NPR Car Talk’s Tom Magliozzi dies at the age of 77

Car Talk Tom Magliozzi died at 77

The world just became a lot less joyful of a place as Tom Magliozzi, Car Talk‘s older “Click and Clack” Tappet brother with the raucous and infectious laugh, has died at the age of 77.

According to his younger brother, and other half of the Tappet brothers, Ray Magliozzi, Tom died Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Here is Ray’s full statement:

It’s with great sadness that I have to report the passing of your longtime radio companion and my older brother, Tom, who died this week from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. 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.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the guest book, which we will share with Tom’s family and friends, and all of our listeners. In lieu of flowers, or rotten fish, I know my brother would prefer that folks make a donation to their favorite public radio station in his memory.

Many thanks,
Ray Magliozzi

Here is Tom Magliozzi’s obituary as posted on

Click and Clack The Tappet Brothers Car Talk

Tom Magliozzi who, along with his brother Ray (seen together in the photo above), hosted NPR’s hit comedy show Car Talk for the last 37 years, died Monday morning from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. “Turns out he wasn’t kidding,” said Ray. “He really couldn’t remember last week’s puzzler.”

Tom Magliozzi was born June 28, 1937, in an East Cambridge, Massachusetts neighborhood filled with other Italian immigrant families. It was there that he and his younger brother Ray picked up the uniquely Boston-Italian style of expressing affection through friendly insults and teasing. That style was at the heart of their banter with each other, and their listeners, on the radio show that made them beloved guests in millions of homes every Saturday morning.

Tom was the first in his family to attend college, enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in Chemical Engineering. He applied that degree to research and consulting jobs until, in his late 20s, he was making his tedious 45-minute commute in traffic one morning, had a near miss with another car, and had a revelation that he was wasting his life. Upon arriving at work, he walked into his boss’ office and quit on the spot. He hated putting on a suit and working in the 9-to-5 world.

“He actually hated working in any world,” says his brother Ray. “Later on, when we were doing Car Talk, he would come in late and leave early. We used to warn him that if he left work any earlier, he’d pass himself coming in.”

As Tom once described his own attitude to his listeners, “Don’t be afraid of work. Make work afraid of you. I did such a fabulous job of making work afraid of me that it has avoided me my whole life so far.”

After a period spent happily as a Harvard Square bum, a house painter, an inventor, a successful Ph.D. student, and an auto mechanic, Car Talk became his focus, and Tom spent the rest of his working life doing what he was born to do. “Making friends, philosophizing, thinking out loud, solving people’s problems, and laughing his butt off,” says Ray.

The radio show began as a fluke. Someone from Boston’s local public radio station, WBUR, booked an on-air panel of six car mechanics from the area. Tom was the only one who showed up. “I was a panel of one,” he later said. He was impressive enough to be asked back the following week, when he brought along his fellow mechanic and kid brother, Ray, and Car Talk was born.

Over the 10 years the brothers did the show locally, on a volunteer basis, they slowly injected more and more humor and off-topic diversions into their discussions of carburetors and wheel bearings—following their natural curiosity and pushing the limits for what was then a typically decorous public radio station. “Since we weren’t making any money, we figured we might as well have fun,” said Tom.

Car Talk brothers

The brothers’ unique combination of hilarious, self-deprecating banter and trustworthy advice was picked up by NPR in 1987, and Car Talk soon became the network’s most popular entertainment program ever, reaching audiences of more than four-million people a week. The program has continued to be a top-rated show on NPR stations in syndication, even after the guys stopped recording new shows in 2012.

Along with the solid car advice he dispensed on the radio show with his brother, Tom often took on the additional roles of philosopher king, life advisor, moral scold, and family counselor.

“He’d always ask guys who were in a dispute with their wives or girlfriends one question: ‘Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?’” said Ray. “In his own personal life, Tom always chose ‘right,’ hence he leaves behind two wives, and a passel of children and grandchildren.” He is survived by his first wife Julia; second wife, Joanne; his children, Lydia Icke, Alex and Anna Magliozzi; five grandchildren; and his close companion of recent years, Sylvia Soderberg.

“He and his brother changed public broadcasting forever,” said Doug Berman, the brothers’ longtime producer. “Before Car Talk, NPR was formal, polite, cautious….even stiff. By being entirely themselves, without pretense, Tom and Ray single-handedly changed that, and showed that real people are far more interesting than canned radio announcers. And every interesting show that has come after them owes them a debt of gratitude.

“I think the body of work he leaves will definitely be held up with great American humorists like the Marx Brothers and Mark Twain,” said Berman. “He was a genius. And he happened touse that genius to make other people feel good and laugh. I suspect, generations from now, people will be listening to Car Talk and feeling good and laughing.

The family asks that in lieu flowers, or rotten fruit, fans of Tom make a donation in his memory to either their local NPR station or the Alzheimer’s Association.

Car Talk brothers Tom Magliozzi Ray Magliozzi

I really don’t know of a more infectiously joyful, and yet, at times, brilliantly informative, show either on radio or on television — and I know that I personally have passed many hours driving and listening to Click and Clack the Tappet brothers as tears streamed down my face from laughter. There simply is not vaccine or antibody for Tom’s contagious laughter and I am saddened greatly by his death.

That being said, he leaves behind hundreds of hours of himself in the form of Car Talk recordings made over their 15+ year run. Here is a wonderful example of Tom joyfully spiraling out of control as he reads the diary entries of a man attending a fitness center at the request of his wife:

Here is a great clip that I remember hearing when it first aired featuring the son of a very famous celebrity:

And I will wrap things up with a couple full Car Talk episodes. They are relatively random and were basically chosen because there weren’t many available to embed:

Rest in eternal laughter Tom – and thank you for sharing your kind spirit as well as your helpful advice on how best to maintain my Volkswagen van. (Which was essentially to get rid of it yesterday because it’s a death trap with the equivalent of an aluminum can between me and anything in front of me.) 🙂

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