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On January 22, Kiper Says: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

Posted by Matt Terl on January 22, 2009 – 1:20 pm

ESPN is gleefully hyping Mel Kiper’s mock draft, which I suppose marks their official start of NFL Draft season. I find the last two picks of the draft the most interesting — someone at ESPN has apparently determined that the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl, but that the Cardinals will continue their ongoing transformation into Pittsburgh Southwest by drafting Pitt running back LeSean McCoy.

What affects the Redskins, though, is what Kiper has going on in his top 13. Read more »

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Thursday, January 22: Why Is Peyton Manning Funny

Posted by Matt Terl on January 22, 2009 – 11:19 am

A few weeks back, I sang the praises of Peyton Manning’s current MasterCard commercial, comparing it to some of the great Redskins ads of the past. What I didn’t do at the time was try to figure out exactly why Manning is so successfully amusing, and it’s a good thing I didn’t bother, since Sports Illustrated has brought in a professional to sort it out.

The professional in question is Bill Scheft, amusing novelist and writer for David Letterman, and he actually makes something of a study of it. He consults with even bigger-name professionals in comedy (Letterman, Alan Zweibel) and communications (the senior VP of corporate communications of Sony), and comes to four conclusions. Three of them don’t really do much for me — I think they’re either meant to be amusing or are just sort of speculative, but I think the fourth hits the nail on the head:

He takes it seriously that he’s playing a character who takes himself seriously. Manning favors the confident clueless guy, a staple of the stooge, which is appealing and disarming. But there is subtle versatility to even that thumbnail. Alan Zweibel, an Emmy Award–winning comedy writer, gets closer. “Peyton Manning makes me laugh,” Zweibel explains, “because he’s just as good at playing someone who doesn’t get it when people are being nasty toward him as he is playing someone who doesn’t care when people are being nasty toward him.” There is an uncompromising earnestness, forever propped up by questionable logic. I don’t want to rewrite anybody’s script, but Manning could have easily tagged a line like “So if sports are shot with a Sony, shouldn’t you watch them on one?” with “I’m just saying …” instead of the surreal “Chicken, no!”

This applies just as well to Manning’s SNL appearances as to his commercials, and I think it’s his greatest strength as a comedic “actor”. In fact, it’s pretty easy to draw a straight line from Will Ferrell’s stock character (Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby) to Peyton Manning’s commercial schtick, and I mean that as a compliment.

And I think this is what Ricky Treon misses when he tries comparing the ads of Peyton Manning to the ads of LeBron James: James seems to take himself very, very seriously, even when he’s trying to be funny. I feel like it’s extremely important to LeBron that we be amused by him, that we realize that he can do comedy, and it seems like he’s trying too hard as a result. Manning, you get the sense, couldn’t care less what we think, so he sells the humor better.

Either way, I’m glad Scheft broke this dilemma down so I didn’t have to. Now I can watch endless Sony Bravia commercials without wasting brainpower wondering why I’m amused.

(Hat tip to The Big Lead.) Read more »

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