Eli Manning and Lorne Michaels talk Chris Farley, living up to Peyton, and why athletes make good 'SNL' hosts

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Image Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC

Don’t expect to see a Football Cops sketch on Saturday Night Live this weekend. While New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (pictured, with SNL cast member Kenan Thompson) is hosting the show, his brother Peyton won’t be making a cameo.

Then again, Eli might prefer being the only Manning onscreen. During a conference call this afternoon, the athlete revealed to reporters that he was first approached about hosting SNL right after leading the Giants to Super Bowl victory in 2008. But Manning turned down that initial offer: “Peyton had done it so well the previous year,” he explained. “I kind of wanted to keep working on my football, and I hadn’t really proven myself as well as I wanted to.”

After clinching a second NFL championship, Manning changed his tune. Now the good-natured football star is ready to show the world what he can do on live TV — and SNL czar Lorne Michaels is confident that Eli is up to that challenge. “I think he’s both charming and radiates a certain kind of intelligence,” Michaels said during the call. “You sort of believe that he doesn’t take himself that seriously.” And being able to engage in self-parody is crucial for any SNL host — especially one who’s not a performer by trade.

According to Michaels, though, athletes are better suited for the rigors of Saturday Night Live than a layperson might suspect. As he explains, sports stars are “used to being in front of large groups of people and not knowing how it’s going to turn out.” Actors and singers, on the other hand, generally are accustomed to long periods of rehearsal. An athlete’s natural flexibility can come in handy on a show that’s being thrown together in a matter of days — theoretically, at least.

SNL is such a last-minute enterprise that even today, Manning and Michaels still couldn’t say which specific sketches and characters we can expect to see Saturday night. (One thing we do know: Musical guest Rihanna will most likely pop up in at least one segment.) It’s possible, though, that Manning will don a button-down and a bow tie in homage to a certain legendary skit; the quarterback cited Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze’s classic Chippendales sketch as one of his all-time favorites. Paging Bobby Moynihan!

Michaels also acted predictably cagey when asked if he could speak about potential SNL cast changes. “I know there will be some,” he said, “but it’s just the nature of the way we work that nobody talks about it until the season is done. Needless to say, I’d like everyone to stay.” There was a pregnant pause.

Finally, Michaels piped up again: “Did that avoid that question successfully?”

Read more:
Will Ferrell returns to host ‘Saturday Night Live’
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