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Don Novello

Don NovelloBorn: 1-Jan-1943
Birthplace: Ashtabula, OH

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Comic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Comic priest Father Guido Sarducci

Don Novello first created Father Guido Sarducci in 1973, when he found the Vatican monsignor's outfit -- big floppy black hat, white clerical collar, and a long, red-trimmed black coat with cape -- for $7.50 at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. "That was during Watergate," says Novello, "and I didn't want to be just somebody else talking about politics. I thought [the monsignor's suit] would give me some authority instead of being some guy from Ohio." Augmented with sunglasses, a Fuller brush mustache, a smoldering cigarette and an Italian accent, Novello's Sarducci became popular in a San Francisco nightclub. His first big break came when Sarducci guested 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, but it was The Lazlo Letters, his first book of mildly insane letters to celebrities, that caught Lorne Michaels's attention. Written under the pseudonym Lazlo Toth (borrowing the name of the art vandal), Novello wrote borderline-sane letters to politicians from Richard Nixon to Earl Butz, and published the replies. The book was published in 1977, and Novello joined Saturday Night Live in 1978, where he remained until 1980. He also hosted an SNL in 1984, memorably nominating ZZ Top to run for President, and returned to SNL as a writer from 1985-1986. Since leaving SNL, he has also played Father Sarducci on Square Pegs, Blossom, It's Garry Shandling's Show, Married with Children, and a 1991 PBS "Great Performances" production of La Pastorela. He wrote for and produced two SCTV follow-ups in the early 1980s, SCTV Channel and SCTV Network '90 (without appearing in either series).

In 1981, in character as Fr. Sarducci at the Vatican, Novello was caught taking snapshots in an area where photography is prohibited. He was arrested and charged with impersonating a priest. The real Lazlo Toth was also arrested in the Vatican. He spelled his name László Tóth, and attended a 1972 mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Then, while the Pope prayed and everyone (including the guards) had their heads bowed and eyes closed, Tóth hopped over a marble banister and used a sledgehammer to knock an arm off Michelangelo's Vatican Pieta, while shouting, "I am Jesus Christ!" Tóth was acquitted on grounds of insanity, the statue was quickly repaired, and Vatican guards were instructed not to close their eyes during prayers.

Novello and John Belushi co-wrote Noble Rot, a comedy in which Belushi was to play a recovering alcoholic who goes on a weekend bender. Belushi reportedly poured his soul and his personal philosophy of life into the screenplay, and he was eagerly looking forward to playing the lead, but studio executives hated the script and rejected the idea. A few weeks later, when Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose, pages from Noble Rot were scattered across the floor. The script has never been filmed.

Novello still earns a comfortable living as an actor and comic, and he has written two sequels to The Lazlo Letters. In 2005, Sarducci provided inside commentary on the selection of a new Pope, for radio's Al Franken Show.

His sister-in-law, Dr. Antonia Coello Novello, was Surgeon General of the United States from 1990-93, under President George H.W. Bush.

Father: Augustine Joseph Novello, Sr. (physician)
Mother: Eleanor Finnerty
Brother: Joseph R. Novello (child psychiatrist, author of The Myth of More)
Wife: (m.)

    High School: Lorain High School, Lorain, OH (1960)
    University: University of Dayton (1964)

    California Recall Election failed to qualify for the ballot
    Impersonating a Priest Vatican City, Rome 1981
    Handsome Boy Modeling School
    Risk Factors: Smoking

    Saturday Night Live 1977-87

    Palo Alto (29-Aug-2013)
    Twixt (11-Sep-2011)
    Factory Girl (29-Dec-2006)
    Atlantis: Milo's Return (23-Apr-2003) [VOICE]
    Rent Control (2002)
    Atlantis: The Lost Empire (3-Jun-2001) [VOICE]
    The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (24-Jun-2000) · Fruit Vendor Twins
    Just the Ticket (26-Feb-1999) · Tony
    Touch (14-Feb-1997) · Fr. Navaroli
    Jack (9-Aug-1996) · Bartender
    One Night Stand (1-Nov-1995)
    Casper (26-May-1995) · Fr. Guido Sarducci
    Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde (15-Dec-1993)
    Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (8-May-1993)
    The Godfather: Part III (25-Dec-1990)
    The Spirit of '76 (12-Oct-1990)
    New York Stories (1-Mar-1989)
    Tucker: The Man and His Dream (12-Aug-1988)
    Head Office (29-Dec-1985)
    Gilda Live (1980)

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