In a conference call earlier this week, Lorne Michaels told reporters that he thinks athletes generally make good SNL hosts because they’re used to performing live and having to cope with the unexpected. Unfortunately, actual results haven’t always supported this claim. For every surprisingly good Peyton Manning or Charles Barkley, there’s a stiff, uncomfortable Wayne Gretsky or Nancy Kerrigan — and if we’re really being honest, the list of athletes who have fumbled on Saturday Night Live is a lot longer than the list of those who have scored touchdowns. (Get ready for a lot of sports metaphors tonight, folks.)
Will Eli Manning follow in his brother’s pretty impressive footsteps — or will he become the next Michael Phelps, i.e. the January Jones of sports figure SNL hosts? As of now, I’m cautiously optimistic about his chances. In DirecTV’s “Football Cops” miniseries, the quarterback has shown that he’s not afraid to look goofy (and rock a seriously bushy ’70s mustache). And Manning is totally competent — if not exactly a natural-born comedian — in the SNL promos he made with Kenan Thompson.
I’m guessing that tonight, Manning will mainly be charged with playing himself in sketches — give or take one segment in which he impersonates the other Manning instead. That should make it easy for the Giant to get through the evening without having to stretch too far. (Insert a joke about physical flexibility here.)
Manning will also get a boost from another comic secret weapon: Rihanna, who’s making her third outing as musical guest tonight. The original “Shy Ronnie” video is one of SNL‘s funniest musical Digital Shorts, and while the joke felt a little stale in “Shy Ronnie 2: Still Mumblin’,” I definitely wouldn’t be disappointed if The Perils of Reticent Ronald were expanded into a trilogy. Rihanna might also appear in some sort of Battleship satire — and though it may be hard to parody a film that already looks like a parody of itself, who doesn’t love a good board game movie joke?
What are you hoping to see Eli Manning do tonight? Are there any celebrities you think he could passably impersonate? (Mark Zuckerberg, maybe? Kinda? If you close one eye and squint the other one?) And would you rather see Rihanna badger Shy Ronnie, fight submarine alien robots, appear in an absurd sketch about an S&M club, or do all three at the same time?
Share your thoughts on the episode here, then check back on Sunday for a full recap.