Tom Magliozzi, irrepressible co-host with his brother Ray of the highly entertaining call-in radio program Car Talk, has died at the age of 77 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
I was a big fan of the show because the two brothers were so funny in their spontaneity. The show was a live call-in show so there was little room for scripting except for a few segments but they were able to wring plenty of humor out of car repairs, not to mention also enjoying being relationship counselors. The show was often really silly but gentle in its humor and poked fun mostly at themselves. You had the sense that this was how they were in real life.
I actually learned some things about cars too that came in useful at times, such as what to do if the engine temperature indicator veers dangerously close to the red zone. If you turn up the heat to the maximum setting and turn on the blower full blast, you can temporarily lower the temperature until you can get the car to the repair shop. I would never have thought to do this on my own, though once you think about how the heating system works, it makes perfect sense. My wife called one day from the side of the road saying that the engine was overheating and wondering what to do. I gave her the advice and she was highly dubious (I don’t have the greatest reputation for knowing anything useful) but she tried it and it worked.
I first heard the two brothers when they had a short regular five-minute segment on Weekend Edition Sunday beginning in 1987 that preceded them being spun off to their own one-hour show. Susan Stamberg, who was the host of that show, has an appreciation of him.
NPR will be having a special show this week to reminisce about him. Given their history, it is unlikely to be a very sentimental affair and focus more on giving us a last hearing of his infectious laugh.