Car Talk Gets a Big Send-Off

car talkPhoto by Mary Flatley of Liz Linder Photography

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack, the Car Talk guys, were feted on Monday night at the Sheraton hotel for WBUR’s annual fundraiser. The brothers, who have hosted their beloved show on BUR for the past 35 years (25 of which have been nationally syndicated by NPR) are retiring this month, so the NPR heavyweights came out to toast and roast the pair. The brothers arrived on a golf cart and heckled the speakers, pretty much exactly as you’d expect them to.

Before they came along, it was difficult to discern NPR humor. “It was a little bit like a rodeo clown getting hit with a quiche in face,” said Weekend Edition Saturday’s Scott Simon, who admitted that he does not have a drivers license, but once tried to learn the rules of the road with the brothers.

“Years ago they gave me driving lessons. Learning how to drive on the streets of Boston is like learning to play piano wearing oven mitts,” Simon recalled. “At one point, Ray asks me, ‘Do you wear glasses?'” (Here you must imagine Simon doing his best Boston accent.) He replied that he wore contacts. “And Ray says, ‘I would take them out. Because seeing things will only make you nervous.'” Simon says he never mastered driving, in part because “being taught how to drive from Tom and Ray is like being taught zen meditation from Ari and Rahm Emanuel.”

Robert Seigel of All Things Considered shared how he first recruited the brothers to fill a segment of Weekend Edition in the mid-80s after learning how popular their local program had become in Boston. “These two guys were something that I have never heard on NPR,” he said. “They were actually funny.” Before them, the general rule of thumb at the stations, he said, was “if you get the staff laughing, it probably violated one of our rules about taste or something and we wouldn’t put it on the air.”

Then Siegel took a serious turn (that is what he does best) and gave the brothers a heartfelt sendoff. “For all the shows I’ve heard in my life, when people write or call in to talk about sports or opera, on those shows the callers are just a device to talk about sports or opera. These guys, the cars are just a device to hear from the people talking. The program has been about life all this time, and I love the life they describe.”

He then added: “The most wonderful moments in my life are the weeks when me and my kids hear them say, “And even though Robert Siegel wishes he went to dental school every time we say it, This is NPR.”

After the roast, the brothers were uncharacteristically quiet, only taking the microphone for a few seconds to say thanks before snapping photos with fans. But the night was a success: between a silent auction and WBUR’s Morning Edition host’s Bob Oakes impressive auctioneering skills, the public radio station took in more than $550,000.