8 Things We Learned From NPR’s “Car Talk”

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook...

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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They’ve given us a lifetime of laughs, but they’re hanging up their microphones this fall. NPR’s Car Talk has been on the air for more than three decades, and brothers Click and Clack (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) have delivered consistent entertainment and worthwhile automobile education. According to the show’s official blog, the automotive gurus will retire the show in October, and it’s time to celebrate their long legacy. Here are eight great things we’ve learned from NPR’s Car Talk.

  1. (Know Your Stuff, But) Make ‘Em Laugh

    The formula for Car Talk is simple, brilliant: lots of jokes plus a bit of spot-on car advice plus more jokes. They’re on the air because they’re funny, but Click and Clack also possess an astounding collective genius about cars. If you need a business lesson, follow Click and Clack: be an expert at something, and be funny. You’ll be invaluable in the workplace — simple as that. If you know your stuff, enjoy the luxury of keeping it light. Life’s really short; there’s no need to be routinely serious.

  2. You Shouldn’t Listen To Your Dad

    Seriously. Tom and Ray Magliozzi have an entire audio CD called Car Talk: Why You Should Never Listen To Your Father When It Comes To Cars. You can buy it on Amazon here. Bonus: if you scroll down the page a little, you’ll learn that they have lots of other CDs available, too. Not to mention those impossibly unfortunate (read: mind-blowing) celebrity endorsements, like Gene Shalit and Jane Curtin.

  3. Classic is Cross-Platform

    Don’t want to listen to Car Talk on the radio? You can download it through iTunes. Don’t want to listen to anything? Read their blog instead. On the radio show’s website, there are episode guides, a “Classics” series, and a simple user interface that’s as fun and inviting as Click and Clack themselves. The sign of a classic is seamless modernization, and Car Talk coolly takes on new forms of media while retaining its original character. You can send an e-card, or you can even buy a t-shirt. Car Talk‘s classic brand means fun in many forms.

  4. Public Radio is A Vital Hipster Part of American Culture

    And you should give them your money. NPR is cool, and not just because it’s hip these days (think: Ira Glass’ cult following of erudite quarter-lifes). It’s smart, entertaining, good-natured, and consistently kind of awkward and boring. And you should give them your money. People that don’t donate to NPR are the same people that don’t “get” PBS. And, if we’re keeping score here, people that don’t like PBS are the heartless mass that want to de-fund Sesame Street. You can’t save Car Talk, but keep public radio alive.

  5. There Are Some Really Good People In This World

    Good news, everyone: altruism isn’t dead! Car Talk has a Vehicle Donation Program, where loyal listeners donate their old vehicles to support public radio. For example, Maria DeLucia Evans of Albany, N.Y., was interviewed by Click and Clack after donating her old Honda Civic for the benefit of her local NPR station. Her interview is downright adorable. Mostly she talks about her sweet country house and how NPR’s riveting programming schedule has caused small, cute arguments with her husband. Maybe Car Talk brings out the best in people, but there are some veritable saints out there — and they all listen (and donate) to NPR.

  6. It’s All In The Family

    Click and Clack are the definition of bromance, but they’re also actually brothers. And let it be a lesson we don’t hear often enough: family and business can mix with positive results. The Magliozzi brothers have worked together for their entire lives, and their love of cars and cracking jokes isn’t the only thing they have in common. The siblings speak openly on the air about what annoys and endears them to each other. It’s nice to know the pair are their most authentic selves, with each other and their listeners.

  7. Safety First, Then Teamwork

    While they don’t advocate wearing a helmet while driving, the Car Talk guys do want you to be safe on the road. Automotive education (also, comedy) is the entire premise of their show. If you take away one lesson from Car Talk, it should be this: the road is long, so drive safe.

  8. Quit When You’re Ahead

    Car Talk has never been a lemon; loyal listeners know that the quality is both high and consistent. The brothers Magliozzi are smart to retire on top. They’ll be legends of radio, champions of public betterment, and have their golden years to enjoy getting a bunch of honorary lifetime achievement awards. Well played, gentlemen.

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