(NOTE: The following interview with Father Guido Sarducci, a.k.a., comedian Don Novello, originally appeared in Music Magazine on May 26, 1983. I am posting it online for the first time in celebration of Novello’s January 1 birthday. — Bob Andelman)
Where is Rosanne Rosannadanna when you need her?
“Hey, Don Novello!” she’d scream, “for a guy from Ohio you sure are scrawny! And what’s all this stuff I read about your pretending to be a priest or rabbi or something? Can’t you get a real job, or what?”
The most difficult part of talking with Don Novello was deciding if he was going to be Novello or the prodigal bad boy of the gospel, Father Guido Sarducci. I assumed he could be both, or just Novello.
Please eavesdrop on some of our opening banter:
“Why don’t we just do the Novello thing and then we’ll do Sarducci or one or the other,” said Novello, to which I was agreeable. Then he changed his mind.
“lf you want to just do Sarducci. that’d be cool. I like to do it like Sarducci as a real person. I think somehow it makes it more real … instead of like a lot of people who do characters. Or even that guy who does the Unknown Comedian with the bag over his head. I never wanted to be ‘Here’s Don Novello as Father Guido Saraducci.’ Even though you know it’s not a real person, it just makes it more real or something. l’ve never been afraid of having my name not mentioned. I prefer it.”
FATHER GUIDO SARDUCCI interview excerpt: “When the Polish Pope was elected, I wrote this article that says now that we broke tradition by having a non-Italian Pope, let’s break more tradition and have non-Swiss Swiss Guards. These guys took it personally.”
\Fair enough. Yet before we forget the identity of the man beneath the robes, let’s remember that he is a former writer for “Saturday Night Live.” a man who has appeared in much of the pop media in priestly garb over the last 10 years. He has reported on the Pope for Rolling Stone, hosted the short-lived SNL clone “Fridays,” and been generally perpetrating the Father since the last incarnation of the Smothers Brothers on television in the early seventies.
Now, without further ado, Father Guido Sarducci:
Why did you decide to go public on American television programs like “Saturday Night Live”?
“l’m a gossip columnist for the Vatican newspaper, right? So I’ve been on TV in Italy, and so, you now, they asked me to be on television.”
Do you have better contacts thatn Rona Barrett?
“ln Europe, for sure, Miss Rona’s not too big there. She steals stuff from me. And sometimes I do … you know … borrow some stuff from her, but I always change it around a little bit.”
How did you get into broadcasting?
“l went to Marconi School of Broadcasting. I was working as a disc jockey for Vatican Radio. Rock ‘n’ roll. We have a boat called Vatican Free Radio docked two miles off the coast of Albania. I would play Rita Pavone, Paul Anka, Gene Pitney, my favorite, that we would broadcast to Communist countries.”
Were there some kinds of music you could not play on Vatican Radio?
“Some Motown you could not play. Ain’t no heavy breathing. No Barry White. If he had recorded in Albanian, we would have played it, but not in English.”
Are you working on television much these days?
“ln ltaly I do. I’m on the Mike Bonjourno Show. I’m a regular, once a week. I do a cooking show called ‘La Conchita con Guido.’ lt means Guido’s Kitchen, like ‘Who’s in the kitchen with Dinah,’ it’s who’s in the kitchen with Guido, playing on the old mandolin.
“l do, like, a 15-minute cooking show. And I don’t know how to cook very good, but, like, I make a eggs and sandwiches, that kind of stuff.”
How would you make eggs?
“My problem is, it’s 15 minutes, so if I’m showing how to do soft-boiled eggs, I start with very cold water for boiling and I make the toast one piece at a time, that’s to stretch it out.”
Fifteen minutes is a lot of time.
“Especially, like, for sandwiches. lf it was complicated, it would be easy, but I don’t know now to make stuff like that.”
There have been some vague reports in the press about you being arrested near the Vatican. Care to elaborate?
“It was just a misunderstanding, a problem with the Swiss Guard. When the Polish Pope was elected, I wrote this article that says now that we broke tradition by having a non-Italian Pope, let’s break more tradition and have non-Swiss Swiss Guards. These guys took it personally.
“See, it made no sense to me that we have unemployment in Italy and the Vatican is bringing in Swiss people to work in Rome. I said, let’s get some Italian Swiss Guards, some Greek Swiss Guards…”
Father Guido Sarducci will never be the church’s standard bearer. He’ll go on “saying what has to be said,” advocating less than conservative gothic opinions. What else would you expect from a priest whose favorite song is “When You Wish Upon A Star” as sung by Jiminy Cricket in the movie Pinocchio?
Father Guido Sarducci Wikipedia