Giants QB Manning getting 'SNL' playbook
The Giants and their fans have studied every move Eli Manning has made the past eight years, but no one will ever have seen him the way he’ll present himself this weekend, when he is the host of “Saturday Night Live.’’
“I think that’s the good thing about 'Saturday Night Live' is you can kind of come in and maybe express a different side that people don’t see and maybe that’s not you at all times,’’ Manning said Wednesday during a conference call. “But for this night you can kind of let loose."
Manning letting loose is not a sight many have witnessed but he’ll leave his comfort zone and enter uncharted territory with this gig. He spent Monday and Tuesday meeting cast members and writers at the NBC studios and kicked around some ideas, but the heavy lifting is still to come, when scripts are finalized and he starts intensive rehearsals.
“The show is built around Eli, you want to make sure we have the best possible things for this week’s show,’’ said Lorne Michaels, executive producer of “Saturday Night Live.’’ Michaels said, “We’ve been pursuing him a long time’’ and indeed, he reached out to Manning after he was named MVP of Super Bowl XLII following the 2007 season. Manning declined then but not this time after winning his second Super Bowl MVP award by again beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl XLVI.
“I think he’s both charming and radiates a certain kind of intelligence and a kind of … you sort of believe he doesn’t take himself that seriously,’’ Michaels said. “I think he takes his work very seriously. There’s a sort of a central modesty to him and I think that plays well to what we do. If the host is spending a lot of time protecting his image it’s exhausting for us.’’ Manning, hearing Michaels’ complementary words, said, “I’m blushing Lorne, thank you.’’
Michael said there’s been no need for any special concessions for Manning even though he’s not accustomed to acting. “The good part about athletes is that they’re used to being in front of large groups of people and not knowing how it’s going to turn out,’’ Michaels said. “We know how Eli reacts both under pressure and also with changing things quickly.’’
In typical Eli fashion, before agreeing to serve as host, he checked the rehearsal schedule, matched it up with the Giants’ offseason workout schedule and saw he could do both without missing a thing. He works out at the team headquarters in the morning then heads to Rockefeller Center for the afternoon. “The good thing about this week, all the writers and cast, they have odd hours, it’s not your typical work day,’’ Manning said. “They go in in the afternoon and work to the wee hours of the morning. I go in around 3, 4 o’clock, from Hoboken to Manhattan does not take long, it only takes 15, 20 minutes, everything’s been very smooth so far. “My teammates, they’ve been talking about it, kind of asking what’s going on and excited for me, they’re kind of planning stuff to watch it together. It’s going to be a great experience and great fun.’’
Older brother Peyton was host of "Saturday Night Live’’ after he won his only Super Bowl following the 2006 season; Eli was in the audience that night. “The main thing he said is just enjoy the week,’’ Eli said. “It really is a lot of fun, it is work and you’re doing something you’re not quite used to doing but he said the one thing you are used to doing is live, it’s something you do every week during the football season. He said just enjoy being with the writers and try to hang around as much as you can and work with them and just follow their guidance, they’re the ones that are funny and know how to do this.
“That’s one thing I would say about myself and Peyton, we don’t mind making fun of myself or letting the jokes be at our own expense. It’s important to have that attitude going into this week. I enjoyed watching Peyton do the show and being there to experience that and seeing how it works. Growing up we were always great fans and watching 'Saturday Night Live' for a long, long time.’’
Why now for Eli as opposed to four years ago? “I know after Peyton did the show in 2007, the following year we won the Super Bowl and a request came from 'Saturday Night Live' and one of the main reasons I did not do it was Peyton had done so well the previous year,’’ Eli said. “I thought it might be a little fresh in everyone’s mind, so I didn’t want to have to go up against a tough competition in the great job he performed. It just didn’t seem like the right time for me, I kind of wanted to keep working on my football, make sure -- I had some success but hadn’t really proven myself as much as I wanted to and knew I had some more work to do -- when I got the invite this year I definitely wanted to try to make it work.
“I definitely wanted to do it at one time and I remember saying to Lorne or the message that got back to him, I do want to do the show at one point, I just want to do it maybe after my next championship.’’ To that, Michaels responded, “And here we are, he was good enough to win another Super Bowl, which helped us out a lot.’’
Before jumping on the conference call, Manning said he received a call from John Madden, whom Eli knew “hosted this show back in the day.’’ It actually was 1982 and Madden wanted to offer some advice that the truly fun part is leading up to the show during the week. Manning said he hasn’t been asked to share any football inside information with the writers but added, “If there’s any stories they want to hear or ideas of things that might have happened around the locker room or with Coach Coughlin I’m more than happy to bring those to the open.’’
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