Car Talk

Car Talk is a radio talk show broadcast weekly on National Public Radio stations throughout the United States and elsewhere. Its subjects are automobiles and repair, and it often takes humorous turns. The hosts of Car Talk are brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. Their strong Boston accents are part of the humor.


Car Talk is structured as a call-in radio show: listeners call with questions related to motor vehicle maintenance and repair. Most of the advice sought is diagnostic, with callers describing symptoms and demonstrating sounds of an ailing vehicle while the Magliozzis make an attempt at identifying the malfunction. While the hosts pepper their call-in sessions with jokes directed at both the caller and at themselves, the depth and breadth of their knowledge of automobiles is extensive, and they are usually able to arrive at a diagnosis and give helpful advice. Also, if a caller has an unusual name, they will inquire about the spelling, pronunciation, and/or origin of their name. They may also comment about the caller's hometown. The Magliozzis previously took a break at approximately the half-hour mark of the show. More recently, two breaks divide the show into approximately 20-minute segments referred to as the "three halves" of the show.

Car Talk was first broadcast on WBUR in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977. It was picked up nationally by NPR ten years later. NPR reports that it is heard on more than 370 stations by an audience of more than two million weekly listeners.

In May 2007, the program, which had only previously been available digitally as a paid subscription from, became a free podcast distributed by NPR, after a two-month test period where only a "call of the week" was available via podcast. The full show quickly became the top-subscribed program within the iTunes Store's podcast directory upon its release.

The Car Talk theme song is "Dawggy Mountain Breakdown" by bluegrass artist David Grisman.

Call-in procedure

Throughout the program, listeners are encouraged to dial the toll-free telephone number, 1-888-CAR-TALK (1-888-227-8255), giving the impression that real-time calls are being taken; however, that number actually connects to a 24-hour answering service. Although the approximately 2,000 queries received each week are pre-screened by the Car Talk staff, the questions are unknown to the Magliozzis in advance as "that would entail researching the right answer, which is what? ...Work." Producers select and contact the callers several days ahead of the show's Wednesday taping to arrange the segment. The caller speaks briefly to a producer before being connected "live" with the hosts, and is given little coaching other than being told to be prepared to talk, not to use any written preparation and to "have fun." The show deliberately tapes more callers than they'll have time to air each week in order to be able to choose the best ones for broadcast. Those segments that do make it to air are generally edited for time.


The show opens with a comedy segment, followed by eight call-in sessions. They run a contest called the "Puzzler", in which a riddle, sometimes car related, is presented. The answer to the previous week's "Puzzler" is given during the "second half" of the show, and a new puzzler is given during the "third half". The hosts give instructions to listeners to write answers addressed to "Puzzler Tower" on some non-existent or expensive object, such as a 26-dollar bill or an advanced SLR digital camera. This gag initially started as having the answers "on the back of a twenty dollar bill."

A recurring feature is "Stump the Chumps", in which they revisit a caller from a previous show to determine the effect, if any, of their advice. A similar feature began in May 2001, "Where Are They Now, Tommy?" Like "Stump the Chumps", a previous caller was revisited with the difference being, as described by Tom Magliozzi, "an excuse to talk to some of the previous whack jobs we've had on the show."

Celebrities have been callers as well. Examples include Geena Davis, Morley Safer, Ashley Judd, Gordon Elliott, former Major League pitcher Bill Lee and astronaut John Grunsfeld calling from the space shuttle. There have been numerous appearances from NPR personalities, including Bob Edwards, Susan Stamberg, Scott Simon, Ray Suarez, Will Shortz, Sylvia Poggioli, and commentator and author Daniel Pinkwater. On one occasion, the show featured Martha Stewart as an in-studio guest, whom the Magliozzis twice during the segment referred to as "Margaret".


Leading into each break in the show, one of the hosts leads up to the network identification with a humorous take on a disgusted reaction of some usually famous person to hearing that identification. The full line goes along the pattern of "And even though [specific reference] whenever they hear us say it, this is NPR: National Public Radio."

Other humor exists throughout. The end credits feature a rotating list of puns and wordplay. At some point in almost every show, usually when giving the address for the Puzzler answers, one brother will mention Cambridge, Massachusetts (where the show originates) at which point the other brother reverently interjects "our fair city." At the end of the show, Ray warns the audience, "Don't drive like my brother," to which Tom replies, "And don't drive like my brother." There have been variations—such as, "Don't drive like my sister,"..."And don't drive like my sister" (a reference to their sister Joan). The tagline was heard in a cameo for the Pixar film Cars, in which Tom and Ray voiced anthropomorphized vehicles (Rusty and Dusty Rust-Eze, a 1963 Dodge Dart V1.0 and a 1963 Dodge A100 van respectively) with personalities similar to their own on-air personae. Tom notoriously once owned a green Dodge Dart, known as the "Dartre".


The Magliozzis are long-time car mechanics. Ray Magliozzi has a degree in general science from MIT, while Tom has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from MIT and an MBA and DBA from the Boston University Graduate School of Management.

The duo, usually led by Ray, are known for rants on the evils of the internal combustion engine, people who talk on cell phones while driving, Peugeots, women named Donna who always seem to drive Camaros, the clever use of the English language, and practically anything else, including themselves. They have a laid-back humorous approach to cars, car repair, cup holders, pets, lawyers, car repair mechanics, SUVs, and almost everything else. They often cast a critical, jaundiced insider's eye toward the auto industry. Tom and Ray are committed to the values of defensive driving and environmentalism; Tom does not own a car and Ray's car is over 20 years old. In the late 1990s they pioneered an effort to rid the world of French pronunciations of words, intentionally pronouncing many words phonetically such as "Chev-ro-let" for Chevrolet.

The Magliozzis operate the Good News Garage in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just a few blocks north of the MIT campus. The show's offices are located nearby at the corner of JFK Street and Brattle Street in Harvard Square, marked as "Dewey, Cheetham & Howe", the imaginary law firm they reference on-air. DC&H doubles as the business name of Tappet Brothers Associates, the corporation established to manage the business end of Car Talk. Initially a joke, the company was incorporated after the show expanded from a single station to national syndication.

The two were commencement speakers at MIT in 1999.

Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns

On July 11, 2007, PBS announced that it had greenlit an animated adaptation of Car Talk, to air on prime-time in the summer of 2008. The show is entitled Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns, and is based on the adventures of the fictional "Click and Clack" brothers' garage at "Car Talk Plaza". The first episode aired on July 9, 2008.

References in Popular Culture

On the HBO show, The Sopranos, in the 3rd season episode, The Telltale Mozzadell, Tony Soprano is listening to a Sunday morning episode of Car Talk while eating breakfast as Meadow Soprano is shown entering the kitchen.


External links

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