EUROVISION viewers need to embrace the show’s “bonkers side” Saturday night, says Rylan Clark-Neal – because he reckons we have no hope of winning it.
The BBC presenter, who will read out the UK votes for the first time at the annual song contest, reckons keeping our expectations low will make the experience more enjoyable.
Katrina And The Waves were the UK’s most recent winners with Love Shine A Light — 22 YEARS ago.
Michael Rice is flying the flag in host city Tel Aviv on Saturday with Bigger Than Us.
But the 21-year-old from Hartlepool, Co Durham, has odds of 100/1 to bring the title home and is 4/1 to finish last.
Rylan, 30, says: “It’s been a massively long time since we won and, do you know what, going into Eurovision as the UK, we should never expect to win — that’s the perfect mindset for us.
“Michael is such a nice guy, the song’s good, he’s got a brilliant voice, everyone knows the song here, which is always a good sign — but it’s not about winning any more.
“It’s never on my radar when I’ve been here and it’s never been on my radar when I’ve been watching at home that we’d ever win.
“We are all very much on a level that it’s about having fun and taking in the bonkers side to the whole thing.
“It’s always been about some quite special staging and odd songs, and this year definitely hasn’t dropped that bar — it’s definitely still the weird and wonderful world of Eurovision.”
The Essex-born TV favourite, who has been announced as the new co-host of Strictly spin-off It Takes Two, replaces former Bake Off host Mel Giedroyc as UK votes host.
Should the (almost) impossible happen and the EU powerhouses put aside politics to give us the Eurovision crown, Rylan is preparing to “cry like I did at X Factor Judges’ Houses” and “bully the BBC about how the f*** I get on the hosting team for next year”.
But the Brexit fallout has already had an impact — Rylan plans to put on his serious face.
He says: “For the UK at the moment, especially with what’s going on, I’m going to look classic and classy and hopefully do a good job.
“I’m not going to be an embarrassment like people in the past have, like Face-Timing my mum as we speak. If this is my UK delegate moment, I’ll hopefully do a good job of it.”
Over the past two years, Rylan has become the Beeb’s golden boy of Eurovision, appearing on the You Decide show which picks the UK entry.
Terry Wogan commentated on the main contest every year from 1980 to 2008, with Graham Norton taking over in 2009.
However, as soon as I hint he could take the 56-year-old’s seat, Rylan blasts: “Are you f***ing crazy? Graham does an amazing job and Terry before him.
“Graham is our new King of Eurovision. I’m very happy being an understudy.”
After days of speculation, the show tonight will feature a performance from Madonna, 60, during the interval. Rylan says his “willy is just twitching with excitement” as a result of the Queen of Pop’s appearance. Actor Will Ferrell, 51, has also been in the Israeli capital, filming scenes for a Netflix movie, based on the contest.
Rylan, who is married to former police officer Dan Neal, says: “I’d love to be in it but I wouldn’t want to upstage him.”
He might struggle to find time to pin down the Anchorman star, saying: “I don’t think I’ll see any of Tel Aviv or even set foot on a beach.
“It’s full-on but it’s Eurovision. What else is it going to be?”
Tune in on Saturday from 8pm on BBC1.
Eurovision 2019 'bonkers' acts
BDSM GOTHS (Iceland)
PARENTAL guidance is advised as Hatari forces Eurovision to explore its BDSM side.
The band wear leather while screaming their anti-capitalist track Hatred Will Prevail.
One of their members, who is in a spiky mask and bashes a cage with a huge cotton bud, is the son of Iceland’s ambassador to the UK.
PORN KING (Russia)
THREE years after appearing in Sweden, Sergey Lazarev is back to have another crack at the Eurovision crown.
This time he appears no fewer than eight times, as he is reflected by mirrors across the stage while rain pours down on him.
While his performance might be innocent, Sergey has a fetish-porn past. The contestant previously posed for a series of explicit snaps, including one where he can be seen sitting naked on a bed while holding a saw to the throat of a woman handcuffed to a radiator.
SITTING DOWN ON THE JOB (Denmark)
SHE may have just been wanting a big cheer, but Leonora got a big chair instead.
The entrant performs Love Is Forever, alongside her backing singers, on a giant wooden chair.
She sings in multiple languages, including English, French and German, in a bid to vacuum up votes from other countries.
COLD PLAYTIME (Czech Republic)
THE cheesiest entry this year shows what Chris Martin performing on Cbeebies would look like.
Indie-pop trio Lake Malawi wear bright colours as they sing Friend Of A Friend against an Early Learning Centre-inspired backdrop.
Their past singles have flopped back home but maybe they will succeed here.
SUMMER SONG BIRDS (Greece)
KATERINE Duska gets in the spirit of summer as her backing dancers wave ribbons around while dressed in floaty outfits – all set against a bird-cage background, which later turns into a floral wall.
Katerine has sword-wielding backing dancers who also throw a giant ball into the audience.
GOING IT ALONE (Serbia)
NEVENA Bozovicćis no stranger to the song contest, having been a member of the girl band Moje 3, who reached the semis in Sweden in 2013.
They split a few weeks later.
SWAN FAKE (France)
SINGER Bilal Hassani hopes his song, King, will win the crown.
The YouTuber, centre, challenges stereotypes, performing with two ballerinas, one of whom is rather overweight.
PAYNE OR PANTS? (Switzerland)
UNDERWEAR model Luca Hanni will have the teenage Eurovision vote wrapped up with his Liam Payne-style routine, including plenty of racy dance moves.
FROZEN ON STILTS (Australia)
KATE Miller-Heidke has gone big for her song Zero Gravity, which she performs while doing her best impression of Elsa from Frozen, suspended on a bendy pole.
The Katherine Jenkins lookalike and opera singer, who wears a huge tiara, is joined by what appear to be two Harry Potter dementors, who float around in the background.
HEART SURGERY (Azerbaijan)
CHINGIZ appears to undergo major surgery during his performance, as robots fire lasers into a projection of a heart on his chest.
He said: “The idea is that my heart is broken and I need to replace it with a bionic one.”
SEXY Tamta leaves little to the imagination with her outfit.
The X Factor Georgia judge prances about in PVC boots and a see-through bodysuit. Her raunchy lyrics include: “Them sheets need my body.”
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