SNL #37.20 RECAP: Host Eli Manning, musical guest Rihanna

Remember when Peyton Manning hosted several years ago and proved to be more than adequate for an athlete on Saturday Night Live — of course, he also was the amusing spokesman for several TV advertising campaigns at the time, too. So now, here comes his younger brother, Eli Manning, who has twice as many Super Bowl rings as Peyton, even though both were beyond lucky (don’t get me started, although I’ve already started just by mentioning it, and c’mon, let’s all agree to agree that both of Eli’s ring wins owe more than a lot to Lady Luck because the first one resulted from a play so flukey that it makes the Immaculate Reception look routine, and the second one, egads). Let’s recap!

We open cold with Fox and Friends — Taran Killam as Steve Doocy, Vanessa Bayer as Gretchen Carlson and Bobby Moynihan as Brian Kilmeade — more like Kill Me, right? Ladies? Anyhow. They’re still fighting the War on Christmas over there, and celebrating the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden by saying anybody would have done what Obama did, except for Obama (whoops?). Also, conspiracy theories. Is bin Laden dead? Is Mount Rushmore real? Tupac is alive because he was at Coachella, right? And somehow they snag overlord Rupert Murdoch (Fred Armisen) as a guest. Even he realizes how dumb these three act on live TV. Also, more corrections. It’s one of those things that’s a joke just because how many of them scroll past so quickly, but also forces a real comedy fan to record, pause and check out each of the fleeting funnies.

Turns out we almost saw a different view of this, as longtime SNL writer Jim Downey had portrayed Obama in the reverse role reversal role earlier in the week. Didn’t work.

So Eli Manning. Super Bowl jokes already? Ugh. Shout-out to his O-line sitting up in the balcony, segue to him joking about how they accompany him everywhere, even his wife’s childbirth. Awkward? Audience members ask him for NYC advice, because he’s a real New Yorker now. Good Italian food? Olive Garden. Fun Broadway show? Cats! Walking tour? Try BeBo. Wha? Fugghedaboutit. Also, try walking slowly through Times Square, or standing outside the Today show windows. I already forgot about this monologue.

Here is an ad to surprise mom on Mother’s Day, complete with Fifty Shades of Grey masturbation jokes. Try it on Kindle, for your protection.

Oooh, two chicken strips for $1. Be back in a flash-fry!

We’ve gone green screen mo-cap for the new Madden NFL video game. EA Sports. It’s in the game! Did I get that right. with Tim Tebow (Killam), Eli Manning as himself, showing his range of emotions. Victor Cruz (Jay Pharoah) does his TD dance. Ray Lewis (Kenan Thompson) shows up in full uniform. “I’m not wearing funky-ass pajamas.” He does have the dance down, though. And Troy Polamalu (Andy Samberg), for a quick hairdo joke.

Eli is on trial for being a bro-dude who supposedly murdered someone, although he sexted a woman in a car accident and searched for elderly butts online. Well, you do get to see what ;p looks like in real life. For what that’s worth. What up? You out? Emoticons seem a lot different now that you know what they look like, don’t they?

Wow. This “Little Brothers” fake ad is so reminiscent of Peyton’s fake ad from years gone by. Somebody has brother issues. I suppose this was intentional. And yet. If you remember the first one, this one just feels like a retread.

Herb Welch (Hader) reports from Occupy Wall Street for WXPD New York. He’s still got it after 70 years in the biz.

Rihanna is a black widow for her first song? You do know she sings live, at least. No hiding behind pre-recorded vocals, even though you do hear some of her own voice serving as her own backup singer, allowing her to ad-lib in the chorus. But let’s focus on the fact that it was Chris Brown’s birthday, and Rihanna opened with a “Birthday” medley whilst slapping her crotch. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. What, now?

And now we’ve reached the Weekend Update with Seth Meyers portion of the program.

Tanning Mom, of course. Played by Kristen Wiig. Who, if you can believe this, isn’t caked in skin dark enough to match the actual New Jersey woman. Only in New Jersey! Which, since she isn’t as outrageous as the real thing, means the jokes don’t hit as well as they should.

Side note: Wiig has been cracking a lot in the past few episodes, when she never seemed to before. Another sign she is mos def leaving.

Movie promo alert! Sacha Baron Cohen shows up to Update desk in character as The Dictator. “Hello, Zionist Seth Meyers!” With bonus cameo by hostage Martin Scorcese! “It was better than Raging Bull” < “Please, I had to sit through The Aviator.”

Wait. What’s this? A video remembrance of Adam Yauch, aka MCA of The Beastie Boys, from their past SNL performance, to lead us into the ad break? Nice touch.

Hold on. Abby Elliott is leading a sketch as a non-celeb game-show host, of “What Is This?” Contestants played by a teacher (Bayer), dental assistant (Hader), and grad student who’s dating Elliott’s character (Manning). Everything turns on the relationship between the host and her friend who isn’t willing to commit as a real boyfriend. More relationship questions. A big step forward for women! Am I right, ladies?

In Sweden, they’ve copied Chelsea Handler to produce Helga Lately, fronted by…Kate McKinnon!!! E! Sweden. Unlike some of SNL’s other foreign-based talk-show parodies, they actually seemed like they tried to make this seem like it was in Swedish? Panelists played by snarky versions of celebs played by Killam (as gay guy), (blogger) Wiig showing familiar mannerisms for Kathie Lee, and Thompson. With Armisen as her “little nugget.” Funny seeing Moynihan playing the Swedish version of Snookie in Jersey Fjord. But let’s talk more about the fact that this sketch is Swedish gibberish combined with actual English words and phrases. And Swedish Kardashians??!?!?!?! I mean, Khlardashians. Someone insert the umlauts for me. Manning plays the celebrity guest for the interview segment. Appreciate that they went after Handler but made it weird by putting it in another language and culture.

Rihanna, for her second song, is kicking back in a chaise lounge. What. No third part to the Shy Ronnie trilogy? Missed opportunity!


Nightclub Illusions plays host to Miss Drag World 2012, with host (Thompson), Samberg on the keyboard working two years to compose the theme song, with finalists (Armisen, Moynihan and Manning). Yep. Men in drag. Always funny? Am I right, ladies? Running theme of callbacks alert. Where are the jokes here? Did this play much better during dress rehearsal? Were the other dress sketches that much worse? Or did someone just want Eli to be in drag on live TV? I’m going to go with yes across the board.

Another time machine sketch, with Turner Classic Movies and J-Suds as Robert Osborne to intro a Cheech-and-Chong flick? Oh, they had a third original member for 1978’s Up in Smoke. See Eli as the third guy who watches Donny and Marie Osmond on TV and doesn’t even do drugs. Armisen and Hader play the actual comedy duo well enough, though. “Goodbye, Richard.” No. Seriously. Someone make this stop.

For once, the final half-hour of sketches aren’t weird, nor absurd, nor too wild for not-ready-for-primetime. They’re just, ugh.

Oof. This is why athletes rarely host Saturday Night Live. Or why the shows just before the finale might not match the finale or other seasonal peaks. Eli was a good sport, but still.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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