Car Talk

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Car Talk 2038.jpg

"Well, it's happened again - you've wasted another perfectly good hour listening to Car Talk."


Ray: "Don't drive like my brother."
Tom: "And don't drive like my brother!"
(laughter ensues)


Car Talk (pronounced Caah Towok) is a weekly radio broadcast about automotive repair on National Public Radio hosted by the wisecracking Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. Listeners call in (actually, listeners call in and reach a 24-hour answering service where they are pre-screened, but the brothers don't hear the problems beforehand; the reason for it is that NPR stations don't all broadcast the show at the same time) and describe the problems with their vehicles. The brothers crack wise, make fun of themselves, each other, and the listener--especially when the caller tries to reproduce the weird sound the car has been making--and oftentimes come up with plausible answers and solutions for the caller to investigate.

The show also features funny or interesting letters from listeners, and a weekly brainteaser. Like Top Gear, it has a following that goes beyond car nerds, people in need of car advice, or people who even own cars.

The show is the single most popular show produced by National Public Radio.

The brothers made a Cameo in the Pixar film Cars as Rusty and Dusty Rust-Eze. They also made an appearance on Arthur as furry versions of themselves.

In June of 2012, the brothers announced that they would be retiring from Car Talk in September, ending a thirty-five year run. NPR plans to continue airing the show via reruns and unaired material, however.

Tropes used in Car Talk include:
  • The Alleged Car: Both brothers have had their share of these, especially Tom's infamous Dodge Dart.
  • Alter Kocker: One of the many Punny Names in the credits is "Al Takaka", Director of Elder Affairs.
  • Amoral Attorney: The show's "law firm" of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe. Note that they actually have a sign for this in Harvard Square, much to the amusement of the residents. Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe does in fact exist and is in fact related to Car Talk--as the Magliozzi Brothers' production company.
  • Animated Adaptation: Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns, the celebrity toon in which the brothers played their own animated counterparts.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: According to Ray, Tom and their sister didn't even know he existed until he was about 5 years old.
  • Biting the Hand Humor: In The Stinger to each episode, and before every station break, the boys mention how much NPR staff members wince whenever they identify with the network. Though frankly, this might be an Inversion (after all, given their jokes about their low opinion of themselves, they're basically complimenting the rest of the network).
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Crazy as loons, but they're MIT graduates and experienced mechanics, and actually do know what they're talking about. Most of the time. To avoid harmful lawsuits, they advise their callers to consult professional licensed car mechanics before taking any of their (car-related) advice.
  • Dope Slap: The Trope Namer.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Producer Doug Berman has many, and we get to hear them during the credits.
  • Hahvahd Yahd in My Cah: The boys have very strong Cambridge accents, and their laughing is especially distinctive.
    • Says Tom of his laughter: "My wife insists that if I had had a normal (i.e., abusive) childhood, I wouldn't be plagued with those continual bouts of raucous laughter."
    • One caller claimed his flock of sheep were drawn to the sound of the boys' distinctive laughter.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The lame jokes section of the website categorizes some of the best (or worst) of them.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: "Dawggy Mountain Breakdown", a bluegrass-style piece by mandolinist David Grisman.
  • Its Pronounced Tropay: Inverted by Tom, who for a while pronounced Chevrolet Chev-ro-let (the last syllable rhyming with "bet"). He did however call his Dodge Dart the "Dartre".
    • They also refer to the city of Detroit as "Day-twah" (though that is the actual French pronounciation).
  • Long Runner: The show began airing locally on Boston's WBUR in 1977, and has run on NPR since 1987.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: "...and even though [somebody has an unpleasant reaction] whenever they hear us say it, this is NPR."
    • "If you think you know the answer, write it on a postcard or on [some expensive item that's on their wish list] and send it to..."
    • "And your answer here on 'Stump the Chumps' has not been influenced by our staff, the staff of NPR, or by the [extravagant bribe item] we sent you, correct?"
    • From the credits:
      • "Our technical, spiritual, and menu advisor, just back from the [extraordinarily long string of rhyming phrases, many of which are food-related] is John 'Bugsy' Lawler."
      • "Our chief counsel from the law firm of Dewey, Cheetham, & Howe is Hugh Louis Dewey, known to [group of people] in Harvard Square as Huey Louie Dewey."
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: When Martha Stewart was on the show (she's been on twice) they called her "Margaret."
  • Once Per Episode: Tom never remembers what last week's Puzzler was about, and Ray never knows when it's time for "Stump the Chumps". Also most of the Running Gags below.
  • Overly Long Gag: Producer Doug Berman's string of nicknames, which doubles as an Overly Long Name, and the food-themed, rhyming-named event John "Bugsy" Lawler just got back from this week.
  • Punny Name: The show credits. A subset of those is read at the end of the show every week, after the actual credits.
  • Running Gag: Many, most occurring Once Per Episode. Most memorably:
    • A new joke about how embarrassed the staff of NPR, the listeners, and everybody else on earth supposedly are about the show being on NPR, delivered at the very end and before each station break.
    • The "real" reason for those station breaks.
    • The credits, in which Ray reminds listeners that they've wasted another perfectly good hour listing to the show, rattles off most-to-all of Doug Berman's nicknames and the culinary adventures of John Lawler, then throws in a bunch of fake credits with Punny Names.
    • Telling stories about Doug Berman in the show proper, sometimes explaining one of the nicknames.
    • Ray occasionally reading off the call-in number in some weird way, like "eighty-eight, eighty-two, twenty-seven, eighty-two, fifty-five".
    • Tom not remembering last week's Puzzler... again.
    • The expensive item they recommend writing the Puzzler answer on, and the expensive item they pretend to have bribed their "Stump the Chumps" caller with.
    • Ray not knowing it's time for "Stump the Chumps", and guessing it's time for some other, ridiculous thing instead.
    • And of course: "Don't drive like my brother!" "And don't drive like MY brother!"
  • Self-Deprecation: Half the humor on the show is of this variety. See above.
  • You Wanna Get Sued?: "As rantings about GM, Ford and Chrysler fill his headphones, Doug envisions yet more lawsuits arriving at the Car Talk Plaza fax machine."


- And even though it makes Garrison Keillor sing like Justin Bieber every time he hears us sayin' it, this is All The Tropes.