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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Good Night, Don Pardo, 1918-2014

Illustration for article titled Good Night, Don Pardo, 1918-2014

Don Pardo was an announcer at NBC for 60 years. He started in television so long ago it was on the radio, in 1944. The heaviest moment of his career was in 1963, when he was "booth announcer" on a shift at WNBC-TV in New York. Pardo did an off-camera "rip-and-read," from a big marked-up paper printout of an Associated Press wire-service bulletin, handed to him by an editor, and he announced the shooting of President Kennedy.

His pride in reading that bulletin and not screwing it up is apparent in this interview with the Archive of American Television.

He was principally a hammy, cheerful barker, and there was a tremor in his voice, an excitement—you always felt he was thrilled just to be part of the big show, any show. The original version of Jeopardy!, for instance, where he was announcer for the entire run, 1964-1975.

And on 1976's futuristic goof on Jeopardy! on Saturday Night Live:

And the Weird Al Yankovic video:

The beauty of Don Pardo is just that he's always just doing Don Pardo, being Don Pardo.


The fun of Don Pardo on Saturday Night Live was that he was a soldier from the square world of game shows and commercials and network announcements, so your mental image of the guy was always, not that inaccurately, of a straight dude in a suit, with a warm, warbly tone that was the perfect sort of grounding counterpoint to sketches about feeding somebody's fingertips to the wolverines. The man also kinda sounded like he was half in the bag, as if his Standard American Announcer's butterscotch tenor was gonna veer off into a regrettable breakdown beyond his control, but it never happened—he always kept it together.

Pardo was TV Show Business, but he was also a Company Man like there will never be another Company Man, ever. Sixty years at the same place, unbelievable. After his retirement from NBC, he kept going, staying on in his gig as announcer for SNL, a job he held since flubbing his first line in 1975,

with the minor interruption of getting fired for the 1981-1982 season.

When Pardo attempted to retire from the show in 2004—which made perfect sense, since he was leaving NBC after 60 years—they talked him into staying,

and for a few episodes he was recording his parts from his place in Arizona. It was his idea—he didn't have that many lines anymore, and it'd be cheaper for the show to record, versus flying him in every week—but they (including SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels, who was born the year Pardo started at NBC) convinced him to fly in and do the work in-person, pleading, "It's not the same." Lately he'd gone back to pre-taping the announcing from his place in Arizona, probably because at that point, the guy was well into his nineties, and we're just glad Saturday Night Live kept him on any way they could, and now it's really not the same.


Image by Jason LaVeris for Getty/FilmMagic.

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