Eli Manning and 10 Other Pro Athletes With ‘Saturday Night Live’ Hosting Gigs
Football star Eli Manning is set to host ‘Saturday Night Live’ on May 5, making him the latest athlete to step off the field and in front of the comedy show’s cameras. We’re all waiting to see if his quarterbacking skills, which led the New York Giants to another Super Bowl victory this year, will serve him well in front of the late-night audience. But looking back on all the pro athletes who’ve previously graced the ‘SNL’ stage, are his chances of succeeding really that high?
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most recent sports stars to host.
Manning will actually be the second athlete to host this year, since retired NBA star Charles Barkley did it in January. It was Barkley’s third stint there, his second one being in 2010. Fans enjoyed the way the former pro embraced some bizarre characters and sketches, and his willingness to “look goofy,” but many agree it wasn’t his best performance to date.
Better known for his time as an actor and as “The Rock” with the WWE, Dwayne Johnson showed his acting prowess in this 2009 episode of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ taking on a wide range of roles. It was his sketch as “The Rock Obama,” however, that had people talking. He showed off the dark, angry side of the president and left audiences in stitches.
Considered to be one of the poorest crossovers of sports figures from the pool to the studio, Michael Phelps came across as stiff and in-over-his-head during the 2008 show. The episode played it close to the vest without asking Phelps to move too far outside of his comfort zone, but as far as introducing Phelps to a larger audience beyond his Olympics’ adorers, this was mostly a failed experiment.
LeBron James kicked off the 2007 ‘SNL’ season with a memorable performance that included “The LeBrons,” where he took a nod from Eddie Murphy in ‘The Nutty Professor’ and acted as all the characters. It was part of the renamed “LeBronologue” where the all-star had some fun with his fame. The episode proved that with the right material and focus a top athlete can demonstrate a different side to him.
Before Eli made it to the ‘SNL’ bigtime, his older brother Peyton got there in 2007 with his hosting gig. One sketch from this episode stood out from the rest — the “United Way” digital short featuring the All-Pro quarterback pegging young kids with the pigskin. But the episode was uneven, critics said. Manning gave it his best shot with the teammates he had, yet ultimately there wasn’t enough zing to make it to the endzone.
Lance Armstrong was at the height of his career in 2005 when he got the call to leave his bike behind and come take the stage. He was a good sport with what was asked of him, performing in a sketch that pretended Armstrong didn’t know how to run and only knew how to ride his two-wheeler. But audiences were most impressed by a sketch that asked Armstrong to sing a horrendous song for his then partner Sheryl Crow. Off key and off his game, Armstrong won over the audience.
It seemed like the writers were just having some fun with handsome quarterback Tom Brady in 2004, thrusting him into sketches like ‘Dr. Porkenheimer’s Boner Juice’ and ‘Tom Brady’s Falafel City.’ Brady capably turned himself into a Hollywood heartthrob, too, through delivering his lines and jokes with the accuracy of a veteran. With no signs of slowing down on the field, perhaps we’ll see Brady make another run of it on ‘SNL.’ One can hope.
This was another epic failure when in 2003 Andy Roddick put tennis aside for a week and tried to give comedy a go. Fault! Some even wondered whether tennis players by their nature can’t make good hosts. The highlight of the episode came when former player John McEnroe appeared as an analyst critical of Roddick. It gave the audience a glimpse into what a lively character from the tennis world looked like, but only made Roddick look smaller by comparison.
Racecar driver Jeff Gordon tried to help put NASCAR on the map for the non-car-loving America when he hosted ‘SNL’ in 2003. However, this driver quickly lost control and couldn’t steer the show back. None of the night’s sketches impressed audiences, and Gordon appeared to get lost in them. It’s the athletes who take on bigger roles and are willing to take chances who strike it big. And it turns out that Gordon was a bit too conventional for people’s likings.
For someone who doesn’t exactly exude personality and humor, Derek Jeter did a good job when he hosted in 2001 by going outside his comfort zone by donning crazy outfits and showing off his pipes with some songs. Though, some pointed out that Jeter relied a bit too much on his cue cards and wasn’t entirely comfortable on the stage. The writers were savvy enough to feature a sketch that required Jeter to wear a towel (and only a towel) to the delight of teenage girls everywhere. Not only could he have a sense of humor about his fame, but his fans at home left happy as well.