If you’re a fan of Saturday Night Live then you’re already familiar with the work of Don Pardo, whose iconic voice has been belting out the names of cast members since the show premiered in 1975. But to celebrate his 93rd birthday (today), here are a few things you might not know about him.
1. He’s a Company Man
Therefore, as recently as SNL’s 2009-2010 season, Pardo had a weekly habit of flying from his home in Tucson to New York each Friday, performing in the live show on Saturday and flying back home the next day. At the start of the current season, Pardo began to record his SNL voiceovers from his home.
2. He Was the Bearer of Bad News
On Friday, November 22, 1963, Pardo was the first person at NBC to announce the shooting of President Kennedy. Breaking into the John Forsythe sitcom Bachelor Father, Pardo made the following announcement:
3. He’s A Trailblazer
Long before Johnny Gilbert was introducing Alex Trebek or Rod Roddy was asking a new contestant to come on down, Pardo was the original announcer for both The Price Is Right and Jeopardy! (That was back when questions in the Jeopardy! round ranged from $10 – $50). Because of his notable contributions to those shows, as well as SNL and NBC News, Pardo marked another first in 2009 — he became the first announcer inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
4. He Branches Out
While his career was mostly confined to announcing news and the names of TV stars, Pardo had one notable foray into the world of music — contributing his vocal stylings to the Frank Zappa song “I’m the Slime” during a December 1976 episode of SNL and on the album Zappa in New York.
5. He Makes Mistakes
Former Saturday Night Live cast member Jimmy Fallon once remarked that “nothing is like the moment when Don Pardo says your name.” That’s probably true, even if he doesn’t get your name right. That was the case on SNL’s first show on October 11, 1975, when Pardo mistakenly introduced the show’s fresh-faced cast as The Not for Ready Primetime Players, rather than The Not Ready for Primetime Players. But seeing as he’s been pretty solid in the 35-plus years since, we should probably let that one slide.
Sesame Streethas been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.
1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.
According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.
2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.
Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.
3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.
Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.
4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.
Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.
5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.
Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?
According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.
6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.
Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.
7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.
Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.
8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.
Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.
9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.
Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.
10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.
Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.
The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.
Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.
Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.
While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.