‘SNL’: Lorne Michaels Wants Cast to Stay Put; Won’t See Romney This Season

Kenan Thompson and Eli Manning doing promos for Manning's hosting gig on "SNL" (Dana Edelson/NBC)

Kenan Thompson and Eli Manning doing promos for Manning's hosting gig on "SNL" (Dana Edelson/NBC)

Cast comings and goings are pretty much par for the course on “Saturday Night Live,” so with rumors flying around that three of the show’s longtime cast members — Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg — won’t return next season, “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels is playing things close to the vest.

“I’m not really certain myself,” he said about possible cast changes during a conference call this afternoon. “I know there will be some but… it’s just sort of the nature of the way we work that no one kind of talks about it until the season is done. Needless to say, I’d like everyone to stay.” After a long pause, Michaels said in a half-joking tone, “Did that avoid that question successfully?”

He did acknowledge later on, though, that at the very least new cast members will likely be added, but he used the same vague, this-happens-every-year kind of tone while saying it. “Every summer we go out and make the rounds of Chicago, LA and New York and various other places where people do this kind of work and invariably it leads to someone joining the show. The show has always been about bringing new people in.”

Another rumor that had been circulating around is that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was offered a hosting gig on the show, but according to Michaels, they haven’t talked to his campaign in quite some time. “We talked originally six or eight weeks ago; at the time I think there was some interest, then the primaries overtook everything and since it’s all been more or less there’s been no communication.” Don’t expect to see Romney this season, however. “We have three shows left and they’re pretty jam packed,” he said. “Now it might be the fall although we’ll never know; it’ll all pin on his availability.”

On the conference call with Michaels was this week’s guest host, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (the musical guest will be Rihanna, whom Michaels thinks might factor into at least one sketch this week). Manning has a tough act to follow in his brother Peyton, who did such a good job hosting the show in 2007, but just like he is in his press conferences during the week leading up to a game, his easygoing demeanor didn’t show any nervousness.

Because the show’s schedule runs more in an afternoon-to-wee-hours cycle, Manning was able to ensure that he could get the full “SNL” experience without disrupting his off-season workouts. What advice did he get from Peyton? “Just enjoy the week. It’s work, and it’s something you’re not quite used to doing, but he said the one thing you’re used to doing is ‘live,’ and that’s something you do every week during the football season. Just enjoy being with the writers and hang around as much as you can and work with them and follow their guidance; they’re the ones that are funny and know how to do this.”

Watch Eli Manning’s “SNL” promos:

[iframe http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=1399292 512 347]

Actually, Eli was asked to host after he won his first Super Bowl in 2008, but he didn’t want to follow Peyton so soon. Besides, the ever-so-humble Eli felt that, despite winning a Super Bowl, he had more football to learn and didn’t want to be distracted. “When I got the invite this year, I knew I wanted to do it; at one time and I kinda remember saying ‘I just want to do it maybe after my next championship,’ so when this opportunity came up again, I wanted to jump on it.”

It’s that humility that Michaels thinks will work well. “You sort of believe he doesn’t take himself that seriously. There’s an essential modesty to him and that plays well with what we do. If the host is spending a lot of time protecting an image, that’s exhausting for us.”

Manning is the latest in a long string of athletes to host. It seems like a lot of them do well; besides Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter also did a nice job. And who could forget Joe Montana‘s starring role in one of the more memorable sketches from the ’80s? Why do athletes do so well? “They’re used to being in front of large groups of people and not knowing how things are going to turn out,” said Michaels.

Watch Peyton Manning in a very funny “SNL” Digital Short:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Saturday-Night-Live/10009/576972034/SNL-Digital-Short%3A-United-Way/embed 580 476]

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