SNL With Eli Manning: Best and Worst Skits

eli manning helga latelyEli Manning may not be the world’s most natural comic actor — and actually, referring to him as a “comic actor” of any level is a bigger stretch than bungee jumping off the Sears Tower — but that only made it more surprising that the New York Giants star’s Saturday Night Live hosting debut turned out to be reasonably decent. Below, find my picks for this week’s best and worst sketches:

Best: Helga Lately
A totally absurd Swedish twist on Chelsea Lately, with newcomer Kate McKinnon clearly having a ball as the vodka-swilling, sexually provocative talk-show host. Yeah, Manning’s segment was as unconvincting as his blonde wig, but that “coming up next” promo for Toop Chef (with a certain classic Muppet) and Helga’s insane martini-stirrer pushed this one into the ‘win’ column.

Best: Murder Trial
I could easily have put Bill Hader’s latest Herb Welch sketch (live from Occupy Wall Street) or the excellent cold open of Fox & Friends (those fact-checking disclaimers at the end — especially “Seeing eye dogs are neither able to nor allowed to drive” — were definitely DVR-pause worthy), but I thought it was only right to point out Manning’s best moment. Playing a murder suspect whose hapless booty-calling serves as his alibi, Manning scored a couple of comedic touchdowns with his emoticon faces and a flawless, self-deprecating punch line (“The banana is larger.”).

Worst: Miss Drag World
I’m sure SNL‘s writers figured if Manning was game enough to don a dress and heels, they had no choice but to make it happen. But why do a random local drag contest — with punch lines plucked straight from 1987 — when the very recent RuPaul’s Drag Race season finale was ripe for parody?

Worst: The Dictator Advertisement on Weekend Update
If SNL was going to let Sacha Baron Cohen hijack the show for five minutes as an extended advertisement for his tepid-looking new comedy, the least they could’ve done was insist the dude actually bring some real laughs. And honestly, I could’ve died a happy man without ever having heard a joke about popping out one of Roger Ebert’s testicles “like an edamame.”

What did you think of this week’s SNL? What were your picks for best and worst sketches? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Shaniqua says:

    Wow, I thought Helga Lately was the worst skit of the night. It was all gibberish and not funny at all. I thought Motion Capture was the best skit, and I thought the Murder Trial one was good too. The rest were not that great, and weekend update was also very weak.

    • Bryce says:

      My favorites of the night was probably the What is This Gameshow, and when Kristen Wiig played the tanning mother.

    • Tyler says:

      I agree- I couldn’t wait for the Helga Lately one to end. Same went for that terrible drag show.
      When pro athletes host the show, you can’t really criticize them for being stiff because this isn’t what they do for a living, unlike most of the usual hosts. I thought Eli did well and gave everything a solid go.

    • Russ says:

      I would have been better if they did Chelsea Handler but I liked the swedish kardashians part.

    • JD says:

      I couldn’t understand half of that skit. Agreed that is was awful!

  2. Kim (@AD76) says:

    Helga Lately is filed under “Best”? Seriously? No. It was so freakin’ stupid.

    • Ben says:

      Fail. The Helga Lately skit was hysterical. I’m almost afraid to hear what you find “funny,” though I’ll assume it involves a campy catchphrase easily screen printed on a tshirt.

      McKinnon was an excellent hire. Her first skit – the shampoo commercial with Sofia Vergara – was legendary. This was equally funny. I look forward to seeing her in more skits.

      • Chris says:

        No, it was pretty unfunny. The joke was that they spoke in faux swedish. Got it. As soon as the first sound came out you knew thats what they were going to do the entire sketch. And it lasted almost ten minutes. Thank god for fast forward…

        • Bill says:

          I agree completely.

          McKinnon is definitely a looker (like a prettier and younger and lesbian Angela Kinsey or something) but she seems to have the same faults as Kristen Wiig. Overanalyzes and overdoes sketches. I’d rather see a straight takeoff on Chelsea Handler, whose shtick is ridiculous enough. I mean it’s the writers who Swedify it, but still.

          I can totally see this girl groomed to be the new Wiig, which kind of makes me a bit nervous that we’ll get years more of good and bad Wiig through her. Oddly, we had the good Wiig last night with the Tanning Mom bit.

          Abby Elliott is too inconsistent and not talented enough.

          Vanessa Bayer has the look of a good supporting player, but doesn’t have the presence to dominate (and really only has Miley Cyrus, which already seems dated). Bayer reminds me a lot of a younger Alex Borstein, both in looks and abililty. Alex seems to have more overall talent though, especially with writing.

          Nasim Pedrad I think actually has as good of a chance as anyone to actually go into movies, but oddly I don’t think she fits as a good female star of SNL. She’s better playing off of people. She’s a newer Maya Rudolph.

        • cmrice10 says:

          Almost 10 minutes? Can you tell time? It wasn’t even 5. Over the top exaggerations don’t make your point.

      • Kim (@AD76) says:

        The people disliking the Helga Lately sketch outweigh the people who thought it was funny, so I’m not alone in my opinion.

      • Lil Jo says:

        The whole damn show wasn’t funny!

      • LISA says:

        The whole show was so freakin’ funny.I love Eli Manning so much!!!!!

  3. Matt Webb Mitovich says:

    Good list, Michael, though I personally am not the biggest fan of the Herb Welch shtick. And I think Bobby Moynihan’s FOX & FRIENDS mega-idiot is one of the show’s funniest recurring characters. “Uh, if Tupac was a hologram the bullet woulda gone right through him.” “This bamboo is only six points!” I just hope that by next season they can fix the sound for musical guests, for us at home.

  4. Adam Benson says:

    Helga Lately best? are u freaking kidding me? that was one of the worst skits on one of the worst episodes ever.

    • Ben says:

      Do you watch the show on a regular basis? I’m just surprised by this ridiculous comment.

      • Tia says:

        Ben, you’re literally the only one here who found Helga Lately entertaining.

        • Ben says:

          Tia, “literally” implies “literal” – it’s a word that should be used sparingly. You’re not Chris Traeger, and it’s not your shtick. I’m sorry they took MADtv off the air – just when it was getting good – but try to move on. Obviously the bit was quirky and funny to many. Just showing some solidarity for my man Slezak here; you know, the guy with a widely read blog and not the lot of flame-warring wanks looking to stir the pot. “What? You thought that bit was good?! BOOOOO! BOOOO FROM THE FURTHEST REACHES OF MY DORM ROOM! BOOOO!”

        • R says:

          Well I found Helga LAtely quite entertaining.. it was all gibberish yet I’m so in awe of Kate McKinnon’s diversity as a performer that it made it quite hilarious!
          may not be on of the best SNL skits ever but yeah it was funny!

  5. John Grose says:

    I thought the Swedish sketch was terrible, as well.- John

  6. Jenn Sweet says:

    Eli Manning’s Little Brother skit rivaled Peyton’s classic United Way skit. Loved it! Also no mention of the hilarious 50n Sdhades of Grey skit? THose two were my faves along with the Fox news opening.

  7. ketchikan9 says:

    The LIttle Brother’s ad was hyterical. He looked more comfortable in that prerecorded skit than in any of the live stuff.

  8. Sarah says:

    I hope Rihanna’s performance was a skit. As parody it would be one of the edgier things SNL has done in a while. Dressed like an extra in third rate rap video, constantly slapping her crotch through while repeating the same moves and same few flat lines about eating her (oh) cake. It wasn’t risque or bold, it was just ridiculously, boring, and tired. (I understand it was dedicated to Chris Brown’s BDay – okay you can’t make this stuff up.)

    • Russ says:

      You should DVR it if you have that cause i almost always skip the musical performance, I was more disappointed that all Rihanna did was sing, why no shy ronnie?

  9. Leah says:

    I would’ve added the Little Brother ad or Kristen Wiig’s Weekend Update spot to the “Best” and thrown “Helga Lately” out.

  10. I thought Helga lately was hilarious! and the trial one too. but I gotta admit, not one of your greatest episodes. I usually be cracking up watching SNL. Last night I laughed.

  11. oh, and Rihanna’s performance? REALLY?! she danced and sounded terrible!

  12. YowzaPowza says:

    Helga lately was awful. It was like the writers just couldn’t figure out a way to do a Chelsea Lately skit so they took the easy way out and put everything in another “language” with random words like “sex” and “vagina” as the punchlines, but there weren’t even any punchlines. It was lazy and they should have just done a blatant parody of Chelsea.

    Also, the drag sketch was supposed to be a parody of Rupaul’s Drag Race. So what exactly are you talking about? I agree it was one of the worst though.

    Rihanna’s first performance was a mess. Look at my vagina! See! It’s right there and I’m touching it and pointing at it to distract everyone from my awful dancing and singing.

  13. Josh says:

    Rihanna is overrated!!

  14. bad kevin says:

    Disagreed on a few people who thought the Helga Lately skit was the worst? It isn’t and I agree with Slezak and newcomer Kate McKinnon continues to shine since her debut with host Sofia Vergara (the Pantene ad skit was totally hilarious). Can’t wait when Will Ferrell returns as host next Saturday if that Celebrity Jeopardy! skit appears and of course bringing back Darrell Hammond as Trebek’s long time nemesis Sean Connery.

  15. Brendan says:

    uh…. Helga Lately was the WORST of the night… there were only pity laughs from the audience…

  16. Brendan says:

    Am I the only one disappointed that there wasn’t a continuation of the Rihanna/Shy Ronnie saga?

  17. India says:

    Eli manning seems a little “special”.

  18. Brian E. says:

    Helga Lately was great! Absurdist hilarity. I thought the murder trial was also a highlife. Manning owned that.

  19. SNL should bring back the “brothers” Manning more often. It was a funny show. Definitely showed a lighter side of Eli. Loved when he did :p

  20. Tory says:

    I think the motion capture skit was by far the funniest. Maybe it is only because I long to see someone sack Manning this year and pick a sandwich off the ground and eat it in celebration.

  21. TV Gord says:

    I’m in the middle on the Helga Lately debate. I thought the idea of it was funny, but it went on way too long (so uncharacteristic for SNL, he says sarcastically).

    I’m always looking for originality on SNL, and the murder trial was that. It was also funny, and it used Eli’s few strengths very well. That’s the sketch where I decided he was “game” and deserving of praise for his hosting the show.

    Herb Welch is a prime example of what is wrong with this show. It’s the same damn thing every damn time, right down to Herb dying at the end and coming back to life. Come on. I hate reruns on a supposedly live show! They make the same mistake with “What’s Up With That”, Gilly and too many other lame premises to mention.

    SNL is rumored to be losing some big names next season. They really need to strengthen its writing team if they hope to have a good year next year.

    And finally, I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again. I’m a huge fan of Seth Meyers, but Weekend Update is definitely floundering this year. It’s “okay”, but it should be hilarious. I cannot understand why Seth’s funniest lines are reserved for his Twitter feed, while WU is so tepid. I think he needs a strong female co-anchor on par with Tina Fey or Amy Poehler.

  22. Mary Beth says:

    Loved the Murder Trial sketch, but thought the other three that this site showed us was not funny at all.

  23. cjeffery7 says:

    Probably the only reason I laughed at Helga Lately at all was because I love and watch Chelsea Lately religiously. If I didn’t, it probably wouldn’t be funny.
    50 Shades of Grey was pretty am-ah-zing.
    the best part of Herb Welch was his taped piece saying random words, “Uhhh shoes. Some trees…. Occupy.”
    Did anybody catch Bill Hader breaking for a split second when Eli threw away the grenade and screamed?
    Overall, a fine episode for an athlete.

  24. Kevin says:

    Seriously Michael, what is this?

  25. Casey Wilson says:

    ARe you kidding me? You must be on something because the Helga Lately was the worst most unfunny sketch on yesterday show! The new cast member Kate something has got to be the worst cast member in recent history. She unfunny, her impersonations are horrible and I don’t know how she got on the show. She should be caned 10 shows ago and she only been on a few

  26. Chickie says:

    This was the worst episode I’ve seen in a long time. When will SNL realize that there’s a reason most athletes aren’t actors?

  27. millie says:

    No matter how unfunny some of those sketches were, nothing compares to how terrible Rihanna is. How did she get a career anyway? Do people actually pay money to watch her diddle herself on stage?

  28. C says:

    WOW…the helga Lately skit was the worst on that episode!
    I really liked the kindle commercial though! :D

  29. jiji33 says:

    idology with elise?

  30. C.J. says:

    I’m going on record as loving the “What Is This” sketch? Genius, and Abby Elliott was perfect. I was wondering if she came up with the idea and wrote it. there might be more to this underused player than we originally thought.

  31. Scott says:

    I did not hate the Helga Lately skit, but can see how someone could. I truly appreciated Eli trying and ultimately found him to be successful. The Rhianna performance was not good. I’m sad because I feel that we are watching them phase out Samberg, Sudeikis, and Wiig. It’s good to see the other cast members step up and get chances, but those three were what brought me back to the show.

    • TV Gord says:

      Personally, I’m counting the minutes until Andy Samberg leaves. Sure, Dick In A Box a couple of other bits were funny, but I find himway too obnoxious for the level of talent he has and to me, his comedy is painful to sit through. Just not for me. I wish him well in his film career (because it will keep him off my TV screen).

  32. xwiseguyx says:

    Come on – Eli Manning was horrible – why not save the money on hiring sports figures who can’t read cue cards very well and just get random people from the audience to host the show.. think of the cost savings and you will have equal or better quality… As for the skits – Helga wasn’t funny, but McKinnon almost made it funny – I really love her no matter how bad the sketches are – her mannerisms are hysterical. Best skit was the Fox and Friends and the Murder Trial… tanning mom was good, but she wasn’t dark enough to match the real thing.

  33. Snsetblaze says:

    Well I ended up turning it off after Weekend Update because it was pretty bad overall so I missed the Helga sketch. I was entertained watching it here.

    But how bad that was scared me. I’ve got tickets for next week which my hubby won from a lottery thing. After watching some of the episode, I began to think maybe it would not be worth going — to drive in, spend god knows what on parking, have to sit through the dress rehearsal (we were told to be there at 6:45 p.m.) to watch a mess like that. But then I saw that Will Ferrell was the host and SNL is always better when one of their own who returns hosts the show. Well at least the seats did not look too bad since the football team did not look too uncomfortable.

  34. I tuned in late and had no idea who Eli was but thought he wasn’t bad. And when I figured out who he was I was surprised he could hold his own. Especially compared to some of the actual actors they’ve had bomb this season.

  35. Danielle H says:

    That was terrible. Helga Lately was unwatchable.. next to nothing in that episode was funny. I have high hopes for Will Ferrell though.

  36. Chris says:

    I think people have forgotten the difference between opinion and fact. There are lots of opinions here. Including what Michael Slezak wrote. He says so in his opening paragraph…”Below, find my picks for this week’s best and worst sketches:” Having made that point I would like to chime in with my opinion. The top half of the show was funny to me. I liked Eli more than I thought I would ( as was the case with his brother). The amazon commercial and little brothers ad made me laugh out loud. And I have always been a fan of SNL spoofing people and TV shows…Fox and Helga worked for me.

  37. Stevo says:

    Can someone please find me a link that can be watched up here in the great white north, eh? really want to watch this again! thx

    • TV Gord says:

      I think you’re out of luck, Stevo. The only way to see it would be at, but I just checked and it’s no longer there. You may just have to wait for it to be rerun (if it hasn’t been already).

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