When I was about 10 years old, Fall of my 5th grade year, my parents were gone longer than expected one Saturday night. I stayed up late with the intention of watching Saturday Night Live for the first time (something that I'm guessing my parents would not have let me do). I might remember Jane Curtain or Gilda Radner, but I know that I remembered how I sat straight up when I heard the voice of Don Pardo saying, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night Live!" His voice was familiar because he'd been a part of NBC announcing in various ways (that I can't remember) for my whole life, I guess. His voice made SNL sound official and important, but that twinge of irony in his voice reminded me, young as I was, that this was a comedy show that would use satire and parody to make me laugh. I felt smart when I actually did laugh at the gags that were more than just slapstick. But it was that voice at the intro that set the stage.
Of course everybody and their brother has tried to imitate his voice, but it was unique and almost beyond imitation. When I got the chance, during my sophomore year of college, to be the stadium announcer for a number of home basketball games, one of the hardest things for me to resist was to announce the game ironically (I mean, how long can you just say who scored and who fouled without starting to get punchy?). I've never really liked the sound of my voice, so having his voice in my mind made me focus my voice better because his voice was so clear. There was a vocal quality that I wanted to capture, even if only from time to time.
One thing that made him so cool was that he was totally old school, but he was an indispensable part of one of the hippest shows. He started his career with NBC just before D-Day. He announced the shooting of John Kennedy. He was the voice for The Price Is Right when it was on NBC. His voice was already legendary after 30 years at NBC before that legendary night in 1975 when he introduced the first SNL and screwed up the name of the Not Yet Ready for Prime Time Players. When he stuck with SNL for nearly 40 more years, it revealed something of the quality of a true artist--he saw that television was changing and he could have complained about it, but instead he helped shape it by contributing his part.
One Saturday night watching SNL, a friend said that the ironic quality in his voice showed that he was a "really old man who got the joke." It was almost over-the-top as both a real introduction, but a parody of an introduction at the same time. He was so at ease with himself that he could even parody the thing that made him a legend in the first place. He got it! I hope when I'm old, I still get the joke--hell, I wish I got it now.