Commentary

Manning going 'Live' Saturday night

Eli will host SNL this weekend. So what does Lorne Michaels think of all this?

Updated: May 6, 2012, 12:44 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

Shortly after Eli Manning won Super Bowl XLII in 2008, Lorne Michaels approached the quarterback about hosting "Saturday Night Live."

Manning politely declined the invitation from SNL's creator and executive producer, saying he wanted to focus on football and didn't want to host the show not long after brother Peyton Manning drew laughs during his stint as host in 2007.

"I kind of remember saying I just want to do it maybe after my next championship," Manning recalled of what he told the show.

Eli Manning
Sam Riche/MCT/Getty ImagesEli Manning has little trouble performing in front of a live audience.

So after Manning and the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI in February, Michaels came calling again, and the Giants quarterback jumped at the opportunity. On Saturday, he will make his debut as "Saturday Night Live" host.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP, who calmly engineered game-winning drives against the Patriots on the biggest stage in sports, admits he's anxious entering rehearsals.

The quarterback may be used to watching endless hours of film preparing for complex defenses. But on Wednesday afternoon, Manning was scheduled to start four hours of rehearsal and go through 40 to 45 sketches. Music may be involved, and musical guest Rihanna also could perform in a skit or two.

Michaels and his staff hope to select 12 to 13 skits for the show, and Manning will do more rehearsing and practicing the rest of the week.

"There is music to learn, there are a lot of variables," Michaels said of the host's duties. "This show is built around Eli, and you just want to make sure that we have the best possible things for this week's show."

Plenty of athletes have hosted "Saturday Night Live." The executive producer sees qualities in the Giants quarterback that will help him Saturday night.

"The good part about athletes is that they are used to being in front of large groups of people and not knowing how it is going to turn out," Michaels said. "The only real preparation for us is we won't really know until dress rehearsal what is beginning to work and what is not working, and then there's a lot of course correction.

"There is still some risk involved, but it is that flexibility that we know how Eli reacts both under pressure and also with changing things quickly."

It didn't take Eli long to make cast member and head writer Seth Meyers laugh.

"He has a really good sense of humor,'' Meyers said in a video on Giants.com. "Obviously we worked with Peyton and I think people know Peyton has a really good sense of humor but Eli's just as good if not a little bit better."

"Part of the fun is just relaxing and realizing this stuff works best when the audience can tell you're enjoying yourself," Meyers added. "If they can tell you're out of your comfort zone and uncomfortable it's not as much fun as if they can tell you're out of your comfort zone and you don't really care."

Manning was in the audience when his big brother hosted the show. Peyton and even John Madden, who also hosted the show, have offered advice. Both told him to enjoy the process and spend time with the writers and cast members.

"[Peyton] said just enjoy the week, it is a lot of fun," Manning said. "It is work. You are doing something you are not quite used to doing. He said the one thing you are used to doing is live. That is something you do every week during the football season."

Manning -- who says one of his favorite SNL skits off the top of his head is Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze's famous Chippendales act -- has his teammates excited, and some are planning Saturday night gatherings to watch. The Giants quarterback is known for his humor and penchant for playing pranks on teammates.

"He is a funny guy," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "You guys are not around him that much, but he can be pretty funny."

Manning has already shot a few promos for the show, including one in which he sings.

"The good thing about 'Saturday Night Live,' you can come in and maybe express a different side that people don't see, and maybe that is not you at all times, but for this night you can kind of let loose," said Manning, who is a noted karaoke enthusiast. "That is one thing about Peyton: We don't mind making fun of [ourselves] or letting jokes be at our own expense. I think it is important to have that attitude going into this week."

Michaels was asked which Manning is funnier -- Peyton or Eli.

"We won't really know that until Saturday," Michaels said. "It's been great so far.

"Eli was good enough to win another Super Bowl, which helped us out a lot."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
Follow him on Twitter »  Ohm's chat archive »

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