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Friday, November 14, 2014

(TRIBUTE) Car Talk: Not About Cars


When I was a boy, I enjoyed visiting my relatives in South Carolina because their favorite evening pastime was circling the lounge chairs under a giant oak tree in the backyard and making each other laugh.
They made fun of each other's quirks and flaws and told hilariously incriminating stories, like the time Uncle Fred and Uncle Roy wound up all the alarm clocks in a department store display so that they would go off at the same time. Tears would stream and sides would ache.

My aunts and uncles are still the same today. As they age into their 70s and 80s, my family's table at the restaurant is the one with the obnoxious laughter.

For me, listening to Car Talk on NPR was being with family.

Though we never met, brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi were among my favorite uncles. I am sad about Tom's passing this week. Click and Clack were authentic, unpolished, genuinely funny and clearly loved each other. Because of that the show could have been called Dog Talk or Exercise Talk and it would have still been a success covering almost any other subject.

In an interview, Ray Magliozzi said, "Some guy I met said it's amazing how we use cars on our show as an excuse to discuss everything in the world: energy, psychology, behavior, love, money, economics, and finance. The cars themselves are boring as hell."

The topic of conversation is not as important as the conversation.

Car Talk was not about cars. Car Talk was about knowing someone intimately, like a brother. It was about callers who would tell stories about their relationships, who would reveal their true motivations and inner thoughts. The show was really about sibling rivals with advanced MIT degrees each trying to prove that the other was a bigger dummy.

The best moments on Car Talk centered on the quirks of the hosts, like Tom's multiple divorces and Ray's obsessive devotion to a 1964 Dodge Dart that surpassed all reason and logic.

When you approach your radio or television show as your true self, revealing your authentic character complete with your real quirks and flaws, you become like a family member or treasured friend to the listener. Because who else shares that side of themselves with you besides friends and family?

Jeff McHugh is a 30-year broadcaster with a background in marketing and talent coaching. Jeff works with radio and television personalities, public speakers and presenters to add storytelling, drama and character to their content.

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