I woke up on Tuesday morning to read the sad news that Tom Magliozzi, the co-host of National Public Radio’s Car Talk show, had died. I am sure most of the people reading this (all two of you) have never heard of Car Talk, but if you haven’t I strongly encourage you to do so. This is how the NBC news website carried the story of his death.
I first came across Car Talk completely by accident. I moved to the United States in early September 1992 to take up a lecturing position (professorship) at the University of Toledo, and about the second Saturday morning I was there I drove in a car that I had borrowed from a colleague to a department store to get some furniture for the apartment I had just started renting. The car radio was tuned into National Public Radio (NPR), and I just happened to make the drive when Car Talk was on, its regular 9-10am slot on Toledo’s NPR affiliate station.
By the time I got to the department store, about a 15 minute drive, I was in tears of laughter. I actually stayed in the car another 15-20 minutes to hear the end of the show, and I was hooked. Pretty much every Saturday for the next 9 years of my living in the US, I tuned into their show, and when I left I was pleased to discover that I could carry on listening to it via their website cartalk.com
I am not much of a car person, but the reason I became hooked to Car Talk is that Tom and his brother and co-host Ray Magliozzi (also known as “click and clack, the tappet brothers”) are incredibly funny. They are (were) natural wits, and very few of the calls they took from listeners to help them with their car problems were dealt with without some humour creeping in. Sometimes, lots of humour crept in. But, in addition to being incredibly funny, their show was also highly informative, these guys really knew their cars. I learnt a lot about cars and diagnosing problems with my cars through listening to the show.
There are so many funny calls and episodes of this programme that it is difficult for me to pick some favourites. But, over the next several months I will share some of my favourite calls on this blog. In the meantime, here is a tribute that WBUR, the Boston NPR station, put together as a celebration of Car Talk. Right towards the end of this clip is an extract from one of my favourite calls, when a woman gets advice from Tom and Ray on whether she should use a cream rinse on her hair. If you don’t find this funny, you have no sense of humour 😛