Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear began with a benediction given by Father Guido Sarducci, a comedy persona that is nearly four decades old. For anyone who has only watched Saturday Night Live in the 21st Century, this unconventional cleric may be unfamiliar. So I thought I’d provide some background.
Actor and writer Don Novello came to the attention of SNL producer Lorne Michaels‘ due to a series of prank letters to celebrities called The Lazlo Letters (Novello wrote a sequel 20 years later called From Bush to Bush). Michaels hired him to write for SNL, and Novello, as Father Guido Sarducci, also become a regular cast member, making 25+ appearances on the show from 1978-1995. The chain-smoking priest with the tinted glasses came into being when Novello found the outfit in a thrift store.
Over the years Novello also co-wrote a screenplay with John Belushi (that was never produced), produced and wrote for SCTV, made a guest appearance on the debut album of Handsome Boy Modeling School, and recorded his own version of the song Macarthur Park in Italian.
Novello was discovered performing in San Francisco comedy clubs and now lives in San Anselmo, California, and he turns up in SF from time-to-time. In 1996 Father Guido appeared at a fundraiser (along with our friends The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence) for the medical marijuana measure that was on the ballot at the time.
Here he is on Letterman, with footage of him asking the Pope about jetlag (also in San Francisco):
And here is his take on the benefits of being an artist (we’ve posted this before):