Post-Peyton: Now it's Eli's turn to conquer "Saturday Night Live"


It's Eli Manning's turn now, to take over "Saturday Night Live." Here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

Eli Manning, it turns out, really was
hesitant to follow in his big brother's footsteps.

Maybe not in football, but in comedy.

Fresh from his 2008 Super Bowl win,
Manning was asked to be the “Saturday Night Live” host. “One of
the main reasons I did not do it,” he said, “was that Peyton had
done so well the previous year. I didn't want to go against that.”

Fortunately, there was another chance.
“Eli was good enough to win another Super Bowl,” said Lorne
Michaels, the “SNL” producer. Now he hosts this week, with
Rihanna as music guests.

Peyton, 36, and Eli, 31, grew up in New
Orleans with their brother Cooper, 38, an investment banker whose
football time was cut short by an injury. The younger boys were big
on quarterbacking (like their dad, Archie) and comedy. “We were
always great fans (of) 'Saturday Night Live',” said Eli, who said
he has “best-of” tapes of the show at home.

Then Peyton hosted in 2007, with his
brothers in the audience. There was even a sharply satiric sketch,
defining “pulling a Peyton Manning” as losing the big one.

“I think I just laughed at
everything,” Eli said. “We don't mind making fun of ourselves.”

That's something Eli has in common with
Peyton, Michaels said. “You sort of believe he doesn't take himself
too seriously …. If the host spends a lot of time protecting his
image, it's exhausting.”

Besides, Michaels said, athletes are
good at working live. “They're used to being in front of large
groups of people and not knowing how it turns out. We know how Eli
reacts under pressure.”

He's reacted by winning two Super
Bowls; his brother has one and a future spot in the Hall of Fame.

But which one is funnier? “We won't
really know that until Saturday,” Michaels said.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m. Saturdays, NBC.

– Eli Manning hosts May 5, with
Rihanna as music guest; two more new shows remain this season