Our love of taking the mickey is one reason Australia fits in so well at Eurovision.
Blair Martin

9 May 2017 - 5:51 PM  UPDATED 9 May 2017 - 5:51 PM

Sledging is a well-established part of sport. Indeed, Australia might actually be world leaders in this field - and some of the time it’s very witty. Take, for example, the famous heckler “Yabba”, who called out to English cricket captain and Bodyline villain Douglas Jardine after he swatted a fly away at the SCG in 1932, “Hey, Jardine, leave our flies alone - they’re the only friends you’ve got here!”

While Eurovision isn't a sport, it is the equivalent of the World Cup for people who don’t like football. And given its vast gay male following (and all the stereotypical bitchy remarks that come with that collective) and the massive social media attention it attracts, you have a potent brew for sledging to make its mark.

This year, the contest hasn’t even begun and social media has already kicked off. With a plethora of fan-based websites carrying content, the sledges get currency very quickly. You’ve got to feel for Ireland’s Brendan Murray, who's already copping it.

Ireland has seriously under-performed this century since their glory days of the 1990s. Is their heart really in it anymore? After 2008's "effort", Dustin the Turkey - a sort of feral version of Ossie Ostrich that didn't make it out of the semis - perhaps not.

Nevertheless, Ireland continues to send contestants like Murray, who is being mercilessly mocked for his diminutive stature and rather pure, yet impossibly high voice. Unkind people have praised Ireland for embracing this year’s theme of “celebrate diversity” by sending a leprechaun.

His song is called “Dying to Try”, but as another short, large-eared, green-coloured being said a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” You can already picture two of the nerdiest fan bases converging on the socials in May.

While ESC contestants usually go out of their way to praise each other, occasionally the tart-tongued get noticed. Like Armenia’s 2014 entrant, Aram MP3, who left himself open to being described as compressed and flat with a name like that. When asked about Austria’s eventual winning entrant, “bearded lady” Conchita Wurst, Mr Non-Congeniality said things like “not normal” and “not adequate”. He added, “Hopefully, we will help her to eventually decide whether she is a woman or man." Mr MP3 ended up fourth in Copenhagen, while the winner went on to international acclaim.

Probably the best inter-contestant sledge in Eurovision history came from manufactured “lesbian” pop duo t.A.T.u. when they represented Russia in 2003. The press was eager to get anything on record from the “bad girls of pop" - and they duly obliged. Two months before the contest, they claimed it was a foregone conclusion they’d win and wondered why Germany was sending a “witch” that year, referring to 40-year-old Lou.

The Russian brats really stuck the boot in with their next dis, which also targeted Germany’s entrant from the previous year, blind singer Corinna May. "In Russia, we nurse blind and old people, but we don't send them to the Grand Prix. This must be different in Germany." Ouch! Ladylike Lou gave an impressive backhander: “I don't know whether bitching, fighting and boozing kids are the right representatives for such a beautiful country as Russia."

It's not just the contestants who have been known to participate in a spot of sledging. Like many Australians, I was, thanks to SBS, brought up with the incomparable Eurovision commentary of the BBC's Terry Wogan. In 2007, he welcomed viewers by saying, "Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually, I do because I’ve seen the rehearsals." 

Wogan has been succeeded as BBC commentator by Graham Norton, who’s been known to drop several scathing remarks during his tenure since 2009. Meanwhile, in Australia, the rather unlikely pairing of comic actor and RocKwiz host Julia Zemiro with footy player-turned-radio host Sam Pang might not have brought much snark, but has succeeded in appealing to both die-hards and casual fansZemiro is the Eurovision queen - multilingual, charming and able to spread the gospel of three-minute cheesy pop music with abandon; Pang is every boyfriend who's ever been dragged to a bewildering event by his beloved other half.

This year, two new commentators are likely to channel some of that Wogan humour. Well, one of them should, anyway. While Myf Warhurst will charm all the Eurovision acts with her smile, infectious giggle and that Aussie girl-next-door image, her partner, Joel Creasey, brings that "are you looking at me... and why?" attitude that only Perth can breed.

Anointed by the late, great Joan Rivers as her natural successor, Creasey can cut with a short, sharp comment, and while it seems cruel, you know it's dead on. If you've wished Rivers would have tackled some of the extraordinary costumes "choices" at Eurovision, you now have Creasey to deliver some true blue Aussie sledging.


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