R.I.P. Tom Magliozzi, 1937-2014

Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014)

Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014)

Car Talk will be on KUAC this morning at 9:00 AM, but it won’t be the same. It will never be the same. WC expects Ray Magliozzi, the co-host of Car Talk, will make some kind of statement; the show itself has been in re-runs since 2012. And that’ll be great. But it will never be the same.

Because Tom Magliozzi, the wise-cracking co-host, Ray’s older brother, died earlier this week. That booming laugh, the laugh that never failed to make WC smile, is lost forever.

A lot of the jokes and banter on NPR’s Car Talk were silly or lame, but Tom Magliozzi’s laughter was so infectious, so endlessly delighted and delightful, that you couldn’t help but laugh, too.

The two brothers, Tom and Ray, a/k/a Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, forever changed public radio. Their radio show, Car Talk,  knocked the stuffing out of what had been a pretty stuffy public radio venue. They closed each show by telling listeners that even though management at National Public Radio cringed each time they heard it, this was NPR.

Even with 4 million Car Talk listeners, the outpouring of love and affection for Tom on his death last week is really remarkable. There are extended obituaries in Time, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and countless other places. And while each writer had his or her own favorite bits from the show, what they all remember most from Tom Magliozzi was the laugh.

Their weekly radio show was nominally about advice in fixing car problems. And it’s true some people calling in to the show had questions about cars and car repairs. But they never would have gained 4 million listeners talking about internal combustion engines. It was their self-deprecating sense of humor, their obvious affection for each other and their laughter that sustained the audience.

Tom died from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. “Turns out he wasn’t kidding,” said Ray. “He really couldn’t remember last week’s puzzler.” Tom and Ray have been in syndication since 2012, and perhaps we now have a better understanding of why. It’s painful to think of that quick wit, the wonderful banter, lost to the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

While Tom and Ray played the dumb mechanics, and their voices reflected their Boston-Italian heritage, Tom had a PhD and Ray a Masters from M.I.T. They were also bona fide auto mechanics.

WC Car Talk expects will continue in syndication. Car Talk‘s producer “benevolent overlord Doug Berman,” reports that Ray thinks the best possible tribute to Tom is to continue the show as long as people want to listen to it. That would be nice. But it will never be the same.

One of Tom’s tag lines was, “I like to drive with the windows open. I mean, before you know it, you’re going to spend plenty of time sealed up in a box anyway, right?” Too soon, Tom, far too soon. WC will miss you.