Don Novello

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Don Novello
Born Donald Andrew Novello
(1943-01-01) January 1, 1943 (age 76)
Ashtabula, Ohio, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director, writer, producer, singer, comedian
Years active 1963–present

Donald Andrew "Don" Novello (born January 1, 1943) is an American writer, film director, producer, actor, singer and comedian. He is best known for his work on NBC's Saturday Night Live from 1977 until 1980, and again in 1985–86, often as the character Father Guido Sarducci. He appeared as Sarducci in the video of Rodney Dangerfield's "Rappin' Rodney", and on many subsequent television shows, including Married... with Children, Blossom, It's Garry Shandling's Show, Unhappily Ever After, Square Pegs and The Colbert Report.

Early life

Novello was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, the son of Eleanor Eileen (Finnerty), a nurse, and Augustine Joseph Novello, a physician.[1][2][3][4] He is of Italian and Irish descent.[5] In 1961, he graduated from Lorain High School in Lorain, Ohio. He graduated from the University of Dayton. In 1965, he graduated from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona.[citation needed]


In the late 1960s, Novello worked as an advertising copywriter for Leo Burnett in Chicago.[6][7]

Don Novello created the Father Guido Sarducci character in 1973 after finding a monsignor's outfit for $7.50 at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. Adding sunglasses, a broom mustache, cigarette and a thick Italian accent, Sarducci became popular in a San Francisco nightclub. Sarducci appeared on San Francisco Channel 20's Chicken Little Comedy Show, and comic David Steinberg was watching. Steinberg hired Novello as a writer for a TV show that never aired, but he also introduced Novello to Tommy and Dick Smothers, and they hired Novello, too. Novello performed on The Smothers Brothers Show in 1975, appearing as Sarducci.

In the 1970s, Novello started to write letters to famous people under the pen name of Lazlo Toth (after Laszlo Toth, a deranged man who vandalized Michelangelo's Pietà in Rome). The letters, in which Novello pretended to be serious but misinformed and obtuse, were designed to tweak the noses of politicians and corporations. Many of them received serious responses; Novello sometimes continued the charade correspondence at length, with humorous results. The letters and responses were published in the books The Lazlo Letters,[8] Citizen Lazlo!,[9] and From Bush to Bush: The Lazlo Toth Letters.[10]

The Lazlo Letters, Novello's first book of stilted letters to celebrities, caught the attention of Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live. Novello was hired as a writer for the show's third season in 1977-1978 where he remained through the fifth season, and returned as a writer in the eleventh season. He also appeared numerous times on the show in the Father Guido Sarducci character.

In 1980, under the name of Father Guido Sarducci, he sang lead vocals on the Warner Bros. Records release, "I Won't Be Twisting This Christmas"/"Parco MacArthur" (WBS49627). Novello co-wrote the first tune with M. Davich, and the second tune is an Italian language cover of "MacArthur Park", the Jimmy Webb song, in an arrangement similar to that recorded by Richard Harris.

Novello made newspapers around the world when he visited the Vatican in 1981 wearing the Father Guido Sarducci costume and, while taking photographs for a magazine article in an area where photography was prohibited, was arrested by the Swiss Guards along with his photographer (Paul Solomon), and eventually charged with "impersonating a priest". The charges were later dropped, and Solomon managed to protect the film from confiscation.

In his stage show in Las Vegas and Reno with the Smothers Brothers, Father Guido Sarducci rolled a wheelchair with a dummy in the robes of a cardinal. In the act, Sarducci explained he was the assistant of 108-year-old "Cardinal Dario Fungi."

For a brief period in 1982, Novello was a producer on SCTV, a Toronto-based comedy show starring Martin Short, Joe Flaherty, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara. He was installed by NBC as one of a series of producers for the show's fourth season, and produced a total of 9 episodes. In 1984 Novello wrote The Blade, a high school yearbook parody in which the students are represented by sheep. Novello co-wrote the unfilmed script for Noble Rot, with John Belushi. He also narrated Faerie Tale Theatre's third-season episode Pinocchio with Paul Reubens as the titular puppet.

In 1990, Novello portrayed "Dominic Abbandando" in the film The Godfather Part III. Abbandando appears with speaking lines in the first scene as public relations and media coordinator for Don Michael Corleone. Most notable is when he slaps down a news reporter with the challenge: "You think you know better than the Pope?" Novello appears in many other scenes as well, shadowing George Hamilton, and in the climactic scene on the steps of the Palermo Opera House.

In 2001, he lent his voice to the character Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini in the Disney animated film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and subsequently in the direct-to-video sequel Atlantis: Milo's Return. In 2003, he filed papers to enter the 2003 California recall election, but failed to collect enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

In 2005, after the death of Pope John Paul II, Novello, as Father Guido Sarducci, reprised his former SNL role as "Special Vatican Reporter" for Air America Radio host (and fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus) Al Franken. He continued this role until the election of Pope Benedict XVI. In 2006, he portrayed the role of Galileo on the podcast "The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd".

He portrayed Pope Pius XII in the 2009 short film All in the Bunker.

On June 23, 2010, he appeared on The Colbert Report as Father Guido Sarducci.

On October 30, 2010, he gave the benediction at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.[11]

American recording artist Guthrie Thomas credited Don Novello as "the best performer in the room" when Novello appeared as Father Guido Sarducci on one of Thomas' albums in a recording studio full of famous performers.

Personal life

Novello resides in San Anselmo, California.[12] He has one brother, Joseph "Joe" Novello. His sister-in-law Dr. Antonia Novello M.D. was Surgeon General of the United States from 1990 to 1993.

Writing credits

Selected acting credits


  • The Lazlo Letters (1977)
  • The Blade: Shellville High School Yearbook (1984)
  • Citizen Lazlo!: The Lazlo Letters Vol. 2 (1992)
  • From Bush to Bush: The Lazlo Toth Letters (2003)


  • Father Guido Sarducci Live at St. Douglas Convent (1980)
  • Breakfast in Heaven (1986)
  • Everybody's Free to Wear Camouflage (2000) (CD Single) written by; Cat McLean, Don Novello and Narada Michael Walden, which was a top 20 hit in the UK.
  • One Hundred Bulbs on the Christmas Tree Party (2006)

Appeared on the compilations "Holidays in Dementia" (1995) and "A Classic Rock Christmas" (2002). He made guest appearances on the Handsome Boy Modeling School albums So... How's Your Girl? (1999) and White People (2004).


  1. Lebzelter, Robert (September 15, 2007). "What You Need to Know about Your Home State". Star Beacon. Retrieved April 9, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Don Novello Biography (1943-)". January 1, 1943. Retrieved November 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "TV priest joins movie Mafia". Ellensburg Daily Record. Retrieved November 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Live from New York: an uncensored ... - Google Books. Retrieved November 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Don Novello Tries To Save His Sheep / One-shot musical detailed in TV special". September 2, 1997. Retrieved November 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. ISBN 1-56305-285-7
  9. ISBN 1-56305-182-6
  10. ISBN 0-7432-5108-3
  11. Video on YouTube
  12. Paul Liberatore (November 30, 2006). "Paul Liberatore: Holiday songs? Bah humbug! - Marin Independent Journal". Retrieved November 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links