Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Laughing out loud: Remembering Tom Magliozzi

Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers / For 25 years, brothers
Ray and Tom Magliozzi hosted NPR's Car Talk together.

During a 1999 commencement speech to the graduates of M.I.T., Ray Magliozzi, the longtime co-host of NPR's Car Talk with his older brother Tom, shared this bit of wisdom and advice: "I just want to encourage you to never get so involved in your work, whatever it is, that you forget to have fun."

What great advice that each of us should heed, no matter our age. Simply, have fun.

At the same M.I.T. commencement, Tom Magliozzi shared his research that he claimed provided evidence that “being unencumbered by the thought process” leads to greater happiness.

Each week for 25 years, through some 1,200 hour-long episodes each beginning with mandolinist David Grisman's bluegrassy theme song, "Dawggy Mountain Breakdown," Tom and Ray Magliozzi (pronounced mal-YOT-zee) shared not only their happiness, but also a lovable crankiness, plenty of good self-deprecating humor and a whole lot of uncontrollable laughter with their nationwide NPR (National Public Radio) audience that numbered in the millions here in the United States.

Come Saturday morning, we turned on our radios religiously and were treated to a good soul cleansing. 

While the premise of their radio show, Car Talk, was about cars and mechanical repairs, the warmth and humor exuded by Tom and Ray -- not to mention their expert advice about the importance of cars and an appreciation of life -- was timeless and enduring. 

"Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers" as the personable Magliozzi brothers were nicknamed, became like family to us and we trusted them and they welcomed us into their "home" via the radio each week for an enjoyable hour of banter and good jokes. From it all came a lot of memorable one-liners like their signature "Don't drive like my brother," spoken by each at the end of each Car Talk show in a distinguishable Boston accent. The affectionate Magliozzi brothers grew up in a large Italian family in East Cambridge, Mass., and both graduated from M.I.T.

Tom Magliozzi / Enjoying a
good laugh.
On November 3, Tom Magliozzi, 77, passed away from complications from Alzheimer's disease. He died at his home outside Boston.

In a letter to public radio listeners of Car Talk, Ray Magliozzi wrote of his brother: "We can be happy that he lived the life he wanted to live; goofing off a lot, talking to you guys every week, and primarily, laughing his ass off."

Although Tom and Ray (who is 12 years younger) stopped making original episodes of Car Talk in 2012, we are fortunate to have "classic" episodes of Car Talk we can listen to each weekend via NPR and through podcasts, too. The show and its infectious laughter lives on. 

In a remembrance of Tom Magliozzi that aired on NPR's All Things Considered last weekCar Talk's executive producer, Doug Berman, said that when it came to cars, the brothers really did know what they were talking about. Yet, it's not why people listened to the show. "I think it has very little to do with cars," said Berman. "It's the guys' personalities. And Tom especially -- really a genius. With a great, facile mind. And he's mischievous. He likes to prod people into honesty."

Magliozzi's NPR colleague, Peter Sagal, host of NPR's weekly news quiz Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!, writing for Time, said that laughter "was Tom's great gift. All that raucous, distinctive laughter -- who knew you could laugh with a Boston accent? -- was genuine. Whether he was laughing at his brother or a caller with a car problem or his own silly jokes, his pleasure was too immense to be kept private. Everybody knows that Car Talk wasn't about cars. It was about Tommy Magliozzi and his little brother Ray, as they continued their life-long refusal to take each other, themselves, or anything else seriously. And by sheer force of will the self-regarding gray edifice known as public radio eventually did the same."

Sagal added: "Tom was opinionated, passionate, and occasionally profane, but very much the man he seemed to be on the air. He leaves behind his brother and a large family, but also millions of listeners he convinced -- if only for an hour a week -- to just relax and enjoy themselves as much as he did."

While we all share in the sadness of Tom Magliozzi's passing, just like we do when there's a death in our own family, one thing's certain: While he was alive, standing tall, bearded and friendly, Ray's big brother never forgot to have fun.

We should all be so fortunate. 

God rest ye merry gentleman, Tom Magliozzi.

Photos: Ray and Tom Magliozzi, together, courtesy of Google images; Tom Magliozzi, courtesy of Car Talk Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment