Don Pardo, venerable voice over and television show announcer, who spanned a career over 70 years, mainly with NBC, and best remembered as the original announcer of Saturday Night Live, has died at the age of 96.
No other announcer had the kind of urgency and instantly recognizable lilt and lift in his vocal patterns quite like Don Pardo did. In many ways, with his snappy prose, clipped cadence, and swooping baritone, Pardo exemplified the stereotype of an announcer and the public’s perception of one, in the best possible way.
From announcing the contestants on shows like the original 1960s and ’70s version of the answer/question game Jeopardy to announcing scores and scores of comedic talent on Saturday Night Live, Don Pardo exemplified a broadcaster and announcer with smooth as silk ease. Pardo had announced SNL from its inception right up to the present day (he had been replaced for a spell in the early 1980s) and an interesting trivia note is that on the very first SNL telecast, which of course aired live, Pardo actually fudged the opening when he bellowed to welcome the “READY FOR NOT Prime Time Players” (the troupe was known as The Not Ready For Prime Time Players).
It was a nervous and charming mistake, evocative of the kind of down-to-earth and seemingly nary a vicious or mean bone in his body, and as the program became successful as the years went on, his announcing work became as popular as almost anyone else on the show, largely in part to Pardo’s having fun with the role and embracing in a straightforward way much of the irreverent and, even for its time when it premiered in the 1970s, controversial humor. Pardo had no problem in announcing, in a mock ad when introducing Weekend Update, that the show was sponsored that week by Pussy Whip, the first dessert topping for cats.
What made NBC censors extremely nervous, seemed to roll like the proverbial water off the duck’s ass to Pardo. His announcing was like a reminder of an old school of television in a lot of ways, that kind of carnival spirit early TV had, much of it live like SNL resurrected in 1975 when it premiered, and Don Pardo was one of its perfect carnival barkers.
And he was never at odds or not game to poke fun at himself and his chippy manner. On the live 1977 release Zappa in New York, by guitar and composing legend Frank Zappa, Pardo makes a grandiose appearance during the show, even giving a performance of the highest chops of Zappa’s classic track, “I’m The Slime.” In fact, Pardo’s presence was all over the album, and it adds to its allure. The same with his appearance on parodist Weird Al Yankovic’s rendition of Greg Kihn’s 1980s hit “Jeopardy,” (titled “I Lost on Jeopardy”). The video, which revisits the early era of Jeopardy, is replete with the strains of Pardo booming onto the kitschy game show set, as it always had been for thousands of episodes.
The bellowing of “It’s Saturday Night Live!” as the program opens after its cold opening will never be the same. A true legend of broadcasting, both in radio and television, the passing of Don Pardo leaves a heavy void in the annals of television, past, present, and future.