In his long and celebrated life, Saturday Night Live's longtime announcer Don Pardo was sort of the ringmaster of the circus that is American comedy. He introduced Steve Martin and Bill Murray to America back in the 1970s. He introduced Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Al Franken in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it was Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon. The 2000s saw Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers. And that's only a handful of the dozens of comedians Pardo helped make famous.
Pardo passed away on Monday at the age of 96. With his death, a four-decade-old rite of passage will need to be reinvented, but it'll never be the same without Pardo, of course. SNL creator Lorne Michaels recently told The New York Times, "Every year the new cast couldn't wait to hear their name said by him."
It could be argued that the show's consistently high quality of comedy stems from its tradition of excellence and prestige. By the time these comedians finally got to hear their named called out by Pardo at the beginning of the show, they not only knew that they'd made it. They knew that they'd have to live up to the greatness that Pardo and Michaels and all of the old cast members helped to establish. This is not to say that SNL can't be funny for another 40 years without Pardo. But it certainly won't be the same.