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Peyton Manning’s finest, funniest moments in pop culture

Now that Peyton Manning has announced his retirement from the NFL, the quarterback is widely expected to go into broadcasting and become the next great studio or game analyst. But now that he’s no longer playing football, Manning has even more time to do what he arguably does even better than play quarterback: perform in commercials and comedy sketches.

Manning has been a pop culture staple with his ubiquitous presence in commercials during the football season. And his appearance on Saturday Night Live was arguably the best ever by an athlete at Studio 8H. (Lorne Michaels should bring him back as soon as possible, now that he doesn’t have to worry about minicamps and offseason preparations.)

Whether it’s a jingle, chant, or send-up of his squeaky-clean image, Manning has shown a talent for comedy that he’ll hopefully continue to serve now that his playing days are over. No one’s looking for him to get into TV or movies, but if he keeps making us laugh on commercials and comedy sketches, we’re all going to be OK with No. 18 no longer taking snaps on the football field. Here are Manning’s best moments in pop culture.

Chicken Parm, You Taste So Good

We should probably begin with Manning’s more recent entry into pop culture. Even if people aren’t familiar with Manning’s football career (which doesn’t seem possible, but hey, not everyone is into sports), they likely know him from his jingle for Nationwide Insurance. Made up of seven syllables that get in your head and stay there once you’ve heard them, this became a Twitter staple during Manning’s games — especially if anyone could come up with a seven-syllable jingle that made fun of his failings on the field.

Now that Manning’s retired, perhaps someone can do some research into whether or not he boosted sales of chicken parmesan dishes or sandwiches more than insurance.

Cut That Meat! Cut That Meat!

There may be no more memorable Peyton Manning commercial than this one. Really, the entire MasterCard campaign with Manning playing rabid fan for average working jobs was wonderful, and lives on years after it regularly ran on the airwaves. But the chanting ode to those who slice meat behind the deli counter is what sticks most in memory.

The only downside might be for those deli workers and grocery shoppers who had to tolerate copycats who thought it might be funny to actually chant “Cut that meat!” to someone in public. There are probably still people out there who do this. Hopefully, you haven’t encountered them.

De-caf! De-caf!

Let’s also hope that diner waitstaff and patrons throughout the country weren’t subjected to chants of “De-caf!” (with corresponding slams on the counter) when ordering coffee or asking for a refill. Although if someone did go to the trouble of making “D” and “caf” signs to hold up, he or she (OK, it would be a “he”) should probably get a bit of credit for that. But only if it was a one-off joke.

This is the less celebrated of Manning’s superfan MasterCard ads, but probably deserves more acclaim. Asking Charlie to sign his melon is funny, but the shining moment of this commercial is Manning making lustful faces at a restaurant worker’s apron, hoping that he’ll get a souvenir.

I Throw, You Catch. It’s Not That Hard, OK?

More people might recall Manning cheering on deli slicers and insurance adjusters when discussing his best pop culture moments, but his shining achievement away from the football field is arguably this Saturday Night Live digital short that spoofed the NFL’s partnership and public-service ad campaign with United Way. If you weren’t a fan of Manning before this, seeing him poke fun at his wholesome image and show a dirtier side for some laughs made the quarterback seem more down to earth. Celebrities and public figures typically look better when demonstrating that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Or you don’t even have to read into this so deeply. It’s just funny to watch Manning throw footballs at kids’ heads and yell “Get your head out of your ass! You suck!” at them. Was it that difficult to imagine him saying the same thing to Austin Collie or Anthony Gonzalez (or any receiver not named Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark) if they dared drop a pass during his Indianapolis Colts career? Hopefully, that one kid wasn’t psychologically scarred for life by being told to wait in a Porta-John with the door closed.

No athlete will likely ever have a better sketch on SNL than Manning did here. The bar is set absurdly high.

Pro Football Players, They’re Just Like Us

Following along the lines of being willing to make fun of themselves, Peyton and younger brother Eli behaved like a couple of typical sibling rivals in this ESPN “This is SportsCenter” ad, bullying each other during a tour of the network’s digital center. Out of sight of father Archie, Peyton flicks Eli’s ear lobe and if you’ve been on the receiving end of getting hit just right in that area, you know it stings. But Eli didn’t back down versus his younger brother, retaliating with a wet willie.

The best part of the ad is the disapproving look from Archie, telling his kids to knock off the horseplay with just one glare. But Peyton played into his persona wonderfully by pointing at Eli, accusing him of starting the fracas. Older brothers can be the worst, man.

It’s Football on Your Phone; You Can Watch It in Bed

Peyton and Eli may have overestimated their on-screen chemistry and pushed things a bit too far with this bizarre ad and music video for DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket and its special feature that let subscribers watch NFL games on their phones. Peyton’s 1980s look, with his Flock of Seagulls hairdo and Michael Jackson-esque jacket, make for a hilarious visual, the perfect accompaniment to his wooden, white-guy rapping skills. But hey, he sold it well (though not as well as Eli) and didn’t try to be something he wasn’t.

The Manning family being New Orleans royalty surely helped in getting streets closed off for filming and thus having to avoid first-hand public ridicule for dressing up like a bad 1980s rock star.

Ian Casselberry

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, also covering baseball at The Outside Corner and pop culture for The AP Party. He has written for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

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