Although Manning has been a notably ho-hum presence in front of cameras during interviews, the two-time Super Bowl most valuable player showed a knack for self-deprecating humor in this show.
SNL has developed a reputation for revealing sports figures' inner comedians. The long list of NFL Hall of Famers -- present and future -- to appear includes O.J. Simpson, John Madden, Tom Brady, and, of course, Peyton Manning.
Curious about Eli's comedy chops? Here are the top five sketches from Saturday's performance making their rounds on the viral video circuit.
'Text Message Evidence'
Manning played a defendant in a murder trial, using pseudolewd text messages and goofy emoticons as an alibi. The sketch is a shot at former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who in 2010 endured his own texting scandal.
Eli does a takeoff of a once-viral sketch done by his big brother, acting as the very hands-on spokesman for little brothers everywhere.
SNL writers love emasculating, and making fools of, prideful hosts. So what could be better than stuffing an NFL quarterback into a full-body leotard and having him strike goofy poses?
'What Is This?'
We've all met at least one of them: the chauvinistic jock, whose simple desire to remain unattached is thwarted by a genuinely smitten girl. Manning gets to play the straight man, although a dopey one.
'TCM Comedy: Cheech And Chong'
Want the definition of bravery? How about an NFL quarterback -- a player in as right-of-center a sports league as you can imagine -- taking part in a very long, elaborate joke about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.