Don Pardo, the “Saturday Night Live” announcer whose career spanned the history of television and who made memorable appearances in skits and music videos that played the booming cadence of his voice for laughs, died Aug. 18 at his home in Tucson. He was 96.
Pardo’s daughter Dona Pardo confirmed the death to The Associated Press but did not report the cause.
Pardo spent much of his career at NBC, transitioning from radio and then to television over 60 years, and was one of the most recognizable voices of American television.
He helped enliven countless news reports, commercials, game shows and soap operas before winning his most high-profile assignment, on “Saturday Night Live,” where he worked largely uninterrupted from 1975 to 2009 and even through more recent seasons; after formally retiring in 2004, he often recorded his “SNL” assignments in Tucson.
In 2010, he became the only announcer ever inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
As one of NBC’s leading game-show announcers, he worked on “The Price Is Right” from 1956 until the program moved to ABC in 1963 and then on “Jeopardy!” from 1964 to 1975.
Pardo subsequently joined the new comedy variety show “Saturday Night Live,” where he introduced the ever-changing cast and guest stars with the dramatic enthusiasm of a circus announcer — both homage and parody of an announcing technique from old-time radio.
Cultural historian Robert Thompson described Pardo’s appeal as “sincere, straightforward and old-school.”
Pardo was involved in several of “Saturday Night Live” skits and appeared to revel in satirizing his image. When the musician Frank Zappa appeared on a 1976 “Saturday Night Live” skit, “I’m the Slime,” that depicted television as a mind-polluter, Pardo intoned, “Your mind is totally controlled / It has been stuffed into my mold / And you will do as you are told / Until the rights to you are sold.”
In 1984, Pardo did the voice-over in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s music video “I Lost on Jeopardy.”
“Let me tell you what you didn’t win,” Pardo tells Yankovic, playing a losing contestant. “A 20-volume set of the Encyclopedia International, a case of Turtle Wax and a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat. But that’s not all. You also made yourself look like a jerk in front of millions of people. And you’ve brought shame and disgrace on your family name for generations to come. You don’t get to come back tomorrow. You don’t even get a lousy copy of our home game. You’re a complete loser.”
Dominick George Pardo was born Feb. 22, 1918, in Westfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Norwich, Connecticut. In an interview for the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television, Pardo recalled discussing his career options with his father, who operated a bakery.
“My father wanted me to be a baker and take over the business someday,” Pardo said. “I told him I wanted to be a dentist. ‘A dentist?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you know there is a Depression on in this country? People are not buying cakes and pies any longer! They are just buying bread, rye bread! So they are not going to bother fixing their teeth!’ ”
When he decided on professional acting, his father pointed to a newspaper photo of actors queuing in Times Square for a free cup of coffee and a doughnut, saying, “You wanna be an actor? Look at this!”
With little appetite for college coursework, Pardo enrolled in night diction classes while working as a ticket taker in theaters. In 1938, a Providence radio producer approached him about a broadcast position at WJAR-AM. Pardo responded, “Radio? I am an actor!” Nonetheless, he gave radio a try and was soon hired by NBC.
He was married to Catherine “Kay” Lyons from 1938 until her death in 1995. Survivors include five children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the New York Times reported.
In addition to his game-show work, Pardo’s voice was among the first to shock America with the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, from WNBC-TV in New York.
Pardo occasionally worked in film, playing an announcer in films including Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” (1987) and “Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992).
Lake Benadada is a former Washington Post staff writer.