'Saturday Night Live' -- Eli Manning Scores with Jokes, Rihanna Scores with Herself

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In his nervously delivered "Saturday Night Live" monologue, Giants quarterback Eli Manning came across as the kind of conservative Southern boy a grandma in the '50s would have referred to as a "nice young man." That clean-cut, slightly awkward demeanor would seem to be at odds with hosting a late night sketch comedy show, but the revelation was that the Super Bowl winner was pretty darn funny. The show crashed and burned at the end of the night, but that had nothing to do with Manning, the very definition of "a good sport."

Best of the Night

Things were already rolling pretty well when "Saturday Night Live" reached its pinnacle for the week. The guest host starred in this sketch as a man on trial for murder, trying to establish his alibi through a series of text messages that occurred at the time of the crime. Jason Sudeikis started out cool and collected with the dry delivery of questions about the accused's multiple tweets to women wanting to know "Whassup? You out? What u doing?"

Once the boyish Manning started reenacting his smiley faces, Sudeikis started to lose it, and the increasingly pathetic nature (tweets to a coma victim!) of his defense finally wore on prosecutor Abby Elliot, and of course, judge Bill Hader as well. The football star went all in on this one, including facing a cell phone picture of himself with a strategically held banana. Watch the insanity at the "Saturday Night Live" video site.

The "SNL" host doing a commercial in a motion capture suit seemed like it might stall out, with a premise that had Manning trying to invent and act out a "signature move" like Tebowing. The fact that his moves were lame was only mildly amusing, but it amazingly got laugh-out-loud funny with a fearful squeak while throwing a grenade and the 5-second-rule sandwich pick-up. Catch the MVP in spandex, along with a few other hilarious characters, at the "Saturday Night Live" website.

On a previous "Saturday Night Live" there was Peyton Manning's United Way promo spoof, and now here's Eli with "Little Brothers." The charity hits close to home for the younger football star, since it's all about helping other little bros get revenge on their bullying older siblings. The kid actors in this helped the host sell this sketch, whether they were running in terror or jumping up and down in glee as their brother got his head dunked in a toilet. Eternal kid Andy Samberg got the worst of the revenge treatment, and ended up in the trunk of a car.

There was no way to get through the show without doing some commentary on "50 Shades of Grey," and "Saturday Night Live" cleverly hid it within a Mother's Day ad for Amazon. Unsuspecting families, delivering breakfast in bed, stumbled on Mom in compromising positions with "microphones" and other vibrating appliances like washing machines. It was an easy joke, but the shock value worked.

Worst of the Night

Speaking of shock value, late in the night, "Saturday Night Live" trotted out the man-in-a-dress joke with the guest host as a disgruntled loser in a drag act. There were a few mild chuckles for the absurdity, but Manning's not quite enough of an actor to pull off the jokes, which were thin to start with.

Then there was Turner Classic Movies digging up missing footage from the Cheech and Chong movies, that included a straight-laced nerdy companion, played by guess who. Fred Armisen and Hader did a fair job with their impressions, and Manning did what he could, but the "wet blanket" character idea pretty much snuffed out any real laughs.

"Saturday Night Live" musical guest Rihanna lands in this category for her first performance of the night, on "Talk That Talk." It wasn't even really a song, just a collection of auto-tuned noises, but who could pay attention anyway when 90% of Rihanna's dancing consisted of her smacking her...well, Chelsea Handler would call it "her kaslopis." Yes, we know guys grab themselves on stage, too, but this was excessive to the point of insanity.

The Rest

Speaking of Handler, the saddest misfire of the night was the Swedish version of "Chelsea Lately." Like other show-specific "Saturday Night Live" parodies, anyone who hasn't seen the original wouldn't get much out of this one. Newcomer Kate McKinnon did a hilarious send-up of the comedian, though, and it was worth a few laughs to hear bits of the late night show's signature dirty and catty discussions in between the made-up Swedish gibberish.

While the Swedish Kardashians and Chelsea licking a fish she'd dipped in a martini were also pretty funny, after awhile the nonsensical babbling got old and the laughs weren't strong enough to justify the irritating parts. I'd rather see McKinnon do a straight parody of the show, though "SNL" does get extra marks for advertising "Top Chef" and showing a pic of the Swedish Chef from "The Muppets."

Manning's monologue had some bad jokes, but some out-of-left-field humor that kicked off the night well. The "Fox and Friends" cold open was actually funnier than previous installments, possibly because the jokes were a little less niche than usual. While the Herb Welch microphone-in-the-face gag wasn't as funny as some previous installments, it was still a solid mid-show entry.

Weekend Update hasn't been all that stellar lately, and Wiig's super-tanned crazy lady and guest star Sacha Baron Cohen seeming not quite as crazy or funny as they could have been.

All in all it was a solid night, and the first hour of the show had enough laughs to consider it a success for Manning, who performed a lot better than some previous cue-card-reading athletes. Rihanna's song and staging improved for "Where Have You Been," which contained some actual singing and dancing. It was also nice to see that, unlike most female performers these days, she wasn't outfitted in ankle-breaker platforms that make any choreographed movements impossible.

What did you think, "Saturday Night Live" fans? Where does Manning rank amongst these season's guest stars? Did you enjoy Rihanna's performances?

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