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Don Novello
Don Novello 2000.jpg
Don Novello performing as Father Guido Sarducci in 2000
Born (1943-01-01) January 1, 1943 (age 81)
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • singer
  • writer
  • film director
  • producer
Years active 1963–present

Don Novello (born January 1, 1943) is an American actor, comedian, writer, singer, film director and producer.

He appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live as the character Father Guido Sarducci from 1978 to 1980, and 1985 to 1986. He appeared as Sarducci in television shows Married... with Children, Blossom, It's Garry Shandling's Show, Unhappily Ever After, Square Pegs, and The Colbert Report, and in the 1980 film Gilda Live. He is the voice of Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini in the franchise of Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Early life

Novello was born on January 1, 1943, in Ashtabula, Ohio, the son of Eleanor Eileen Novello (née Finnerty), a nurse, and Augustine Joseph Novello, a physician. He is of Italian and Irish descent.

The family moved to Lorain, Ohio, when Don was a child. In 1961, he graduated from Lorain High School. He subsequently enrolled into the University of Dayton and graduated from it in 1964. In 1965, he graduated with a Bachelor of Foreign Trade degree from the American Graduate School of International Management (renamed the Thunderbird School of Global Management of Arizona State University).


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

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. He also was with Pat Paulsen during Paulsen's "Presidential Campaign Tour" in the mid-70s as his "Campaign Manager."

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, written to suggest a serious but misinformed and obtuse correspondent, 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, Citizen Lazlo!, and From Bush to Bush: The Lazlo Toth Letters.

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, 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 nine episodes.

In 1983, Novello had a cameo as Father Sarducci in the video for Rodney Dangerfield's comedy rap song "Rappin' Rodney" which was heavily played on MTV.

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. Also in 1984, Novello appeared in the music video for the Jefferson Starship song "No Way Out".

In 1989, Novello co-starred in the anthology film New York Stories in the Francis Ford Coppola-directed segment, Life Without Zoe. In his 2 1/2 star review of the movie, Roger Ebert cited Novello for giving "the most engaging performance in the movie."

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, Teatro Massimo.

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.

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. He has one brother, Joseph "Joe" Novello, and one sister, Eileen. His former sister-in-law Antonia Novello M.D. served as Surgeon General of the United States from 1990 to 1993. His niece is film producer Holly Wiersma (Wonderland, Billionaire Boys Club).

Selected acting credits

  • Saturday Night Live (1978–1980, 1985–1986) (TV) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Gilda Live (1980) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Square Pegs (1982) (TV) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (1979) – Men in Film Room (voice, uncredited)
  • Become an Artist (1982) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Head Office (1985) – Sal
  • Father Guido Sarducci Goes to College (1985) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • It's Garry Shandling's Show (1986) (TV) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) – Stan
  • New York Stories (1989) – Hector (segment "Life without Zoe")
  • The Spirit of '76 (1990) – Translator
  • The Godfather Part III (1990) – Dominic Abbandando
  • PBS Great Performances La Pastorela: The Shepherd's Tale (1991) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde (1993) – Sanchez
  • Blossom (1993) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • One Night Stand (1995) – Warren Miller
  • Casper (1995) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Married... with Children (1995) (TV) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Jack (1996) – Bartender
  • Touch (1997) – Father Navaroli
  • Just the Ticket (1999) – Tony
  • The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) – Fruit vendor twins
  • Just One Night (2000) – Italian drifter
  • Nothing Sacred (2000) – Caterer
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) – Vincenzo 'Vinny' Santorini (voice)
  • Atlantis: Milo's Return (2003) – Vincenzo 'Vinny' Santorini (voice)
  • Rent Control (2005 film) (2005) – Rico
  • Factory Girl (2006) – Mort Silvers
  • The Colbert Report (2010) (TV) – Father Guido Sarducci
  • Twixt (2011) – Melvin
  • Palo Alto (2013) – Mr. Wilson

Writing credits

  • The Smothers Brothers Show (1975) (TV)
  • Van Dyke and Company (1976) (TV)
  • Saturday Night Live (1978–1986) (TV)
  • Things We Did Last Summer (1978) (TV)
  • Gilda Live (with Gilda Radner, Anne Beatts, Lorne Michaels, Michael O'Donoghue, Rosie Shuster, Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Paul Shaffer and Alan Zweibel) (1980)
  • SCTV (1982) (TV)
  • Noble Rot (with John Belushi) (1982) (unproduced)
  • A Man Called Sporacaione (1982) (unproduced)
  • Blondes vs. Brunettes (with Lisa Medway) (1984) (TV)
  • Father Guido Sarducci Goes To College (1985) (VHS)
  • Our Planet Tonight (1987) (TV)


  • Father Guido Sarducci Live at St. Douglas Convent (1980)
  • Breakfast in Heaven (1986) as Father Guido Sarducci
  • 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. Performed as Father Guido Sarducci
  • One Hundred Bulbs on the Christmas Tree Party (2006) as Father Guido Sarducci

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).

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