Dave Hill is the 'Best' Successor

Tom Scharpling's long-running program, "The Best Show on WFMU," had its name for a reason. Until its final broadcast last month, it was the Jersey City-based station's most popular—a fact that isn't lost on its successor.

" 'The Best Show' is an institution with hard-core fans, and I'm among them," said the comedian Dave Hill. "Part of me doesn't want to be that guy that comes in and replaces everyone's favorite thing."

He paused for a moment, then added, "but Tuesday, Jan. 7, mark my words, I'm showing up with guns blazing."

It was Mr. Hill's natural humor, equal parts self-effacement and sarcastic bravado, that helped him snag the coveted weekly block on WFMU, which broadcasts locally at 91.1 FM and streams online. "The God— Dave Hill Show" begins this week.

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"Dave was one of the first people I thought of when I started thinking of who to take over Tom's slot," WFMU's station manager Ken Freedman said. "He's very inventive and affable, and I can't wait to see where he takes the show."

Mr. Hill, who appeared once as one of Mr. Scharpling's guests on "The Best Show" is a comedian of many routines, from stand-up to stints on "This American Life" in which his particular stylings often involve lengthy recounts of personal events.

Even if the account itself doesn't immediately trigger laughter, his ability to observe the smaller, funnier details and dispense them with wit has become his trademark.

His 2012 book of autobiographical essays, "Tasteful Nudes," shed light on his formative years in Cleveland, pratfalls of young adulthood, the time he covered a nudists' cruise as a news correspondent (and joined them in baring all), as well as more typically serious subject matter, such as coping with depression.

Though Mr. Hill's WFMU residency is the comedian's first foray into live radio, his current podcast, the aptly named "Dave Hill's Podcasting Incident," as well as "The Dave Hill Explosion," a variety/talk-show mashup performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, gave him opportunities to show off his impromptu conversational skills.

Guests have ranged from musicians and fellow comedians to taxidermists, fashion models and the talk-show host Dick Cavett, who has said that Mr. Hill's comedy seems to "proceed from an enviable serenity."

"No matter the medium, Dave wins people over," said Shaina Feinberg, a comedian who frequently collaborates with Mr. Hill on his podcast. She recalled his unlikely win at a midnight rap contest at the UCB Theatre as a particularly telling moment.

"He wasn't trying super-hard to win, but he was 100% present and interacting with the crowd. The audience wound up loving him. Whether it's live or on the air, you feel like you personally made a connection with him."

Tuesday's inaugural broadcast will feature guests Jon Benjamin of the Comedy Central television series "Jon Benjamin Has a Van," and the musician Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices, with a call-in from Phil Anselmo from the band Pantera. "I'm planning, but I'm also excited to let the show develop on its own," said Mr. Hill.

As far as its resemblance to "The Best Show," there will likely be some musical overlap. "Tom and I actually have pretty similar taste in music: '60s and '70s English rock, and American indie rock and all that. But I'm not trying to replicate his show," Mr. Hill said.

Listeners may hear the occasional live performance, Mr. Freedman said, even by Mr. Hill himself. In addition to his comedic pursuits, Mr. Hill is the lead singer and a guitarist in the band Valley Lodge.

Like all of WFMU's shows, his will be an unpaid gig, something Mr. Scharpling cited publicly as a reason for his departure. "It's hard to do something that's more or less a full-time job for free. I've done it for as long as I can do it," he said during a "Best Show" broadcast. "I can't sustain my life and this show and the commitment it takes to do it right." He declined to comment further.

For his part, Mr. Hill isn't concerned about payment, he said.

"I'm excited to have fun, hopefully entertain people, and have a reason to leave the house on Tuesday nights," he said.

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