Why comedian and Celebrity Treasure Island contestant Eli Matthewson wants redemption

The comedian reveals his workout secrets and why he’s determined to win

For someone who’s happy to go on national TV in budgie smugglers, it’s hard to believe award-winning comedian Eli Matthewson was once scared to put himself out there at school.

“That’s something I’m still unpacking,” he tells Woman’s Day. “I used to want to disguise certain parts of my personality.”

So it’s safe to say Eli, 34, is out of his comfort zone without a script or dance routine to hide behind on Celebrity Treasure Island.

But after last year’s “devastating” early exit from Dancing With The Stars, where he was the first contestant to dance in a same-sex pairing, the Christchurch-born funnyman is feeling more comfy with being uncomfortable.

Making history on DWTS with Jonny Williams.

“You only live once – just do it!” he declares with his trademark cheeky grin, before turning serious. “I know it will be OK. Things can feel like they’re going so wrong, then you wake up the next day and you’re all right. Life goes on.”

For such a positive, happy-go-lucky person, Eli took the shock DWTS elimination hard. “It was pretty brutal,” the former Edge breakfast radio host confesses, adding that he wants his journey on CTI to be “a different story”.

He explains, “I want redemption. I’m here with a vengeance! I want to have one of those moments in a challenge where I’m the vital member of the team who does something amazing – and I think I can do that.”

Indeed, last week, we saw Eli dig deep to come from behind and win a challenge against his former U Live co-star Matt Gibb – a necessity after fellow comedian Laura Daniel, with whom he has an alliance, failed to throw the competition, as promised.

“I want redemption. I’m here with a vengeance! I want to have one of those moments in a challenge where I’m the vital member of the team who does something amazing – and I think I can do that.”

“I was ultimately happy Laura didn’t throw the challenge,” reflects Eli, who’s competing for HIV charity Burnett Foundation Aotearoa. “I don’t think it would have felt good to win without actually having earned it.

There was a moment of panic where I thought my best mate wasn’t aligning with me, but it made sense for her to do that.”

Eli and Laura have been close friends since meeting at drama school, and they’ve had to work hard to keep their friendship on the downlow as they’re on opposing teams.

“I had been in Laura’s bridal party just a few weeks before filming and that had been in the news, so I was hoping no one on the island had seen anything!” he laughs, adding that they avoided talking in public.

Eli had some sage advice from partner Sam.

“We tried to communicate with just eye contact at the elimination battles.”

To prepare for filming, Eli admits he worked out extra-hard. “I am fit, but I’ve mostly tried to make myself look better aesthetically,” the Paddy Gower Has Issues star says drily.

“It’s all about shredding for [New Year’s music festival] Rhythm & Vines. I mean, if you’re going to be in your togs, why not go all out? So I brought my tiny budgie smugglers.”

One person who probably won’t be complaining is Eli’s boyfriend of seven years, psychologist Sam Clack, who is Eli’s biggest fan but also a huge fan of CTI. Having lived in different cities when they met, they have a lot of experience with long-distance romance, but Treasure Island still proved challenging.

“You can’t message every day, so this was always going to be very hard. He gave me a photo of himself, but it was confiscated!”

Eli made sure to pack his budgie smugglers for CTI.

Super-fan Sam’s advice to Eli was “not to go too soft and not to make too many alliances because that can haunt you”.

The comedian also consulted with his Male Gayz podcast co-host, CTI winner Chris Parker. Eli chuckles, “His tip was to smuggle in salt! I tried and it was confiscated, so that was a blow!”

Whether Eli’s dreams of reality TV redemption are realised remain to be seen. But the funnyman is happy he wasn’t among the first or second to be eliminated.

“Now I just want to win some money for my charity and make some friends – that’s what it’s all about!”

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