Tom Magliozzi, a mechanic turned radio show host, died earlier this week due to complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Tom and his brother Ray were the cohosts of “Car Talk,” an extremely popular show on National Public Radio. The show began in 1987 and ran through 2012 and eventually reached four million listeners every week. The show continues on the air today as some of the show’s best episodes are replayed and enjoyed by folks everywhere each week.
Although this is a weekly column about wellness, not car repair, I think there is a great deal for us to learn about wellness from Tom Magliozzi. First, and most obvious, if you have ever listened to Car Talk, is the power of humor. Every person I have heard honoring Tom’s memory this week mentions his infectious laugh as one of the things that they remember most fondly about him. He never laughed at another but was able to find humor all around him including laughing at himself.
Humor has the power to transform any subject and any conversation, as Tom and his brother showed us each and every week. If someone told you that they loved listening to a weekly radio show about car repair because they enjoyed laughing along with the hosts, you would probably find that hard to imagine, unless of course you had ever listened to Car Talk. Tom and Ray, known as Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers on the show, could transform a conversation about tire rebalancing and front-end alignment into a humorous and philosophical reflection about how everyone could use a little rebalancing and front-end alignment from time to time. Listening to these bothers banter with callers left everyone listening at home laughing as well.
One wellness lesson here is that humor enhances any kind of talk, not just car talk. Do you need to have talk with a friend about a conflict in your relationship? Do you need have a talk with your child about his or her behavior? Do you need to have a talk with a colleague or employee about a misunderstanding at work? Do you need to have a talk with your spouse or partner about something you would like to change in your relationship? Each of these “talks” will benefit from having the lubricant of humor injected into the conversation. Becoming overly serious when talking with others almost always constricts communication, while humor has the opposite effect. Humor expands conversations and expands our ability to listen and better receive what is being communicated. All talk, not just car talk, benefits from a little humor now and then.
A second wellness lesson that Tom and Ray demonstrated for us is an extension of the first. Tom and his brother Ray had a remarkable ability to never take themselves too seriously. I recently heard an interview in which they were questioned about why they decided to start a radio show about car repair. Tom answered that the original reason was to drive business to their small auto repair shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As that business grew though, Tom reported that he hated working the long hours it took to take care of all of their new customers. He said he discovered that doing a radio show didn’t feel like work, compared to the twelve hours of daily physical labor he was putting in at the shop. He concluded his answer to the interviewer’s question by laughing and saying, “So I wanted to grow Car Talk so I wouldn’t have to really work for a living anymore.” Tom’s self-deprecating humor was also evident in the same interview when he was asked what he had learned in the twenty years he had been doing radio. His response? “Absolutely nothing! I don’t know what I’m doing any more than the day I started–(insert a loud, raucous laugh here).”
So thank you Tom for teaching us not just about car repair but for reminding us that all things in life can be repaired best with a good dose of humor, mixed with the reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.