NEW YORK, N.Y. – Don Pardo was a timeless classic, and in selecting him as the announcer for the brand-new “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels must have known it.
“When they gave me a list of NBC staff announcers and I saw his name, there was no hesitation,” Michaels, who remains “SNL” executive producer, recalled on Tuesday.
On Monday, Pardo died at age 96, having served as an “SNL” mainstay and through-line from its debut in October 1975 up through the close of its 39th season in May (apart from a year in the early 1980s when the show, under short-lived different management, rudely sidelined him).
Michaels, just 30 when “SNL” premiered, masterminded a brash, counter-culture brand of comedy show. But he had grown up hearing Pardo’s rich baritone on such 1950s game shows as the original “The Price Is Right.” The voice still resonated.
“He became our link to the beginnings of television on NBC,” said Michaels. “And radio. He joined NBC in June of 1944 — I’m not born yet!” No, not for another six months.
So Michaels, however much the trail-blazer, chose to underpin his break-from-the-past new enterprise with a seasoned, old-school broadcaster.
“In an emotional, intuitive sense he just sounded right to me,” said Michaels. “He was a really, really wonderful man, and, I suppose on some level, a paternal presence for each new cast.”
Generation after generation, “SNL” players have come and gone, replaced by the next wave. Pardo, certifying each of them by declaring their names on the air, stayed put.
But now, with the 40th season bearing down in September, Pardo has left a void. Who could ever replace him?
“It’s a question I’ve asked myself for maybe the last 10 years,” Michaels said. “I don’t have an answer. I’m still kind of dealing with this. Fortunately, I have a month.”