INDIANAPOLIS -- "Saturday Night Live" is just another game
for Peyton Manning.
He'll dress up, work with his teammates and audible at every
opportunity. Then the Super Bowl MVP hopes it all works in perfect
concert -- which, of course, it never does on live television. Or
minus receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
"The only thing I've done live is play football, and that's the
best thing I do," Manning said. "I've told everyone those
commercials are very taped and very edited, but being live is kind
of like a game."
Manning has dared to dress up before, donning wigs and mustaches
to poke fun at himself.
Thankfully, the straight-laced Indianapolis Colts quarterback
with a mind that always seems immersed in football has always had
someone there to protect his polished image.
This week, Manning must do it himself.
With no editing, no choreographed script and no idea of what
will come next, Manning must show he can adapt to the show's
improvisational skills as seamlessly as he reads blitzes.
"I think they have a pretty good idea of what makes sense for
me and what doesn't," Manning said. "I'm a guy who doesn't take
himself too seriously, so I'm wide open to anything that makes as
big a fool out of myself as I possibly can."
In fact, it's been almost a regular week for Manning.
He arrived in New York City on Monday to get acclimated, then
spent Tuesday putting in the game plan. Wednesday and Thursday were
dress rehearsals for what he's likely to face this weekend, much
like a typical football practice week. The only real difference is
the timing of his performance. He usually stars on Sunday
Manning, who was invited to appear on the show last fall,
acknowledges this will be one of the most memorable weeks of his
life. The question: Will the audience agree?
"You look at those commercials and any time you watched them,
you could tell there was a sense of humor there," show creator
Lorne Michaels said. "The show doesn't work if the host doesn't
have the kind of profile he does."
It might not work, either, if Manning plays it too straight.
So, for at least one week, Manning will cast aside his
all-business, all-the-time reputation.
Sports figures have long been a staple of the show that thrives
on satire and off-the-wall skits. Manning has long been a fan and
still remembers seeing New York Yankees star Derek Jeter dress up
as a woman and former NBA star Michael Jordan reminding himself
that he was good enough and that people liked him.
"I think after the monologue, as long as no one hits me in the
back, that will make me feel a lot better," Manning said.
There will be some friendly faces watching, too. His parents and
older brother, Cooper, are all flying in and his younger brother,
Eli, plays for the Giants and lives in New York.
Manning won't say what the skits will include or whether any of
his family members might be included in the show. That would be
divulging too much information, and, even an amateur comedian knows
Besides, the script could always change.
"They told me to be ready to adjust and I'm pretty good at
audbiling," Manning said.