Wasting One Last Perfectly Good Hour: The End of ‘Car Talk’ on NPR

Car Talk end
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

Last weekend marked the end of an era, as Car Talk ended its 30 year run on NPR.  Apparently it will continue as a podcast at the Car Talk website, which honestly was how I’ve been consuming it recently.

A few years back, I had to run a particular errand on Saturday mornings, and my area’s barren radio landscape led me to NPR, for the luvvapete.  I’d heard some NPR stuff here and there, and heard of Car Talk, but never gotten around to listening before that point.  But I kept catching the show, and then I started planning my weekends around airings of the show, and then I realized I could listen to the show on their website.  Which is what I started doing in the last few months.

I also listened to some of the Car Talk CDs they’d put out over the years, as the local library has some on the shelves.  So a lot of the clips on the show in recent years were ones I’d heard on those CDs.

That’s because a few years ago, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (aka Tom and Ray Magliozzi) retired, and the shows were made up of very well edited clips of old shows.  It’s pretty amazing how well they mixed the shows together.

Sadly, Tom died almost 3 years ago, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.  However, that led to one of the funniest things I’ve read.  A running gag on the show was when the puzzler from the week before was introduced prior to giving its solution, and Ray would always ask Tom if he remembered the puzzler, and Tom would unerringly not remember.  In the obituary, Ray mentioned what Tom died from, and said something to the effect of “I guess he wasn’t kidding when he said he couldn’t remember the puzzler ever”.  I laughed my ass off!

The puzzlers were fun, usually interesting, sometimes something I couldn’t figure out, but occasionally I could.  This final episode included a few fun puzzler bits, like the mango tree puzzler where Ray declared (and after it was shown to not be true, was replayed often with echoey effects) that “you can’t do it unless the number is 2”.  There was also the classic bit about a puzzler that Ray claimed was from the late Martin Gardner, which…well, there was a great retort from a caller there.

Tom would also enjoy reading silly mail or things he found, like the Onion piece about the vowel drop to Bosnia, or the story about the guy who attached balloons to his lawn chair and floated around for awhile.

The end credits were fun, too, as they were filled with punny names, like divorce lawyer Carmine Notyours, or the New Delhi weatherman Luke Outavindo, or the banker at the Car Talk poker games, Nikolai Putin.

Car Talk is about cars, but it’s also about brothers, dumb jokes, having the callers make the noises their cars are making, silly puzzles…basically, the show is a sort of humor comfort food.  It’s been such an integral part of NPR for years as well, so this is the end of an era.  I’m going to miss it, but then again, I actually won’t, since they’ll still be on new podcasts and still available on CDs and cassettes.  Heck, they even had their own cartoon show for awhile!

So don’t drive like my brother!

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One Comment

  1. Alaric

    I used to listen to Car Talk pretty often. Always a lot of fun. (And, as someone who was born in and lived in New York City for most of my life, I don’t even drive- which makes things a little difficult for me, now that I live in northwestern Massachusetts…)

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