RIP Don Pardo, the Voice of ‘Saturday Night Live’ (1918-2014)

By August 19, 2014
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After literally introducing some of the biggest comedy stars to the world, The New York Times reports longtime television announcer Don Pardo – known for being the voice of “Saturday Night Live” – has passed away at the age of 96.

Pardo has been the man behind the cast, host, musical guest, and occasional sketch introductions from the late night show’s opening credits since the first episode debuted back in October of 1975 right up until the final episode of last season with “SNL” veteran Andy Samberg as host. However, Pardo has a long, decorated career where his voice made him a valuable commodity all over television.

Before ending up at “SNL,” Pardo made a living as the announcer for some game shows you might recognize, including the older versions of both “The Price is Right” and “Jeopardy!” when both shows still called NBC their network home. Pardo began his work on “The Price is Right” in 1956 and stuck with the show until it moved to ABC in 1963. That same year, as a staff announcer, Pardo was also the first at the network to tell the American viewing public that John F. Kennedy had been shot, interrupting an episode of “Bachelor Father.”

Don Pardo - Saturday Night Live

After deciding to stick with NBC, that’s when he landed the debut of “Jeopardy!” in 1964, where he began to be recognized for his name after being thanked at the end of every episode. Pardo ended his run with “Jeopardy!” when this first version of the show ended in 1975, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to take the job at “Saturday Night Live.” It was a weird meshing of old school television and the hip new direction that creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels was hoping to take the medium. Michaels recalls, “It couldn’t have been a more different culture. But it was perfect for us.”

And despite flubbing the introductions the first time on-air – he said “Not for Ready Prime-Time Players” instead of Not Ready for Prime-Time Players – Pardo became an integral part of the show, and hearing him say your name became something that all the new cast members would look forward to and remember for the rest of their lives. Michaels notes, “Every year the new cast couldn’t wait to hear their name said by him.” And here are some of the cast members recalling that wonderful moment:

 

 

 

 

When Pardo was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010, a video tribute featured Maya Rudolph saying, “The moment you said my name was the height of my career.” Jimmy Fallon has also said, “Nothing is like the moment when Don Pardo says your name.

Don Pardo - Jimmy Fallon

Pardo had a lifetime contract with NBC, but he retired in 2004. The only job he kept up was his gig on “SNL,” flying to New York from his home in Arizona every weekend there was a live show. The man could just have easily phoned it in, but he stuck true to the nature of the show, like a consummate professional.

Though his voice made him famous, Pardo has actually been seen in front of the camera on the sketch show a few times, not to mention having a voice cameo in Weird Al Yankovic’s parody song “I Lost on Jeopardy,” having a small role in Woody Allen’s film Radio Days, and pulling a familiar gig as the voiceover for the fictional program “The Girlie Show” on Tina Fey’s Emmy-winning show “30 Rock” in 2009.

This coming season of “Saturday Night Live” will be bittersweet without Pardo introducing the cast. As Lorne Michaels says, “Whatever montage we did to open the show, whatever pictures we used it didn’t really come alive till you heard him say it.” Expect some kind of tribute to the man with the golden voice when the 40th season of “SNL” kicks off this fall. Rest in peace, Mr. Pardo.

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.