Quick TV quiz: who is the longest serving member of the Saturday Night Live team? Darrell Hammond? No, but good guess. In terms of cast members, the uncanny impressionist has been with the show longer than any other player, 13 seasons. Trick question then–Lorne Michaels, right? Wrong Bass-O-Matic breath, Toronto-born Michaels created the show and is still the executive producer but missed five uneven years during the early ’80s.
The answer–kinda obvious if you read the headline–is announcer Don Pardo, who turns 90 tomorrow and will be there Saturday when the NBC comedy franchise returns after its longest mid-season shut down ever, the three month-long writers’ strike sabbatical.
Born Feb. 22, 1918, Dominick George “Don” Pardo, who joined the NBC Radio Network as an announcer in June of 1944–or, as Michaels pointed out on the last press tour, “before I was born,” still flies to New York every weekend to work the show. He began when the show began in 1975, and, aside from one season (1981-82) has been the announcer ever since.
Tomorrow night, he’ll leave his condo in Tucson, Arizona, fly to New York, then cab it to Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza, where he will head for the eighth floor, stand in Studio 8-H and bellow, “It’s Saturday Night Live!” He flies home again on Sunday.
He tried to retire in 2004, but Michaels worked it so Pardo could continue to be the voice of the show from a special studio built into his Arizona condo. “And that was all agreed, and then you look over, and there he is,” said Michaels. “He’s in the studio.”
Pardo’s distinct baritone is also associated with several game shows. He announced the old Art Fleming version of Jeopardy! during the ’60s and worked The Price is Right back in the ’50s.
As the on-duty booth announcer for WNBC in New York on Nov. 22, 1963, Pardo was also the first to break the news to NBC viewers that president John F. Kennedy had been shot. (His 1:45:03 p.m. EST bulletin interrupted a rerun of Bachelor Father in New York.) Believed for years to be lost, Pardo’s historic announcement was recorded off the air and archived by then amateur audio buff Phil Gries, who donated it to the Kennedy Library in 1997 (read more about that here).
Saturday Night Live returns with the first of four straight new shows Saturday at 11:30 on NBC and Global. Former head writer and 30 Rock star/creator Tina Fey is this weekend’s guest host, with Carrie Underwood the musical guest. The last new SNL aired Nov. 3.