POLITI: ELI MANNING WILL TRY TO PROVE HE'S A PRIMETIME PLAYER IN "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" DEBUT
"The opening scene could unfold like this: Eli Manning is standing behind a
podium at a press conference with the Lombardi Trophy, but all the questions are
about another New York quarterback. You know which one.
“Eli, don’t you think it’s just a matter of time before Tim Tebow wins a
Super Bowl?!” one reporter asks.
“Well, you know, I actually DID just win a Super Bowl.”
Next question. The reporter asks if he’ll “Tebow” for the cameras, and Eli
refuses. Next question. The reporter wants to know if he’s a virgin like
you-know-who. Each time, Eli gets a little more frustrated.
“Isn’t Tim Tebow just dreamy?” another asks.
Finally, Eli blows a gasket. “Doesn’t anybody have a question about ME?!” he
yells, and when nobody does, he looks at the camera and shrugs. “Then I guess
there’s just one thing left to say ...
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
Could it work? Well, we went to an expert this week for advice. Alan Zweibel,
a Short Hills resident, knows a little bit about writing comedy skits for
athletes. He was one of “SNL’s” original writers, back when Bill Russell, O.J.
Simpson and another former Giants
quarterback were hosts.
When Fran Tarkenton was the first professional athlete to host the show in
1977, Zweibel had him arm-wrestling Jackie Kennedy (played by Gilda Radner, of
course) in a skit on a Lite Beer commercial. “I can’t remember who won,” Zweibel
said, but of course, it didn’t really matter.
The goal is to put athletes in situations that show another side of them. It
can be ridiculous — think Derek Jeter in a dress, for example — or closer to
home. Whatever it is, Zweibel thinks Eli will be a natural in his debut as guest
host, just like his brother was in 2007.
“First of all, they’re great athletes, but they’re both very verbal and
self-effacing in a way,” Zweibel said. “They don’t take themselves too
seriously. For lack of a better phrase, they get it.”
Zweibel didn’t want to speculate on what the current “SNL” writers might do
who spent the week in rehearsals leading up to tonight’s show. But if
they’re taking suggestions ... ?
Monologue: NBC confirmed last week that Eli’s brother, Peyton, would not make
a cameo. But the network didn’t rule out another special appearance.
So to set the scene, Eli has his shoulders slouched and is stammering through
the opening lines when a familiar face steps onto the stage. “This is
unacceptable!” Tom Coughlin yells. “These people paid good money to see you at
your best. Is this the kind of effort you’re going to give on the big stage?
You’re better than this, son!”
And, after Tom’s rousing performance, a confident Eli delivers the perfect
one-liner to get things started.
Scene: Eli is standing in his kitchen as his wife — played by the correctly
named Abby Elliott — gives him instructions on how to behave for their
soon-to-arrive dinner guest.
“Remember, honey, your brother is still sensitive that you won a second Super
Bowl before him.”
“I swear,” the Giants quarterback responds, “I won’t even mention it.”
But then Peyton sits down at the dinner table — Bill Hader with the role,
perhaps? — and Eli can’t help himself. Peyton tries to put gravy on his meal and
finds something on the ladle. “Oh, did I leave my second Super Bowl championship
ring in the gravy?” Eli exclaims. “How thoughtless!”
The evening goes on like that. Madonna — “Hey, wasn’t she the halftime act
when I won my second Super Bowl?” Eli asks — is playing on the stereo. A
neighbor rings the doorbell to return his commemorative DVD. The cake is even
shaped like the Lombardi Trophy. Peyton eventually storms out of the room.
Scene: Maybe the best athlete “SNL” skit of all time was Peyton Manning’s
fake United Way commercial, the one where he rips the kids for dropping his
passes and teaches them how to break into cars. Well, in a spinoff, Eli is
brought to a school to give a pep talk to a group of kids — without the pep.
“Look, I guess you should stay in school and all that, but it’s not like
there are a lot of jobs out there,” he tells them. “I’m rich because I’m an NFL
quarterback, but half of you look like you can’t even tie your shoes.”
Scene: Players are returning from practice. Eli is waiting in the locker
room. One of his teammates — who else but the lovable Kenan Thompson? — puts on
his shoe to discover it’s filled with shaving cream. The camera zooms in on Eli,
a renowned practical joker in real life.
“Gotcha!” he says.
Another player discovers Eli has changed the language settings on his cell
phone to Chinese. “Gotcha!” he says. But the jokes get more and more over the
top. One teammate runs into the room yelling that his car is on fire. “Gotcha!”
Eli says. Another walks into the room with a somber face. “That was the doctor.
Turns out I have gonorrhea.”
On and on it goes. Of course, like playing quarterback in the NFL, this might
be something best left to the professionals. “I’ll be interested to see what the
writers come up with,” Zweibel said.
Same here. But they should really make sure Eli gets to wear a dress."