Don Pardo

Iconic voice

Every Saturday Night Live performer who had the honor of having his or her name announced by Don Pardo–the Don Pardo!–on the night of their very first show will tell you it remains the pinch-me moment for us all.

Pardo, who died on Aug. 18 at 96, was the consummate professional, lending his trademark voice to the show well into his 90s. But beyond that, he was a sweet man who provided a positive aura, even if you just walked by him in the hallway during that preshow frenzy. He was happy to share anecdotes about the old days. Once I asked him if he was from Massachusetts because I heard a little something in one of his words, and he laughingly said, “Oh, no! Did you hear it? I spent years trying to get rid of that!” “Really?” “Oh, sure! Years! In broadcasting you had to have no accent whatsoever!”

I read that Lorne Michaels brought him on as a straight-laced counterpoint to complement the wackiness of the show. His voice had a way of representing the grownup in the living room while the kids were goofing off in the basement. But rather than yelling, “You kids keep it down!” his voice seemed to be yelling down the basement stairs, “You kids keep it up! I love it!”

Dratch performed on SNL from 1999 to 2006

This appears in the September 01, 2014 issue of TIME.
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