Former "SNL" cast member Darrell Hammond returns to his old stomping grounds this season when he assumes the role of announcer, replacing long-time voice of the show Don Pardo. Pardo died on Aug. 18 after nearly 40 years of heralding the beginning of the show by saying, "It's 'Saturday Night Live!'"
Hammond's run on "SNL" was longer than any other cast member, from 1995 to 2009. His taking over as announcer is fitting given that he occasionally filled in for Pardo when he had laryngitis.
But according to USA Today, Lorne Michaels insists that Hammond won't be attempting to duplicate Pardo's voice. “It can’t be what it was, but it could sort of be in the same tradition," he said.
The announcement is just the latest in a series of changes leading up to "SNL's" highly-anticipated 40th season. The show's ongoing transition period began with the 2012 departures of Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, followed by Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen in 2013 and Seth Meyers, who left earlier this year to helm "Late Night." Season 39 saw the addition of six new cast members, half of whom were laid off over the summer. It was also announced that Nasim Pedrad would be leaving to co-star in "Mulaney."
Since then, new "Weekend Update" anchor Michael Che, new featured player Pete Davidson and five new writers have been announced. Mike O'Brien, a former writer who joined the cast last season, will also return to the writers' room.
But this year's change in announcer, though off-screen, may be the most striking in "SNL's" history. According to NBC's Brian Williams, Michaels used to say that "the show doesn't come alive until we hear the voice of Don Pardo."
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and Hammond is, perhaps, the only person for the job. "When he passed, they wanted me," Hammond told USA Today. "It felt right for me to be the one to replace him. It's been a very improbable life; I didn't expect something like this, but it feels real good."
"Saturday Night Live" returns for its 40th season on September 27 at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.