Beginning May 10, the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest will be available to stream exclusively on Peacock in the United States, both live and on-demand. The annual competition, which has become a worldwide phenomenon, pits some of the world’s best singers and songwriters from participating countries against each other to showcase breathtaking performances.
Famous past winners include ABBA, Celine Dion, and Netta.
This year, Peacock tapped two-time Olympic figure skating champion and Eurovision superfan Johnny Weir to host the stream, where he will provide commentary and pop-ins for the contest’s semi-finals and grand final. He currently serves as a figure skating analyst for NBC Sports.
Instinct caught up with Weir to talk more about hosting, what he’s looking forward to the most about this year’s show, why Eurovision holds a special place in his heart, and more.
Thank you for taking some time to chat with me, Johnny! How excited are you to host this year’s Peacock stream of Eurovision?
First things first – I am a crazy, obsessive Eurovision fan, and I have been for many years. So, this is really a dream come true for me. It’s kismet. When I saw that Peacock was streaming Eurovision last year, and I’m NBC, so it’s kind of the same family, I started to kind of dip my toe in the water and ask everyone on my team, hey, can we tell them I’d love to host Eurovision? Can we tell them I’d love to host Eurovision? Just over and over again.
Last week, they were finally like, were you still interested in hosting Eurovision? Boom! I immediately got on a plane and flew out to Los Angeles. I can’t tell you how excited I am because it’s a contest that has inspired me so much, and I hope that my enthusiasm for it will come through the screen and America can be totally enthralled by these crazy performances that we’re going to see.
What makes Eurovision such a special event for you, and why do you think others should check it out?
I’ve been very lucky in my life through figure skating, and now as an entertainer, to see many different parts of the world and open myself up to different cultures, ways of life, and traditions. Eurovision celebrates a country’s individuality. The songs and artists that perform for each country are selected to be a representative of their respective country. I just think it’s so cool to see how this contest unfurls because you never quite know who’s going to win because each country can’t vote for themselves. Often, they must have allegiances, alliances, and neighbors, and it’s so entertaining.
In addition to the judging aspect, I’m always inspired by the actual stage performances of the songs, the costuming, and the way light is used. They all share the same stage, but you wouldn’t even know it based on how they all decorate and create their moments. I think it’s such a breath of fresh air to see a large-scale competition that isn’t something that we see in America every week on television. It’s just fresh, it’s different, it inspires me, and I hope it does other people as well.
Is there anything you are looking forward to the most about this year’s show?
I think the most poignant moment will be when Ukraine performs. It’s Kalush Orchestra, they won their internal National Song Contest before the war began, and their song, “Stefania,” has come to be sort of a rallying call. It has a whole different meaning to Ukrainian people. It was originally written by the artist as a song for his mother, and it’s kind of gone on to be a song to all the mothers of Ukraine. The fact that Ukraine is going to be visible and present, and they’re expected to win, that’s going to be one of the moments I’m most looking forward to.
Europe is going to stand up for Ukraine, and you’ll see that in the voting. They’re going to do very well in this contest, but the song and performance is great. It’s a celebration of traditional Ukrainian music, sounds, and instruments, and the way that the group dresses is very Ukrainian folk. It’s just going to be such a celebration of Ukraine in a time when that country definitely needs a bit of celebration.
Aside from Ukraine, two of my favorite artists that I listen to all the time, I still have a spinning wheel iPod because I’m old school, are Mahmood and Blanco. They’re from Italy. Mahmood actually competed for Italy a few years ago in Eurovision and came in second, but they’re performing together, and I love their song. It’s a very special performance. They give a lot of angst, and it’s called “Shivers” in English.
Honestly, there’s not going to be a bad performance. These people are all stars in their own rights in their own countries, and they bring that swagger to the stage, which makes each one a hit after hit after hit. It was like when Divas Live was the thing in the late 90s/early 2000s. Aside from the Olympics, this is my favorite thing on television every year.
Is this your first time providing commentary for live music?
Yes. Of course, I’m not going to commentate over the performance, and that’s going to be kind of hard because with figure skating, we have to commentate what we’re seeing. Many of the skaters are performing over the world’s most beautiful music, and it’s like, do I really want to talk right now? But you have to jump in.
Eurovision is about the appreciation of the performances and celebrating that. Celebrating the glitter, the joy, and the togetherness that music brings to the world, and because I am such a crazy fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, I’m going to have a lot of nuts and bolts to talk about. Honestly, I’m going to be there reacting along with everybody watching at home, which makes it really fun and inclusive.
I want everyone to tweet me, Instagram me, tell me who they like best. I want to know it all because I support this contest, even though we can’t vote on it in the United States [laughs].
What have been some of your favorite Eurovision moments and fashion looks from the past?
Oh, my! Last year, Måneskin won for Italy, and that’s why the contest is in Italy this year, but they just brought rock and roll ferocity. The leather, the heels, the hair – they were certainly something that people needed to see, and they’re now the faces of Gucci. I love Eurovision because the acts are, of course, trying to rack up as many votes as possible, but there are countries that are less progressive that are often voting for very progressive groups from more progressive nations. The clothes and styling are quite different and something that that side of Europe has never really seen or doesn’t really support, but the song is so good, so they vote for them.
Other favorite moments include Alexander Rybak of Norway, who performed with his fiddle and was in little suspenders and a little button up shirt. Efendi competed for Azerbaijan last year and she performed a song called “Mata Hari,” and it was just full black fishnet sparkle. Something that I would wear on the ice. Then there’s Eleni Foureira, who sang “Fuego” and represented Cyprus in 2018. She wore black leather with Swarovski flames the whole way up, and that song inspired me so much that I actually skated her song on my own skating tours and wore a crazy costume.
Let’s say you had the chance to compete in Eurovision. What kind of performance would you do?
It’s hard to say. I think I’d be able to hide my voice inadequacy most with an up tempo with lots of accordion and crazy instruments in there. I don’t know who I’d compete for. I would need to pick a country. My heritage is Norwegian, so maybe Norway. Perhaps I’ll dress as a little Viking [laughs].
This is a stage that I covet, and just the opportunity that I have to host it for the American audience, being as passionate as I am about this contest, I just really want people to get behind it, dance, enjoy from their living rooms, and just go on that journey with me.
Before we wrap up, are there any other upcoming projects or anything else you would like to mention or plug?
I’m still skating, and I’ll be performing this year and next year, but then that’s it. I’m never going to perform publicly again. I’ve come to an age where skating starts to hurt more and more, and dieting gets harder. So, I want to step away from my sport when I still feel really good about it. I’m going on tour in Japan the week after next, and I’m sure I’ll have various performances in America too. If you want to see me, follow my Instagram and I’ll tell you where I’m at!
Stay up-to-date and connect with Weir by following him on Twitter and Instagram. The first semi-final is now on-demand, but tune in live for the second semi-final on Thursday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. EST, followed by the grand final at 3:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 14.