It was supposed to be Brian Monzo’s magnum opus as a radio producer: 85 guests in 5 ½ hours, a celebration of Mike Francesa’s next-to-last show at WFAN last Dec. 14.
In the five months since, he has listened back frequently to parts of that marathon, assembled with the assistance of associate producer/engineer Chris McMonigle.
“When you put something together that you put a lot of time into and it works out basically exactly how you planned, I left that day feeling really good,” Monzo said. “I treated myself and my wife to a nice dinner that night.”
The next day Francesa bade his listeners farewell, and that was that. Francesa left, Monzo and McMonigle eventually were assigned to the new afternoon show of Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, and everyone moved on.
But not for long. Francesa returned on May 1 and took Monzo and McMonigle with him, extending a partnership that began in 2013 and now might go on for . . . well, who really knows anymore?
“No one believes me, but I was stunned, I really was,” Monzo said. “[McMonigle and I] didn’t know anything . . . Next thing I know we were hitting the drums at 3 o’clock, and it was great. It was like we never left.”
The seamlessness of the reboot partly is a function of Francesa’s experience, naturally. But Monzo has proved over the past half-decade to be a good fit for an emotive, exacting boss. Calling him “laid back” risks understating his laid-back-ness.
“I think Monz has the perfect temperament for this job and the high-pressure nature of it,” McMonigle said. “He has the ability to let things roll off his back . . . Mike is very on top of things. I don’t think he needs someone to ride him.
“Monz and I, we’re laid back, take care of the nuts and bolts and make sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously behind the glass . . . I’ve never seen Monz in a bad mood for an extended period of time.”
Said Monzo, “I think my personality plays into what Mike is looking for in a producer. I’m very laid back, very relaxed, and I don’t panic . . . Mike just wants a calming effect when it comes to the guys on the other side of the glass, myself and McMonigle. We’re both very similar in that we’re just very chill. We don’t sweat the small stuff.”
It helps that Monzo, 35, who grew up and lives in Hazlet, New Jersey, shares some personal interests with Francesa, such as the stock market and horse racing, although as Francesa said, “We part ways on [pro] wrestling.”
Francesa called Monzo a “colorful character,” and “a very likable” one.
“This is a guy I grew up listening to and now he’s not only somebody who I work with but we’re actually friends,” Monzo said, “which is really cool.”
Francesa feels comfortable enough with Monzo to good-naturedly joke — as do other friends and colleagues- – about the fact he and his wife, Jade, have two sons and four daughters, ranging in age from 7 years to one month.
“We take zero offense to it whatsoever,” Monzo said; “My wife’s absolutely playful about it. We understand it comes with the territory. I like the ribbing. If I had a friend who had six kids I’d probably be doing the same thing.”
Jade runs a travel agency from home in addition to handling the bulk of family duties.
“I have to credit my wife; she does 95 percent of the stuff with the kids,” Monzo said. “It takes a very understanding person for me to have this kind of job and maintain a family. For her to understand that, I’m really lucky.”
Said McMonigle, 34, who has one young child, “His wife’s a saint. She takes care of everything . . . It’s a miracle. They’re an unbelievable family. But yes, I make fun of him quite often.”
Monzo said, “Look, sometimes I know I ask for it. I just bought a Ford Transit that seats 15 people. That’s not normal . . . Mike and [Joe] Benigno and all those guys are perfectly allowed to get on me for that. Those guys are in some ways like family, so it doesn’t faze me, and my wife gets a kick out of it.”
Monzo first came to WFAN in the production department before working his way up the producing ranks. He met McMonigle, who grew up in Franklin Square, on a trip to Las Vegas in 2007 with colleagues including Marc Malusis, Sal Licata and Gregg Giannotti. The two have been friends ever since.
Monzo has become a celebrity of sorts among fans of Francesa, a phenomenon he takes with a grain of salt.
“I think people see me as somebody who is attached to Mike, and I fully understand that,” he said. “They think I know things they don’t, which isn’t always true, but it’s fun. I enjoy talking with them on Twitter. I enjoy seeing them in person. It’s cool, definitely.”
What is most cool is the gig itself.
“It’s important for me to be [in afternoon drive time] no matter who’s on the show, but especially if Mike is there, because that’s the show that I grew up listening to,” he said. “It still hasn’t hit me, and I’ve done it for years.”
Francesa’s contract runs through 2020, but after his recent reversal of course, there is no reason to expect him to leave for good anytime soon and no reason to expect anyone other than Monzo to be along for the ride as producer.
Said McMonigle, “Someone has to pay for all those weddings and Sweet 16s.”