after a few minutes of pleasant conversation and address gathering, the following scene played out:

TC: "I told Tom I'd give a dollar for each Twitter follower I gained during the day, so I'm pledging $91."
JH: "So are you saying that if I follow you right now, you'll up that pledge to $92?"
TC: "Well...sure."
JH: "Tom I have an idea. I'm completely willing to accept your pledge right now. But what if I were to tweet your handle out and ask you to call back in a half-hour with an updated number would you do that?"
TC: "Sure, I'd do that."
JH: "Now, are you SURE? Because it could end up being a VERY big number."
TC: "That's fine. Let's do it."
JH: "Very well. I'm going to tweet this out right now. Call back in a half-hour, and if somebody else answers, tell them you need to speak to me."

True enough, this happened shortly after:

And in turn, within SECONDS, my inbox looked like this:  (Click to enlarge and note that all occurred at exactly the same time.)

It goes without saying that I immediately realized the stunt had gotten wildly out of hand.  The power of Hodgman to inspire his followers is like nothing I could have imagined. They just kept coming.  Hundreds upon hundreds.  Some made vague threats!  Some said things in Spanish! Some brought up Edward James Olmos!  I literally counted the seconds until 9pm so I could call back and end the madness.  By coincidence John answered again.

TC: "It got a little out of hand."
JH: "Hold on.  Right after we talked I followed you and I wrote down that you were at 423, and that counted 92 new followers from the day.  Where does it stand now?"
TC: "786."
JH: "HA!  I told you it might get out of control!"
TC: "You were correct.  They won't stop either!"

As our chat continued, he told me he felt bad and wanted to negotiate a fair pledge amount, while not holding me to the strict numbers of the deal.  He then told me that he would match my amount and give the same, as he did on-air shortly afterwards.  Here's the clip, wherein Scharpling starts by chiding Hodgman for outing celebrity pledger Jason Woliner, and ends with Tom calling Hodgman "the devil" for tricking me into his plan.

Long live The Best Show on WFMU!