Duluth duo not that 'average' after all?
By Rick Lubbers
Duluth’s Jon Donahue and Ken Kalligher are
better known as the Public Access Community Television duo “The
Average Guys,” but the scene surrounding the taping of their
400th episode Tuesday night at Carmody Irish Pub was anything but
Donahue, 43, and Kalligher, 50, had assembled
a pretty respectable list of local sports celebrities to interview
during the two-hour show. Guests included professional boxer Zach
“Jungle Boy” Walters and KBJR-TV sports anchor Tom Hansen.
The Duluth-Superior Shoremen cheerleaders gave an “Average
Guys” cheer, and Duluth Mayor Don Ness sat down for a chat.
Slowly, but surely, Jon Donahue and Ken Kalligher
have carved a unique niche in the Northland’s local sports
landscape during the past 10 years. Many a cable TV surfer has hit
PACT-TV Channel 7 on a Friday night or Saturday morning and tossed
the remote on the coffee table and watched the two talk sports with
a set chockfull of sports memorabilia.
Whether viewers pooh-pooh the show’s simplistic
tone or tune in on a regular basis because they are fans of the
format, Donahue and Kalligher are well-known in the Twin Ports.
If it’s possible to be a superstar of PACT-TV, “The
Average Guys” probably qualifies.
Not bad for a show promising nothing more than
a couple of guys just sitting around, talking sports.
“Once you turn it on, you can’t turn
it off,” says Chris Stratioti, a longtime friend and fan of
“The Average Guys.”
But what keeps area viewers turning it on? Better
yet, what keeps them from turning it off?
Donahue believes “The Average Guys”
creates a unique connection with its viewers.
“What makes the show unique is we expose
ourselves as far as who we are,” he said. “People have
watched my children grow up. They have heard about my wife [Lisa]
and followed her breast cancer diagnosis [Her most recent mammogram
was clear of cancer, according to Donahue]. So, when they watch
the show, they end up getting to know us because we talk about it.
“It’s not just sports, rock ‘n’
roll and whatever else — it’s what a lot of people out
there are talking about themselves. It’s just a way of connecting.
We don’t try to be pretentious like a lot of other shows in
the networks. We have fans that range all the way from high school
[age] all the way to people in their 80s.”
“When we hear, ‘I love your show,’
that really means something,” Kalligher said. “That
says a lot.”
Donahue first dreamed of hosting a sports talk
show while watching late-night baseball highlights in 1986. That
dream was deferred, however, until 1998 when Donahue bounced the
idea off of Kalligher, who needed a lot of prodding to agree to
“People will ask me, ‘Did you ever
think it would last this long?’ ” said Kalligher, who
met Donahue in 1993 when they both worked at Glass Block at the
Miller Hill Mall. “Honestly, I didn’t think it would
But it did.
Off and Running
The pair produced their first show on Dec. 11,
1998 — taped in Donahue’s basement — and it aired
on Dec. 24. Since then, Donahue and Kalligher have cranked out episode
after episode and grown their fan base. They usually tape about
46 weeks worth of episodes each year.
“There’s a chemistry with me and Kenny
that transcends just friends,” Donahue said. “It’s
having the same ideas and same report to make the show work. I know
what Kenny’s usually thinking, so I can sort of feed off it.”
The show moved out of Donahue’s basement
in 2002 and has been recorded either at PACT-TV studios —
where Donahue works — or at a local tavern or sports venue.
“The Average Guys” also have hit the road, taking the
show to Minnesota Twins and Vikings games. They’ve interviewed
former UMD and NHL great Brett Hull and NBA legend Bill Walton,
among many others.
“We’ve been doing things that the
average fan would love to do,” Donahue said. “Everybody
wishes they could get on the field, but we’ve been able to
do it. We’ve been able to live the dream.”
They’ve often also strayed from sports talk
and chatted about politics, rock music and anything else noteworthy.
They once interviewed the late Kevin DuBrow, lead singer of Quiet
“We’re still waiting for Joe Walsh
to get a hold of us, so we can officially get ‘Ordinary Average
Guys’ to be our theme song,” Kalligher quipped.
For nearly 10 years, Donahue and Kalligher have
kept area cable boxes tuned to PACT-TV when their show is on. And
the culmination of their decade-long run was evident as they taped
their 400th episode — set to air tonight on Channel 7 at 8
p.m. — before a packed room at Carmody Irish Pub.
“I was just as nervous for No. 400 as I
was for No. 1,” Donahue said afterward.
But can they truly be considered “average”
now that they’ve recorded several hundred shows and seem primed
for hundreds more? Are “The Average Guys” above-average
Not so, Donahue said.
“We’re still average after all these
years — that’s what it comes down to.”