‘Car Talk’ duo to retire from NPR in September

NEW YORK — The comic mechanics on NPR’s “Car Talk” are pulling in to the garage.

Brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi said Friday they will stop making new episodes of their joke-filled auto advice show at the end of September, 25 years after “Car Talk” began in Boston. Repurposed versions of old shows will stay on National Public Radio indefinitely, however.

The show airs every Saturday morning and is NPR’s most popular program.

“We’ve managed to avoid getting thrown off NPR for 25 years, giving tens of thousands of wrong answers and had a hell of a time every week talking to callers,” Ray Magliozzi said. “The stuff in our archives still makes us laugh. So we figured, why keep slaving over a hot microphone?”

The duo will continue writing their “Dear Tom and Ray” column twice a week, NPR said.

With their byplay and Boston accents, “Car Talk” was as much about laughs as motor advice. On last week’s show, a caller confessed that she had broken the clutches of some ex-boyfriends’ cars and was now worrying that she was damaging her own.

“That might be the reason none of your relationships lasted,” she was told.

The two men proved that public radio didn’t have to be stuffy, said Doug Berman, executive producer of the show. “Car Talk” began as a local call-in show on Boston’s BUR radio in 1977. It’s now on 660 stations across the country, with some 3.3 million listeners a week.

“The guys are culturally right up there with Mark Twain and the Marx Brothers,” Berman said. “They will stand the test of time. People will still be enjoying them years from now. They’re that good.”

The staff has stored and logged some 12,500 phone calls since the show began, rating them in order of their entertainment value, Berman said. They will take the best and use them for the repurposed shows. Berman said he figured there was about eight years’ worth of strong material without the show having to repeat itself again.

“I’m the producer of all their shows and I can’t remember most of” the calls, he said.

“Car Talk” has tested out the repurposed show and is convinced they will work. There’s a strong wish among NPR stations to keep the show going even if there isn’t fresh material, he said.

Berman said he knew the retirement was a possibility; Tom is 74. That didn’t stop Ray, 63, from mocking him. “My brother has always been work-averse,” he said. “Now, apparently, even the one hour a week is killing him.”

In a goodbye message posted on their website and titled “Time to Get Even Lazier,” Tom wrote, “We’re hoping to be like ‘I Love Lucy’ and air 10 times a day on ‘NPR at Nite’ in 2075.”

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