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 afternoons.
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 better.
Besides, the script could always change.
“They told me to be ready to adjust and I’m pretty good at audibling,” Manning said.