Fangirl to host: Myf Warhurst talks about covering Eurovision for SBS

“Eurovision is everything you love about music turned up to 11.”

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Myf Warhurst became a household name in Australia through her work on ABC’s Spicks and Specks. After the show finished in 2011, she moved to the UK because, in her own words, “I didn’t know what to do.” In the two-year stay away from Australia, she freelanced for The Guardian and Ten. Before the launch of double j in 2014, the content director for triple j’s digital networks, Meagan Loader, tracked Warhurst down to host the lunchtime slot on the new station.

Had Loader not brought Warhurst back to Australia, she may have not been making a trip to Europe for the second consecutive year to host SBS’s coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Warhurst and comedian Joel Creasey were announced as hosts of SBS’s coverage of Eurovision in 2017. “I got a phone call from Paul Clarke, who is the head of Blink TV, which runs the show. He said, ‘What do you think?’ I went, ‘OMFG! Yes! Yes!’ As if I wouldn’t. It is my favourite thing in the world. I’ve been a huge Eurovision fan,” Warhurst said. “Eurovision is everything you love about music turned up to 11.”

Creasey and Warhurst replaced Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang, who have covered the event for Australian viewers for eight years. “We don’t go in trying to be like them or reference what other people are like. You just can’t do that,” Warhurst said.

“We wanted to bring our own sensibilities to it, but treat it with respect. Julia and Sam have done the hard yards to build it up to the Australian audience.”

Giving Mediaweek a feel of the environment behind-the-scenes at Eurovision, Warhurst said: “There’s a lot of running around backstage. From what I remember from Ukraine, the venue is huge. It takes half an hour to walk somewhere. We were five levels up, broadcasting from a tiny, tiny hot booth.

“It’s not as glamorous as you would think. But the energy is crazy! The production is intense. Everything happens in real time. I was astounded. I thought there would be some editing or something, but no. It’s all live – all those scene changes happen in real time.”

In 2015, the Guinness World Records recognised Eurovision as the longest-running annual TV music competition (international). SBS has been bringing the contest to fans in Australia for over 30 years now. “Going to Eurovision for the first time [in 2017], you realise it is a huge beast,” Warhurst said. “You don’t really know how to prepare for it. You try to do everything and make sure that you have all the bases covered. This time we know what to do. We know what is required and what the job entails. You need to get to know the artists, know the songs and do all the background research.”

Darwin-born singer, songwriter and actor Jessica Mauboy will be hitting the stage in Portugal to compete for Australia. She is no stranger to the Eurovision stage. Mauboy represented Australia for the first time at the contest in 2014 as a guest performer. This was the first time in Eurovision history that a non-European country had been asked to perform.

What are the chances of Mauboy winning this year? “I want Jess to win. She deserves it. She’s got so much spirit and soul. The song is really good too. Whether we win or not is another thing. Netta from Israel is also looking like she has a hot chance,” Warhurst said.

“The favourites flip so quickly when you are on the ground, as they did last year. Everyone thought Italy would win but it turned around. Eurovision is about what the world wants right now.”

Warhurst and her colleagues will be flying to Portugal on the Friday before Eurovision gets under way. The days leading up to May 8 will be packed with briefings and rehearsals. The three days of the actual event are exhausting, Warhurst admitted. “But it’s a good exhaustion. You’ve been involved in something really special. It’s history. Some would say it’s not the most important history there is, but I will fight them on that.” [Laughs]

The three days of Eurovision competition last year reached over 180 million people across 42 markets. SBS will be covering the 63rd edition of the song contest on TV, digital and radio.

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