During Saturday night's telecast of Saturday Night Live, it was announced that Eli Manning would be hosting the May 5th episode.
This announcement immediately split the Internet into two camps: those who are cautiously excited and those who think Eli's performance will be a fiery disaster. Due to athletes, specifically NFL players, having a polarizing history of SNL hosting performances, any time they are tapped to host the show comes with a sense of weariness.
The good folks at Splitsider put together a guide to NFL SNL hosts last year, and it serves as a good primer for the unpredictability that comes with a professional football player hosting. There is the high of the 2007 Peyton Manning gig, highlighted by a United Way Digital Short that is still brought up in casual conversation by pseudo-fans of SNL when they are forced to name a clip. It was widely praised and gives hope that Eli can channel some of his family's humor, if genetics were to actually work that way.
Then there is the eternal awkwardness of the 1985 Alex Karras monologue, which is just the most surreal thing ever. There is no real reason he should have hosted, unless being the dad on the 22nd most-watched show in America (Webster) counts. He talks about how unfunny he is, which is the weirdest thing you could say in an SNL monologue. It's like an anti-monologue, the antithesis of what they usually look like.
This "strategy" is something Manning could potentially do, except in a successful way.
Today, comedy is dictated primarily by awkward situations. The best sitcoms on TV (Parks and Recreation, Louie, etc.) are all filled with inelegant characters who find themselves in cringe-worthy situations.
And people (i.e. me, others) love it.
Karras wasn't funny being awkward because, unlike in anti-comedies like Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, the main character was in on the joke. If Manning can repeat things like this interview, the show could use his comically uncomfortable vibe to their advantage.
It's harder on a show like Saturday Night Live to be "weird" or "quirky" (as noted in the recent B.S. Report with cast-member Bill Hader) due to how fast-paced the show is (more straightforward bits and lines tend to succeed more because of this atmosphere), but as characters like Stefon have proven, given a place to shine, awkwardness can thrive.
Fortunately, Manning is also capable of being funnier in a broader sense, like in this trailer for Football Cops, where Eli throws a football through a man's chest while sporting a mustache.
He shoved his brother in a closet during a Super Bowl commercial, proving he can be funny when doing "physical comedy." The common factor in both clips is that Peyton Manning is involved in both, so it can be determined that perhaps Eli works better when he can work off of other people's senses of humor. Being as Saturday Night Live is an ensemble cast, this is the perfect situation for Eli to do well.
Eli's dry sense of humor has drawn raves as of late, and his sudden personality is probably a major reason (along with being a two-time Super Bowl champion) why he was chosen to host SNL. If he is able to utilize both his awkward and broad comedic chops, his episode could be a success.