Jon Wurster and Tom Scharpling have known each other for almost 23 years. Credit: Rob Hatch-Miller

To help celebrate the return of The Best Show, the Reader asked Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster to revisit their first collaboration, the famous “Rock, Rot & Rule” sketch, which predated the show by several years—and still stands as one of the great moments in the history of trolling. Wurster played fictional blowhard Ronald Thomas Clontle, whose opinions on music—who rocks, who rots, and who rules, according to his own impenetrable criteria—were engineered to confuse or enrage hapless listeners. A 1997 recording of Scharpling’s bogus promotional interview with Clontle (who was pushing an equally fictional book called Rock, Rot & Rule: The Ultimate Argument Settler) is available on LP from Flannelgraph Records as well as via your local iTunes. Scharpling and Wurster were kind enough to channel Clontle again in order to weigh in on a revised list of artists:

Billy Joel: Rule

He fixed what didn’t work with the music of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, plus he has come the closest to making a piano fit in rock music.

Kiss: Rot

Too many songs where one of the superheroes of Kiss is worried that his girlfriend might leave him.

GG Allin: Rule

He made it acceptable for all musicians to treat the stage as their personal restroom.

Wilco: Rock

Sometimes when the jazz guy is shooting a toy gun into his guitar I don’t know what’s happening.

CoCoComa: Rot

What is with all these bands named after chocolate-related illnesses?

Bad Company: Rock

They were the first English band to become honorary Native Americans.

Eleventh Dream Day: Rule

Any band that at one time had a member named Baird Figi achieves automatic rulership as far as I’m concerned.

Sam Smith: Rock

I enjoy his hair and he has a name that sounds like a character Elvis would have played in any one of his movies.

Sleater-Kinney: Rock

The TV one often looks like she’s doing karate when she’s doing music.

Syl Johnson: Rule

The most irritable of all the Wu-Tang Clan members.

Cheap Trick: Rock

The older nerd in the band plays a guitar that looks like it’s him.

Madness: Rule

They invented ska.


No idea if this is a band or the great-grandson of some famous gynecologist I’m supposed to have heard of.

Arcade Fire: Rot

I saw them live last year and it felt like everybody was yelling at me.

Jay Z: Rock

He would rule but I caught a whiff of a really smelly restaurant Dumpster the first time I heard “Empire State of Mind” and I can’t not think of it whenever I hear his music.

The Grateful Dead: Rule

They invented pot.

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