One of the most famous announcers in the history of television has died. The New York Times reports that Don Pardo, who was already a household name when he became the original announcer for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” back in 1975, died Monday in Tucson. He was 96.
Pardo’s rich baritone voice introduced the cast members of “Saturday Night Live” for the entire run of the show, other than the 1981-82 season. He was last heard on “SNL” in May, when he introduced the show’s season finale, hosted by Andy Samberg.
The announcer joined the show for its first episode in 1975, remaining with it for 38 seasons. He missed the show’s seventh season, when creator Lorne Michaels temporarily stepped away from the program.
“For many viewers, the names of scores of stars — from Chevy Chase to Eddie Murphy to Tina Fey — were first heard in his sonorous baritone, which announced the cast each week at the end of the opening skit,” the story notes.
“Every year the new cast couldn’t wait to hear their name said by him,” Michaels told the publication.
The piece adds: “While not many people knew his face, practically every American for a span of more than half a century knew his voice. And for the long line of budding stars who came out of ’SNL,’ that voice was validation. As Maya Rudolph told Mr. Pardo in a video tribute when he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010, ‘The moment you said my name was the height of my career.’”
Pardo was already familiar to viewers through his other TV work, including on “The Price Is Right” and “Jeopardy!,” when he began his run on “SNL.”
He started out in as a radio announcer at WJAR, an NBC affiliate in Providence, R.I., taking a job for $30 a week, which was a pay cut from his job at a machine tool manufacturer. “His new bride, Catherine Lyons, told him to take it anyway,” the story notes.
During a visit to the NBC studios in 1944, he stopped to thank the supervisor of announcers for the tour, and left with a job offer. His first day at NBC was June 15, 1944, and he had a night shift, announcing shows and reading commercials. But he soon moved into the new medium of television.
The Times notes: “Mr. Pardo found himself shuttling between radio and television, but the newer medium increasingly took up his time; he was assigned to a variety of programs, including ‘The Colgate Comedy Hour’ and some early game shows. An assignment he received in 1956 proved to be a keeper: the original ‘Price Is Right,’ hosted by Bill Cullen. The show’s popularity made his voice famous, and the occasional on-air mention by Mr. Cullen began to attach a name to that voice. (He even filled in for Mr. Cullen once. ‘I was terrified,’ he recalled in the oral history [he recorded in 2006 for the Archive of American Television].)”
The report adds: “Mr. Pardo said the way ‘The Price Is Right’ was shot led him to develop his peculiar elongated delivery. ‘The cameras are moving so slowly, and that’s the way I had to describe it: slowly,’ he said of the merchandise on the show, which he would describe before contestants tried to guess its price. ‘Those cameras were large then. You want to make sure you describe what the camera is on.’”
When “The Price Is Right” moved to ABC in 1963, Pardo remained with NBC, where he moved on to to a new game show called “Jeopardy!” The show’s host, Art Fleming, thanked Pardo by name in each episode, which helped make him familiar to viewers.
When the original “Jeopardy!” ended its run in 1975, Pardo started on “Saturday Night Live.”
“The show’s creator, Mr. Michaels, was born the year that Mr. Pardo started at NBC. He has said he liked Mr. Pardo for the job as a sort of counterpoint to the wackiness of the show,” The Times notes.
The story adds: “‘That authority voice’ botched the very first opening, calling the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players the ‘Not for Ready Prime-Time Players.’ But the inauspicious beginning was quickly forgotten, and Mr. Pardo became a signature part of the show.”