This past weekend, Giants quarterback Eli Manning became the 35th sports figure to host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Here’s a breakdown of Eli’s first performance, along with video and sketch-by-sketch performance ratings on a scale of 1-10.
The monologue: 5/10 – Eli really struggled out of the gate. His first two jokes — “After two Super Bowls, this is definitely the third most exciting night of my life” and “We had a big parade downtown where we took the Lombardi Trophy into the heart of the city, and now we have no idea where it is” — were particularly weak. He was quite awkward and spoke over applause. He did, however, loosen up a bit during a self-deprecating Q&A session with cast members posing as members of the audience. This is the toughest part of hosting the show, and the Louisiana boy did a decent job poking fun at his own lack of New York knowledge.
Motion Capture: 8/10 – His first sketch of the night was easily the winner. Playing himself in a video game motion capture session, Eli was again self deprecating as he attempted to mime signature celebration moves. He’s not an overly funny guy, but he seems to excel in physical comedy. (See: Football Cops.)
Text Message Evidence: 7/10 — Playing a man on trial for murder, Manning was again cast as sort of a fool, and he once again thrived. (Sensing a pattern here?) In this case, his character is a serial booty-texting horndog. The funniest part was when, on the stand, Manning was asked to perform the emoticons from his texts. Thank goodness Brett Favre wasn’t hosting this week.
Little Brothers: 6/10 – This is the sketch that’s getting the most attention in the media, but it’s really just a less funny version of brother Peyton’s fantastic United Way parody from 2007. The highlight was when Eli, who helps little brothers gain revenge on bullying big brothers, called one of the tormented older brothers “Peyton.” The response: “My name’s not Peyton!”
What Is This?: 5/10 — Eli plays a standoffish boyfriend who won’t commit to the host of a game show in which contestants have to identify basic items. It’s not even worth getting into, because it was a dumb idea for a sketch and it was completely unfunny. But that’s not really Eli’s fault.
Helga Lately: 5/10 — This was really the only time all night in which Manning was cast in a completely positive light. But as a soccer-playing guest on a faux Swedish version of “Chelsea Lately,” he wasn’t asked to do anything more than rhyme off some gibberish.
Miss Drag World: 1/10 — Obviously you can see where this one’s going. Eli in drag. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said.
TCM Comedy: Cheech and Chong: 6/10 — Eli plays the forgotten third wheel of the “Cheech and Chong” films — a wet blanket who doesn’t do drugs. “I have a scholarship to Indiana University. I cannot be around drugs.” Because he appears to be one in real life, he’s pretty decent at playing a straight edge. Although maybe Archie Manning would have been a better fit for Cheech & Chong…
In conclusion: The overall performance was pretty much what I expected from Eli. Nothing hilarious (I laughed out loud once or twice) and no memorable lines, but not a complete disaster either. In terms of rating Eli’s overall performance, it was somewhere between Matt Cassel and Matt Hasselbeck. Overall: 5.5/10