Above Average Thoughts From An Average Guy
On Saturday, Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning hosted Saturday Night Live, joining a list of athletes-turned-hosts that includes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, LeBron James, Derek Jeter, and dozens more from years back that we can’t mention since the rule of the Internet is the world started in 2002. So did his football prowess translate to the always consistent and never excruciating world of sketch comedy? Let’s plow through the DVR and find out: (Terse one-word response for my hung-over readers: No.)
-We begin in one of three Eli-less segments of the night, a cold open parody of Fox & Friends. SNL’s done this bit before; they effectively capture the show’s perky propaganda but go to an awful lot of trouble to do so considering The Daily Show and The Colbert Report just show clips of the actual show and it comes across as equally ridiculous.
-Eli’s monologue came complete with cameos from his offensive line (I spotted David Diehl, Chris Snee, David Baas, and I think Rich Seubert, although I wasn’t sure if that was him, and I’m pretty amazed I could even recognize the other three). The bit revolved around Eli trying to shake his southern roots and come across as a real New Yorker even as he’s unable to identity anything but obvious destinations and tourist spots (Italian food at The Olive Garden, Cats on Broadway).
Oh Eli, I’m from the Cuban part of south Florida and even I can’t shake the stigma that I’m the product of some ass-backwards inbred swamp that hasn’t heard Jim Crow ended. Your roots go back to Louisiana and Mississippi, you play in New Jersey, and you think you can effectively claim assimilation into New York? Forget about it! (See, I don’t even try to get the Brooklyn thing right.)
-Next came a parody commercial for Amazon.com Mother’s Day gifts that all ended with woman pleasuring themselves to erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. (I have no idea what the obsession is with this book. You know who reads erotic fiction? 12-year-olds afraid to click on Pornhub. Then again, maybe I should just capitalize on this. I’m sure my fellow bloggers would be happy to turn Between the Beers into a Grey’s Anatomy slash fiction site if it meant cornering the horny housewife market. We’ll discuss.)
Anyway, the skit. Do you like children and husbands walking in on women getting off via shower heads and washing machines? Of course you do. This was fucking great.
-Next was a parody of the recording session of motion capture touchdown celebrations for the new Madden game. This seemed tailor-made for some cameos but only featured the cast playing the various football stars. I give them credit for being a little esoteric with the football references considering they’re targeting a mainstream comedy audience. Yes, everyone knows Tebowing, but not everyone would get the Ray Lewis or Victor Cruz dances. And I appreciated their Troy Polamalu having all the motion capture devices in his hair.
Eli mainly was assigned with pantomiming some hokey dances that failed to capture the intensity the game designers were looking for. It was amusing, but ultimately “eating the sandwich” won’t even catch on as well as “discount double-check.”
-Next was an interminable courtroom scene that involved Jason Sudeikis reading text message transcripts to prove Eli’s character wasn’t at the scene of a crime in question. This could’ve went really dark (my sick mind envisioned fucked up testimony like “I wouldn’t be the only semen sample they took from her throat that night”) but it pretty much played it safe, having Eli pronounce “kewl,” make the physical manifestation of the “;p” symbol, and tell the jury he has a small dick. Then they close by going over his Google search history, which included things like “Shemale hentai porn” and “Barely legal defecation facials”…oh, sorry, it just said “Elderly butts.” Goddamn network television.
-Next came a carbon copy of Peyton’s infamous and delightfully wicked United Way parody ad (the one where he throws footballs at kids), and despite being a knock-off, this one was still pretty fucking funny and the highlight of the night. It involved Eli’s volunteer work for “Little Brothers,” an organization which really just served as an outlet for him to take out pent up rage at Peyton by proxy. It’s always fun to see Super Bowl MVPs give little kids wedgies, dunk their heads in toilets, make them target practice for archery, and hit T-Balls off their mouths.
“Maybe now you’ll learn to treat your younger brother with some respect, Peyton,” he told a tied-up Andy Samberg as he threw him in the trunk.
“Big brothers can be real dickheads.”
Now they were playing to his strengths.
-SNL has a long tradition of beating characters into the ground that were only marginally amusing in the first place—a tradition you’d think would have stopped in the age of Internet hater culture giving a voice to fans’ disgust at uninspired writing—and they still proudly follow that tradition, this time in the form of Herb Welch, a cantankerous octogenarian reporter with a proclivity for racial slurs toward gays and Latinos. He’s always good for a line or two (“You think that Bob Dylan needs a good smack in the mouth? I met him once and he called me prune juice”) but otherwise it follows the exact same formula and is either easy to write or pleases the crew because otherwise there’s no justification for its continued existence.
Here, Eli played an Occupy Wall Street hippie in a ponytail protesting Bank of America. Apparently the hippies always have to be identified by ponytails. I mean, my dad was a hippie, and I have a pony tail, and I support Occupy Wall Street, but…OK, bad example.
At this point, it seems like the show is just happy to have the Super Bowl champion in the house and is limiting his responsibilities in each sketch, which I don’t understand. He’s not a naturally gifted comedic actor, but his whole job is memorizing things and taking orders. You can’t trust him with some dialogue and some minor physical comedy?
-Musical guest: Rihanna. She performed a medley of “Birthday Cake” and “Talk That Talk” (sans Jay-Z) in front of what appeared to be a leftover spiderweb prop from a Halloween episode. She appeared to only be singing half the song and came across as aloof through the whole performance, as if she didn’t realize it would be Cinco de Mayo when she booked the gig.
-Weekend Update. They’re losing the crowd at this point, even with some decent jokes. (“It was revealed Osama bin Laden was worried about al Qaeda morale. They were so depressed they wouldn’t commit suicide.” “Coca-Cola is in talks to buy Monster energy drinks, which should help the drinks compete with their main rival: meth.”) Why didn’t they just have some fellow NFL stars hop on stage to join Eli and get the crowd excited? “Hey, there’s Justin Tuck.” “Look, it’s Hakeem Nicks!” It’s a cheap ploy, but it works.
Eli didn’t make an appearance on Weekend Update, but it did provide an opportunity for Kristen Wiig to play Patricia Krentcil, the now infamous New Jersey “tan mom.” Wiig was missing from the entire show up until that point, and I wondered if they literally spent the whole time applying makeup. And what does it say about “tan mom” that Wiig was playing an over the top, satirical, makeup-splattered version of the now notorious figure and she still was far more attractive?
(And while we’re at it: “Tan mom” is the perfect example of us all thinking we’re going to ridicule someone via a public shaming when in reality the person is already a desperate, self-absorbed publicity-seeking attention whore and increased exposure and notoriety just further enables their irrational behavior and deluded thinking. When Andy Warhol said, “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” he didn’t know there’d be things called the E! Channel and Celebrity Rehab to prolong these trainwrecks way past their sell-by date. Did you realize a sex-tape star and her no-talent family are going to be on TV for 9 seasons? Why we can’t just ignore these side-of-the-road freak shows and let them futilely try to claw their way on camera instead of giving them a platform is beyond me. I’m already dreading the inevitability of a nauseating Krentcil reality show: Tan By Me premieres after Shahs of Sunset, only on Bravo! I better end this tangent now.)
There was also a cameo by Sacha Baron Cohen to promote The Dictator. (How Cohen hasn’t hosted I have no idea. Two cameos, no hosting gigs. Seems like an oversight.) They also brought out Martin Scorsese as the dictator’s hostage. (By the way, Scorsese did a shit job pretending his nipples were being electrocuted. Now we know why he’s behind the camera.) So long story short, some big-time names pop in. Perhaps they realized the show needed a kick in the ass and called in some favors on Friday? Anyway, it was enjoyable. A description of Roger Ebert’s testicle popping out like an edamame was the first sign of anything close to pushing the envelope, or maybe it just resonated because I had Japanese food for dinner. (Yes, Japanese food on Cinco de Mayo. I’ll have more on that this week. Let me just say that when celebratory days are meaningless to you, take advantage. That’s how I get my pick of steakhouse on Good Friday.)
-A brief clip of the Beastie Boys performing “Sure Shot” on the show in 1994 was included after Update as a tribute to Adam Yauch. A nice gesture. I’m still really down about this one. Derrick Rose and Mariano Rivera suffer serious injuries and it’s unquestionably the lesser bad news in a week that brought us the Junior Seau tragedy and MCA losing his battle with cancer. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a good few days for checking your Twitter alerts.
-A new Bud Light ad debuted during the commercial break. Let me try to explain, it was pretty brilliant: The guy has this dog named Weego, and he’s trained it to fetch beer for him and his buddies. So every time someone shouts “Here Weego” (as in “Here we go,” get it?), the dog retrieves a beer for them. Even a couple about to get down-and-dirty at the end is delivered a frosty one as the woman’s offhand “Here we go” remark is misinterpreted. Really genius stuff here. I don’t know if it’ll ever be on again, but hopefully it’ll turn up online at some point. You gotta see it.
-Back to the sketches. A game show called “What is this?” was really just a sting operation for a clingy girlfriend of Eli’s character to call him out for his lack of commitment. A painfully-thin premise was made up for by having some good individual lines, such as the girl’s observation that Eli’s character still referred to her as “Kim from Bar” in his phone and having the other contestants on the show dissect a photo of the two: “You look way more into him than he’s into you.”
-“Helga Lately” was a Chelsea Lately parody done in Sweden. If you thought the Madden touchdown dance sketch was esoteric, this skit was targeted at Chelsea Lately viewers who think Swedes are really, really gut-busting hysterical; that can’t be more than 12 people (talk about narrowcasting).
Eli played a Swedish quarterback named Eliasson Mannerheim (OK, that’s funny and I want it on a personalized Giants Nike jersey right now). He got to talk in Swedish gibberish while inserting the usual athlete boilerplate responses such as “Big plays” and “Just try to have some fun out there.” The mock interview wasn’t any less revealing than a real sideline interview.
-Rihanna sang an off-key version of “Where Have You Been” against a backdrop that looked like it was going to be a reprise of The Dictator but was really just some Egyptian-inspired pageantry. Even here with more lines to sing she was only half-heartedly committing to her gyrations. Still, the songs are catchy and she looked hot for 8 minutes so it’ll move some records. Mission barely accomplished.
(But no third edition of “Shy Ronnie.” Did The Lonely Island secretly break up or something? They’ve been nowhere to be found all season.)
-I remember George Burns used to say, “When in doubt, have a man wear woman’s clothing. It never fails.” Or maybe it wasn’t George Burns; it might’ve just been a lazy screenwriter. Either way, Eli played Miss Chicken Fried Steak in the Miss Drag World competition. It’s Eli Manning in drag. If that’s all the script read I wouldn’t be surprised. Of course, the only people lazier than screenwriters are the media, so this will constitute the “outrageous” moment from the episode that’ll pop up on your home page and local news Sunday morning.
It became glaringly obvious that Eli was reading pretty intently from cue cards. Not that every host doesn’t do that, but how can he memorize a playbook but not ten lines?
-The show concluded with a TCM Essentials bit about Cheech and Chong in which Eli played the straight-laced, uptight Richard, a third member who proved incompatible for the duo’s shtick. The highlight was Fred Armisen and Bill Hader doing a pretty damn funny Cheech and Chong, even as Eli’s “Richard” basically sounded like Eli doing a Tebow impression.
On second thought, taking into consideration his background from birth through the present has been exclusively limited to all things football, Eli did a pretty serviceable job embarking into an area way out of his element. And despite the spotty material, he learned a lesson from this episode that he’s learned on the field many times: No matter how well you perform, if the game plan sucks and no one steps up around you, there’s only so much you can do.
Then again, Will Ferrell returns next week. I don’t blame the cast and crew if they wanted to save the “A” material for the maestro himself.