He made it look easy, but like being a good quiz show host, being a good announcer is not easy. You can't just be a handsome guy to host a show well, or have a nice voice to be an announcer. Personality is needed.
Don Pardo had it. He pioneered it. Just as quiz show hosts gradually evolved to include wiseguys (Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life") and impish troublemakers (Bob Eubanks on "Newleywed Game") Don Pardo used his voice to color the bland world of products and names.
As the announcer on the original "Jeopardy," he gave an almost sardonic edge to the proceedings. His all-knowing, sly and mock-stern vocalizing let you know that Michael C. Fina silverware was crap, that Rice-a-Roni was crap, and that winning a bunch of useless junk was a fool's paradise. And wait, dear contestant, till you get that notice from the I.R.S. about taxes!
Pardo's style and importance led host Art Fleming to specifically mention Don's name. "Thank you, Don Pardo..." became part of the proceedings. How many other announcers were worth that? On "The Tonight Show," you eventually heard a modest, "And me? I'm Ed McMahon." And lately, Letterman's red-headed stooge makes sure to list the guests and then toss in, "I'm Alan Kalter." And why did he get the job? Because his leering style isn't too far from what Don Pardo created on "Jeopardy," which was adopted by earthy smartass Bill Wendell (another NBC staffer...who was Dave's original announcer for 15 years...even when Dave moved to CBS.)
Below...a sample of Don. Listen to the way he tears into a dimwit loser on "Jeopardy," courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic's parody of Greg Kihn's "Our Love's in Jeopardy." It's not far, at all, from how he announced cheesy prizes on that show in those pre-Trebek days.
A venerable staffer at NBC, after Art Fleming's "Jeopardy" left the air, Pardo was handed the assignment of announcing "Saturday Night Live." Naturally, writers were quick to use his almost-mocking vocals on the show, and even toss him some on-camera gags, too. You can find a multi-part interview with Don on YouTube, courtesy of the Archive of American Television, and if you're into voicework, it'll be a lot of fun for you to watch. There are also plenty of obits today where you can learn more about Don and his career.
I'll just add that today's news about his passing, even at the ripe old age of 96, saddens me greatly. At times, the most entertaining part of "Saturday Night Live" was Don's all-knowing, all-mocking reading of some names that were more interesting than the actors or actresses owning them. I ain't namin' names. Except that I think, in the most recent roster...he probably got a big kick out of "BROOKS WHELAN!" HOW many years did Don announce SNL? What now...Darrell Hammond taking over the job...or do they get some preposterous, tin-voiced ninny to do it? Maybe the guy who does Fallon's "Tonight Show" and who is really just imitating Andy Richter?
There was nobody who did it like DON PARDO. I know it may seem like a big fuss to make...but I admired the guy, and got such a kick out of him. Look, I even enjoy listening to Michael Buffer (not his bawling, warthog brother) and I even listen for when he's pitchy or when he eases the microphone away on the last syllable of "RUMBLE." So I beg your Pardo...but when SNL begins next month...he WILL be missed. So long, Pardner.
Here's Thomas Hurley III, Alex Trebek, Don Pardo, and WEIRD AL…all combining for….
I LOST ON JEOPARDY Thomas Hurley III is a LOSER
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