PHELPS'S post-Beijing TV appearances—Oprah, Leno, MTV's Video Music Awards—none
was more anticipated than last week's turn as host of Saturday Night Live.
Stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Costas, Brian Williams and celebrity chef
Guy Fieri came to the show, and Phelps joked during his monologue that his SNL
gig was, "like, the ninth greatest moment of my life."
But seriously. To
prepare, Phelps phoned Ashton Kutcher for acting tips (eight gold medals is an
all-access pass to everyone) and studied Peyton Manning's hilarious 2007 stint
as host. In his monologue Phelps also said he had to be careful of his image
and the products he endorses (leading to a punch line involving a toy called My
First Meth Lab). But his performance in the end was less Manning and more
Michael Jordan, who hosted SNL in 1991: calculated, reserved, likable. Phelps
played himself a couple of times; he poked fun at his mom; he donned a wig; he
gracefully deferred to guests Tina Fey and William Shatner. He says he
consciously kept his political views out of an episode that—elevated by a skit
featuring Fey as Sarah Palin—bubbled over with political references.
funniest bit may have been playing a pitchman for an overindulgent Michael
Phelps diet, but it is probably safe to say—and this is hardly meant as a
slight—that Phelps's best moments on live TV may be behind him.