Q&A: SNL’s Lorne Michaels and Host Eli Manning Talk Cast Changes and Who is the Funniest Manning

Lorne-Michaels-Eli-ManningI’ve loved Saturday Night Live ever since I can remember and I can honestly say, that I’ve seen every episode. I’ve gone back to watch all the 70’s episodes and since high school, haven’t missed one episode.So, yeah, I’m a huge fan.

I got a chance to talk the mastermind behind SNL, Lorne Michaels, and New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning about this weekends upcoming show, which Manning hosts.

I’m a huge Washington Redskins fan but I actually like Eli. He’s so sincere in everything he does, how could you not like the guy? Well, except Sunday’s when they play my ‘Skins.

In this Q&A, Michaels talks about cast changes, looking for new talent and who is the funnier Manning brother. Manning speaks about his time behind the scenes on SNL and the advice his older brother, Payton, gave him before heading into the week.

Saturday Night Live airs at 11:30pm on NBC

Lorne, could you talk about up-coming cast changes on the show?

Lorne Michaels: I could, except that I’m not really certain myself. I know there will be some, but I really – it’s just sort of the nature of the way we work that no one kind of talks about it until the season’s done. Needless to say, I’d like everyone to stay.

Did that avoid that question successfully?

Eli, you’ve talked before about fitting SNL in with your football schedule, so what has a typical day been like for you doing both?

Eli Manning: You know, it’s worked very well, and before I committed to doing Saturday Night Live I – you know I’ve got a full schedule, you know kind of what’s the most, you know that I could do, and what – you know I didn’t want to miss anything, I didn’t want to leave anything out, I didn’t want to have to, you know be going, you know in and out in the same day. I wanted to be totally committed to it if I, you know was going to decide to d it.

And so, I got a – you know a schedule of what – you know when all the meetings and all the times that I would need to be at rehearsals and doing things for the show. And, you know I looked at that, I looked at, you know what our work week was going to be this week for the Giants, and saw that I would not miss anything workouts. I would not miss any time. I’d be able to fully, you know commit to, you know my weight lifting, my meetings, and my, you know on the field stuff that I – you know doing with the players, and so it’s worked well.

The first – you know the – you know Monday and Tuesday I’ve gone over to the NBC Studios, the Rockefeller Center and, you know met the cast and the writers and, you know, started going through just, you know kind of hearing some ideas of what they – the writers will be, you know pitching and trying to, you know get a skit to the show. And so, really I think today, this afternoon when I go in will be the – you know the first day where I’m really having to rehearse and go through some reads of possible skits and try to figure out what’s – I guess, what makes the show. What’s, you know funny enough to be included on the live show.

Lorne, who’s the funnier Manning, is it Eli or Peyton?

Lorne Michaels: We won’t really know that until Saturday. I – so far – well, it’s been great so far. We’re going to – in about three hours, we’ll read 40 to 45 pieces looking for 12 to 13. And we won’t really know what we’re going to be choosing until after that, you know because no matter what we thought of it, if it isn’t playing we don’t move forward with it then. And we want to get – we want to make sure that these are the best – this show is built around Eli and you just want to make sure that we have the best possible things to this week’s show, and we won’t – no one really trusts it until we read it.

And so, we’ll see what the – what that’s about. People have been working around – you know right through the night, and as I said, we’ll read 40 to 50 pieces, so we’ll know more in about six hours. We’ll have made all the choices in about five or six hours. And then, we will still be about half hour long and everything will then go through rewrites, and then we will rehearse about half of it and the music with Rhianna tomorrow. And then, by the time we leave on Friday around Midnight or 1 o’clock we will have done everything a couple times in its rewritten form.

Lorne, is the process of putting the show is different when you have an athlete rather than somebody who is a performer?

Lorne Michaels: Not – surprisingly not that much. The good part about athletes is that they’re used to being in front of large groups of people and not knowing how it’s going to turn out. And that’s kind of the only real preparation for us is because we won’t – we don’t really know until dress rehearsal what’s beginning to work and what’s not working. And then, there’s a lot of course correction. You go, “Well, if we do this this way it might work better,” and there’s still some risk involved.

But, if that flexibility that I think – and we know how Eli reacts, you know under – both under pressure, and also with changing things quickly. And I think – I don’t think we’re making any other kind of concessions because of – you know because it’s an athlete over an actor or comedian or a singer, or a politician for that matter.

Eli, just wondering, what’s the advice you’ve gotten from Peyton about hosting, and is there anything that you won’t do on the show?

Eli Manning: You know, from Peyton, he really – the main thing he said, “Just enjoy the week.” You know, it is a lot of fun. You know, the – it is work and you’re doing, you know something you’re not quite used to doing, but he said, “The one thing you are used to doing is live, and that’s something you do every week and during the football season.” So – but he said, “Just enjoy being with the writers and stay – you know try to hang around as much you can and work with them and just, you know follow guidance. They’re the ones that are funny and know how to do this.”

So he just said, you know, “That’s the fun part of the week, you know, is really the time working with the writers and cast and getting to know them.” And so, I’m – you know I think today will be – you know I’m very excited for it today, you know when I get the different scripts and start reading through them and kind of rehearsing and seeing what’s funny, and you know kind of get to test out my acting skills in a sense, or see what happens.

So, you know that’s kind of the main piece of advice, and I – actually about 15 minutes before I got on this call John Madden called me and he hosted a show back in the day, and he wanted to kind of – you know really gave me the same piece of advice that the fun part is during the week and being with the cast. And he was kind of asking if – you know if they did things the same way, kind of the same schedule, routine, and it is. It’s really similar to what – you know when he did it, you know many, many years ago.

And so, it’s been – I think – you know so I’ve listened to both those two people and both have got the same advice and just enjoy every moment during the week and working with the cast and stay up with them and, you know just the – have a blast doing that.

Lorne, has there been any more communication with the Mitt Romney campaign about the Governor appearing on the show?

Lorne Michaels: No. We talked originally about — oh — six or eight weeks ago, and at the time I think there was some interest, and then the primaries overtook everything and since it’s all sort of more or less been decided we have – there’s been no communication. But, we only have the three shows left and they’re pretty jammed packed.

So, I’m not sure it’ll be – now it might be in the fall; although, we’ll never know. It’ll all depend on his availability.

Lorne, I know you don’t want to talk about any of the potential contract changes, but are you looking to add any new cast members next season?

Lorne Michaels: For sure, I mean, because every summer, you know we go out and make the rounds of Chicago and L.A. and New York, and – you know and various other places where people do this kind of work, and invariably that leads to somebody joining. I think the show has always been about bringing new people in.

Eli, Lorne was asked who the funnier Manning was, but I guess we have to ask you point blank. I know you and Peyton compete on the basketball court, do you compete as to be who’s funny, and who is the funnier Manning?

Eli Manning: I think Saturday will tell a lot. And, you know I know after Peyton did the show in 2007, and in the following year, we won the Super Bowl and a request came from Saturday Night Live. And one – you know one of the main reasons I did not do it was because Peyton had done so well the previous year, you know I thought I might be a little fresh in everyone’s mind, so I didn’t want to have to go up against a great – a tough competition and the great job that he performed.

And it just didn’t seem like the right time for me at that situation as well, and just I kind of wanted to, you know keep working on my football and make sure I kind of – you know it’s – it – just had some success, but hadn’t really proven myself as much as I wanted to and knew I had some more work to do during the off-season.

I think, you know when I got the invite this year I definitely wanted to try to make it work. And I – and something – I knew I wanted to do it at one time, and kind of remember saying to, you know whether it was to Lorne or kind of the message that maybe got back to him, I said, “I do want to do this show at one point. I just want to do it maybe after my next championship.” And so, when this opportunity came up again and we won the championship this year, I definitely wanted to do, you know if they asked, I would definitely want to (jump) with the opportunity if the timing worked out.

And it’s all worked out, and so I’m looking forward to this week.

Lorne Michaels: And Eli was good enough to wait another Super Bowl, which helped us a lot.

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