Eurovision 2019 host Joel Creasey recently caught up with Laurence Barber to talk about Australia’s entry, calls for a boycott, and Eurovision drinking games.
Between hosting Mardi Gras and Eurovision in 2019, Joel Creasey has steadily become the face of two of the gayest events on the Australian cultural calendar.
The Sydney-born comedian this month hosts the beloved international song competition alongside Myf Warhurst on SBS for a third year, but says the excitement of the spectacle still gets to him.
“It’s still exciting because it’s growing in Australia,” Creasey says.
This year saw the first Australia Decides event on the Gold Coast, allowing the public to vote on what song would become Australia’s entry. The Australian people ultimately chose Kate Miller-Heidke’s genre-spanning “Zero Gravity”.
“I think Kate could go all the way, because people have to sing that song so many times that week,” he says.
Between intense rehearsals and the live performances themselves, Miller-Heidke has a distinct advantage.
“It really is the vocal Olympics. Which is why a lot of countries enter musical theatre acts because they’re used to doing those eight show weeks.
“And often what you see by the Grand Final is the front-runner’s voice falter, and you just know you’re not going to have that problem with Kate.
“She’s classically-trained, and can belt that song out at the drop of a hat.”
Creasey adds that Miller-Heidke’s staging is going to be “pretty bloody epic”.
“The Australian team flew over to Tel Aviv last month to try to negotiate some epic staging that they’re trying to pull off, so fingers crossed that got that across the line because I feel like it’s going to be something that’s never been seen on the Eurovision stage before.”
If there’s a sense that Eurovision’s sparkly pomp and circumstance might inflate this year, it’s in response to criticism that makes this one of the most contentious events in the competition’s history.
Many among the sizeable queer audience for Eurovision in Australia and abroad have called for a boycott of the contest and its host country this year, Israel, over the ongoing conflict with Palestine.
Eurovision, for its part, insists the contest is apolitical and about unity through song, which is backed up by SBS’ commitment to covering the event. It’s a complex question not lost on Creasey.
“The boycott, I absolutely understand where people are coming from, and what’s going on is awful,” he says.
“But if you’re going to take a stand against each country’s political views then we’re never going to have a Eurovision.
“It’s going to become very tricky. And for people to be calling for a boycott of SBS, SBS are the most progressive network – this is one of their flagship shows for the year, they need this show.
“I think you need to be able to separate Eurovision from what’s going on and I hope people can do that.
“But absolutely people are being heard. What was really lovely, too, is at Australia Decides there were a few people with Palestinian flags coming in – at no point did SBS turn them away.
“They were all allowed in. I can’t imagine another network allowing that, but SBS did. And they were in there dancing and enjoying the show too, so they were 100 per cent being heard.”
Creasey is no stranger to controversy, having written a viral Facebook post ahead of hosting the Mardi Gras telecast in 2018 in which he said that “body shaming in the gay community has gotten out of control.”
A year on, and Creasey is definitive when asked if anything has changed.
“No,” he says. “Not at all. There’s these disgusting gyms in Sydney who I see on social media, who encourage their ‘hot’ clientele to take their shirts off at the end of a training session and tag the gym.
“And it’s like, you know what? Fuck off,” Creasey says.
“I enjoy going to the gym, but this whole ‘you’ve got to take your shirt off and show us your abs’ thing… I completely understand why people are scared to go to the gym, and those gyms are really not helping.
“I know it’s great for viral social marketing, but get a brain and find another way to do it because it really irks me.
“I don’t think it’s changing at all and I think the gay community is an absolute mess at the moment.
“The sad thing is, I put that post out and people attacked me! It’s like, oh God – how are we ever going to sort this problem?”
Never one to hold back, Creasey promises the same energy in his new show Drink. Slay. Repeat which he’s been touring around the country.
“It’s like a fabulous dinner party. It’s not one of those shows where you’re going to learn something.
“I’m not going to change your views on a political issue, I’m not gonna make you cry or tug at the heartstrings.
“You’re probably going to leave dumber, if anything,” he jokes.
Increasingly known for his hilarious celebrity interactions, Creasey cannily teases the biggest name discussed in Drink. Slay. Repeat.
“The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle,” he says.
“I met her, met her privately and we did not get on. So that is a very juicy part of my show.
“When I get to that part of the story, you can feel the audience lean in and listen.”
But as far as Australian royalty is concerned, Creasey says the best part of hosting Eurovision is the company.
“The best thing about hosting the broadcast is working alongside Myf Warhurst. I grew up being such a fan, and she’s now one of my best friends – she’s truly one of the most divine humans on planet Earth.
“The worst thing is, I can’t get involved in any of the Eurovision drinking games. I have to do all of my drinking post-Eurovision, and we don’t normally finish until 2 or 3am,” he says.
“I still manage to fit a few drinks in, don’t worry.”
Eurovision will be broadcast live and in primetime exclusive to SBS and SBS On Demand from 16 to 19 May. For tickets to see Drink. Slay. Repeat., head to joelcreasey.com/shows.