The NBC announcer who introduced Saturday Night Live died today. Don Pardo’s daughter Paula confirmed his death to CBS Radio News. He was 96. Pardo was NBC’s staff announcer for more than 60 years. His exuberant, booming voice was familiar to generations of Americans on radio and TV, commercials and game shows, news and sports: His was the voice that announced, in November, 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. On the original version of Jeopardy!, host Art Fleming would start the show with “Thank you, Don Pardo” and tease winners with, “Don Pardo, tell him what he’s won!” His game show credits also include The Price Is Right, Jackpot and Three On A Match. In 1984, he was introduced to the MTV Generation with a memorable voice cameo on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody song “I Lost On Jeopardy.” Fleming appeared in the popular video.
He began his announcing career at NBC Radio as a war reporter during World War II and remained at the network his entire life. He worked the radio sci-fi programs X Minus One and Dimension X and called baseball games in New York. But he probably is most famous for booming “It’s Saturday Night Live!” after the cold open and before introducing the host, guests and cast each week. The show made its debut in October 1975. A broken hip in 2013 forced Pardo to miss two episodes of the late-night staple, and he skipped Season 7 when series creator Lorne Michaels was away, making for a remarkable 38-year tenure on the program. A member of the Television Academy Hall of Fame, Pardo said he and Bob Hope are the only people awarded a lifetime contract at NBC. He finally retired from NBC in 2004 and considered retiring from SNL too, but Michaels successfully kept him on the show until last season’s finale. SNL will celebrate its 40th anniversary next season, and Pardo likely will be recognized in a major way during the planned anniversary special. In a recent interview with Deadline, Michaels was asked about Pardo’s longevity on the show. “My lighting director, Phil Hyms is 91, and he’s out there every night for the warmup, and he’s not lost a step,” he said. “So, maybe there’s something healthy in the studio. I don’t think it’s Shangri-La, but maybe there’s something.”
In a 2009 interview with the TV Academy, Pardo recalled landing the Peacock gig in 1946. He was a 26-year-old born in Westfield, MA, who’d grown up primarily in Norwich, CT, and was making his first trip to New York City. He had been working at NBC Radio affiliate WJAR in Providence for two years and had come to the big city to see NBC. Patrick Kelly, who oversaw the network’s announcers, took an interest in the kid. “In order to even audition,” Pardo told ATAS, “you had to have five years’ experience and a college degree. I had neither. But (Kelly) said, ‘Why don’t you come to the studio and I’ll record you, in case you want to consider it in the future.’ So I went to the studio and read something for about a minute or so, and he said, ‘All right, that’s enough.’ All I could think was, ‘Boy, I must have really stunk.’”