1500 ESPN’s Dave Harrigan Talks Producing, Goofing Around and Living in Woodbury

Radio producer Dave Harrigan at work in the KSTP studio in St. Paul.

Regular listeners to 1500 ESPN’s Mackey & Judd show have undoubtedly come to know and love it for its conversational style, goofy personalities and lighthearted sense of humor. While the show’s tone is laid-back and might seem effortless, putting on a live radio broadcast is a delicate process. It’s a symphony of nonverbal cues, perfectly timed audio snippets and the allowance for spontaneity despite careful planning. A bad producer can throw off this dynamic, and a good one enhances it without anyone really realizing it. At Mackey & Judd, that’s where producer Dave Harrigan comes in.

“For a radio show to click or be successful, you have to have a great rapport and a great chemistry. I would say as producer, Dave is the backbone of that,” co-host Phil Mackey says. “That chemistry has led to us being able to find the funny and find the moments of levity and present that to the audience in a creative way.”

As producer, Harrigan runs the soundboard and controls microphone levels in addition to booking guests and getting them on the air. “I also chime in on conversations and act as a foil for those guys when they need it,” Harrigan says. For those who regularly tune in to the sports talk show, Harrigan’s work has become a part of their typical day—but his workday is far from typical. Each weekday, he wakes up at around 4 a.m. and heads to the KSTP office in St. Paul from his home in Woodbury. He hosts Morning Update at the station at 5 a.m. and moves on to preparing for Mackey & Judd with the co-hosts around 7 a.m. Harrigan produces the show from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., and after some website work, he heads home around 1:30 p.m.

While Harrigan enjoys the early release and avoiding traffic, his mind is never completely off the clock. During evenings, the trio exchange emails about news or entertaining life experiences that could be a topic for a segment the next day. “Preparation for the show is pretty much continuous,” co-host Judd Zulgad says. Both Zulgad and Harrigan note that many might not realize the amount of planning that goes into a radio show. “It feels on the outside like they turn on the mics and go, but there’s a lot more that goes into it,” Harrigan says. “Radio still is spontaneous, which is the fun of it, but there’s a lot of planning.”

Harrigan has been at the station since 2009, when he started working weekend overnight shifts, which he says was “as low as you can get on the totem pole, pretty much.” He worked his way up to the full-time producing gig he’s had for about four years. Over the years, he’s talked with many local sports and media figures including Twins pitcher Glen Perkins and former North Stars coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne. In addition to hosting Morning Update and producing Mackey & Judd, he occasionally fills in on traffic updates on myTalk 107.1 and 1500 ESPN.

He got his start in radio after graduating from Tartan High School in Oakdale and studying broadcast journalism at the University of Minnesota, where he worked at Radio K. After an internship and another radio gig right out of college, he landed where he is now. He’s lived in Woodbury with his wife, Lindsey, and their dog, Dylan, for five years, and has coached Tartan’s freshman baseball team for the past 10 years.

When asked if they get sick of spending 30 hours a week together, Harrigan, Zulgad and Mackey were quick to say no. “We’re able to make fun of each other and nobody gets offended,” Mackey says. Adds Harrigan, “I get paid to be a smart aleck for most of my day, which is great.”

Questions of Significant Importance with Dave Harrigan:

Why baseball is his favorite sport to watch:
“It’s nice to be outside in the summer, especially with Target Field now. I like the laidback vibe that baseball is versus the other sports. You’re not on a clock. When it happens it happens, and you can sit back and enjoy and have a conversation where you can’t really do that watching a lot of other sports.”

Coaching baseball and his style:
“Teaching them things they didn’t know about the game, or showing them something where all of a sudden there’s a spark and you can see a change in their game—and not just that—in their attitude, about the game or themselves when they figure something out. That’s pretty cool.”

Thoughts on running:

“I wouldn’t say I like to run, but I do run a lot because they tell me it’s good for me.

We’ve spent the last couple of years raising money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Minnesota Chapter by joining Team Challenge, which is like an endurance program; you raise money and then they send you out to run a half-marathon.

Where we’re at, we can easily get to Colby, Powers and Markgrafs Lakes; I trained for a marathon in 2014, so they really came in handy. My wife and I have done a couple half-marathons, too, so having plenty of options and not having to cover the same path is great.”

Three words to describe himself:
“Goofy, relaxed and creative in the most stupid way possible.”

His hidden talent:
“I’m a pretty decent cook. My wife’s much better, but I make a mean loaf of zucchini bread. And we make a lot of applesauce every fall. We have three apple trees.”

Some of his favorite spots for food in Woodbury:
“Tamarack Tap Room, Ray J’s American Grill, Famous Dave’s, Pino’s Pizza and Cravings Wine Bar and Grill.”

His BINGE-WATCH shows:
Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, House of Cards and The Big Bang Theory.

Tune in to 1500 ESPN Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. for Mackey & Judd. You can also check them out on their website and facebook page.