SBD/Issue 2/Olympics

Not Ready For Primetime: Phelps' "SNL" Debut Largely Uneventful

Phelps Hosts The 34th Season Premiere
Of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" 
The season premiere of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” was hosted by Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps, and his opening monologue was full of sports business references as he discussed his endorsement opportunities since his record-setting performance in Beijing. In his monologue, Phelps said, “It’s so great to be here hosting ‘Saturday Night Live.’ This, seriously, is like the ninth greatest moment in my life.” At this point, the camera showed cast member Amy Poehler sitting in the audience playing Phelps mother, Debbie. Poehler: “Good job, Michael!” Phelps: “Thanks, mom. For those of you who don’t know, I set a world record this summer by becoming the first person to appear on NBC 390 consecutive hours.” Again Poehler said excitedly in the crowd, “That’s my boy! That’s my son up there!” Phelps: “Relax, mom.” Poehler then asked a woman sitting next to her in the audience, “What? A mother can’t be proud of her son? Do you have children? How many of them have Gold Medals?” Phelps said he has been getting "a lot of endorsement offers, and I do realize how important it is to choose the right kind of products for your image.” At this point in the monologue, cast member Will Forte stood up in the audience and asked Phelps if he would endorse his product, “My First Meth Lab.” Phelps: “Wow! I would not want to endorse something like that. I don’t care how much you paid me.” More Phelps: “See, that’s a good example of a product I should not endorse. I’m looking for endorsements that make sense for someone like me.” At this moment, actor William Shatner stands up in the audience and tells Phelps “you can’t be too careful.” Shatner: “I’m here to give you some advice: nothing is more important than integrity. You’ve earned your integrity in the Olympic arena and I was born with mine. … We have to save ourselves for the high-end brands, brands like Priceline.”

Phelps (r) Plays Home Schooler
In Skit Spoofing "Quiz Bowl" 
SCHOOL DAZE: The first skit Phelps appeared in was a spoof of “Quiz Bowl” where he played Zebadiah Jasper, a member of Bretheren of Ezekiel Compound. The family competed against a high school team, answering general trivia questions. “Zebadiah” was asked, “What substance in human blood transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body?” He replied, “Tiny gremlins.” The next skit featured a familiar environment for Phelps as he was a member of a swim team, with Forte as the head coach. Forte: “We’ve lost every single swim meet that we participated in, all your scholarships have been revoked and we’ve had two deaths by drowning.” Phelps told his teammates, “I just don’t think I’m cut out for this whole swimming thing. I just pictured myself on the starting block and I got so scared I thought I fudged my Speedo.”

LET IT RIDE: The show also featured a skit called “The Charles Barkley Show” which was “broadcasted” from the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. Cast member Keenan Thompson portrayed Barkley and said, “You know, I have always wanted to have my own talk show because I love meeting new and interesting peoples. Also, I gamble a lot and I owe the Wynn Casino a half a million dollars so they’re forcing me to do this show.” Phelps appeared on Barkley’s show as himself, telling “Barkley” he won his record eight Gold Medals through hard work, dedication and commitment. Barkley: “See, if I were you I would have said, ‘Really fast swimming.’”

Phelps Stars In Skit Making Fun Of
His Caloric Intake While Training 
EAT UP: In his final skit, Phelps again appeared as himself where he had some fun with his oft-reported diet of some 12,000 calories a day. Phelps: “I had to sacrifice a lot to earn eight Gold Medals at the Beijing Olympics, but one thing I never sacrificed was a good meal, and neither should you. Introducing the Michael Phelps Diet. It’s the only diet that lets you eat whatever Michael Phelps eats.” Phelps was on-screen standing behind a table that featured hamburgers, hot dogs, ham, a large roast, onion rings, pies and a large jar of Nutella, among the many items. Phelps noted that for lunch, you could have “a pound of pasta, three Cuban sandwiches smothered in mayonnaise, a fried turkey stuffed with molasses, a barrel of Halloween candy and to wash it all down, a pitcher of Hollandaise sauce.” Phelps: “You can eat whatever you like, as long as it adds up to 12,000 calories a day. Can you believe it? It’s that simple.”

THE REST: Other skits had Phelps portraying a rather gawky, unattractive and awkward teenager with a large retainer for his braces, and appearing in a spoof of a T-Mobile commercial, in the show’s “An SNL Digital Short” which was a song about the “Space Olympics” in the year 3022 and a husband on a dinner date at a pizza restaurant (“SNL,” NBC, 9/13).

FISH OUT OF WATER: The show earned a 7.4/18 overnight Nielsen rating, the highest for a "SNL" season premier since '01 and the highest for any "SNL" telecast since December 14, 2002, when former U.S. Vice President Al Gore served as host. In DC, Tom Shales writes Phelps "sometimes looked stiff and lost in thought during his sketches, yet just as often, he brightened to the task and came through." Phelps was "perhaps funniest during the 'Michael Phelps Diet' sketch" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/15). In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes Phelps during the show "had a couple of nice moments for a comedy neophyte." He brought an "energy and electricity to the stage, and that went a long way in making the season opener a pop culture event that won big ratings" (Baltimore SUN, 9/15). But USA TODAY's Tom Weir writes Phelps overall "took a beating, and probably would have been panned even more if Tina Fey hadn't stolen so much attention with her dead-on, show-opening take on Sarah Palin" (, 9/14).'s FirstCuts blogger Dave Larzelere wrote it was "mostly memorable for its non-Phelpsian moments" (, 9/14). The NATIONAL POST's Shane Dingman wrote Phelps was "pretty unmemorable." But he is the "greatest Olympian of all time, not the greatest SNL host. Which one would you rather be?" (NATIONAL POST, 9/14).

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