Taskmaster. Image shows from L to R: Greg Davies, Alex Horne. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Taskmaster

Dave comedy show setting comedians tasks. 74 episodes (9 series), 2015 - 2019. Stars Greg Davies, Alex Horne, Romesh Ranganathan, Frank Skinner and others.

Next new episode is on Wednesday at 9pm. Series 9, Episode 3
Catch-up on Episode 2 on UKTV Play   Series 9, Episode 2 is repeated tomorrow at 10pm.

Taskmaster. Greg Davies. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Greg Davies interview

Greg Davies talks about Series 7 of Taskmaster, and admits he may not be a reliable judge.

How would you describe this series?

It's a really great series. I think the tasks are as fresh as ever, and I think it's funny. Sometimes the teams just gel. I won't highlight which series, but we've had a couple where the gang has just made sense together. This one is just a wonderful mix of people and personalities that complement each other. It's a delicate balance between being competitive but recognising the 'gang show' nature of this show.

The comedians are the usual mix, aren't they: some big names and some who are on the cusp of being famous?

Yes, but I think one of the joys of the show is that it doesn't matter what point people are at in their career. It makes no difference to us. What's important is that they are sufficiently different from each other and respond in a sufficiently interesting way to the tasks.

So, yes - I wouldn't like to say who is more well-known than others, but they are all very funny people in their own right. And I know Rhod Gilbert better than anyone else because Rhod and I literally started out together in comedy. So, it's a novelty for me having an actual friend on the show.

What is your relationship with Rhod like?

Rhod and I have always enjoyed what seems like a humorous, jousting relationship. He's taken full advantage of that on the show, attempting to usurp my authority at every turn. But it's joyful for me that he just can't do it because I have been given ultimate authority. He can show as many pictures of me looking fat as he likes, and I still get to decide his fate - and I love that. It's really nice, being a dictator, you know? For a while. Just dropping in on the world of a dictator is nice.

You've got that power of being totally whimsical as well, haven't you? Sometimes they have timed tasks but sometimes you can just go, "I didn't like that so you're not getting any points."

That's the thing, when there's a value judgement to be made. Anyone who knows me in real life will find that hilarious. I'm about as far away from a High Court judge as you could be. If the High Court judges of the world started to die off and there was only me left, I still wouldn't choose me. So, it's one of the nice twists of the show that Alex decided to give the power to me. And funny that Alex should give the power away to someone who would use that power often against Alex.

Taskmaster. Image shows from L to R: Alex Horne, Greg Davies. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Your relationship gets funnier and funnier with each new series. Describe to us what it's like in this series.

It's more of the antagonistic same, really. I think one of the reasons it works is that we are such different people in real life. I admire him greatly and I think that's what I put it down to: an underlying admiration.

Taskmaster taps into a universal humour of people making a fool of themselves. But I think often Alex and I may well laugh at different things. He can do things and think about things in a way I wouldn't. And at the same time, I love to be dismissive of him.

He's clearly a sado-masochist.

There's some sort of self-flagellation going on with him.

You have a really nice shorthand that has grown from the first day.

Yes, it has grown. We've found a way. And - it sounds like I'm sucking up to the channel that commissioned this show, which I am - that is in no small part due to giving a show a fair go.

If broadcasters don't give a show a fair go, then these relationships and chemistries don't evolve. I think it is generally a mistake to give any show just one series.

What would you be like at doing the tasks?

Well, there are some creative tasks -we got them to compose a piece of music and do a physical recreation of their favourite console game. I love things like that. I would really thrive on the making silly things up.

But anything involving logic - Jesus Christ, as the person who runs the autocue will tell you, any technical skill is out of the window for me.

We've talked a bit about Rhod. What about the other contestants: are they reverential towards you?

I have to say, the other four have largely respected my authority, despite me being more disrespectful to them than I ever have done before.

They're so clever and funny and gifted, and I ridicule them for making mistakes that anyone would make, and they take it on the chin.

Okay, they may complain a little bit, but they ultimately put their heads down like children when I tell them 'no', and it's incredible.

Because if the roles were reversed and I was doing the tasks, Jesus Christ, I would be worse than any of them, I'm sure.

Taskmaster. Image shows from L to R: Rhod Gilbert, Kerry Godliman, Phil Wang, Greg Davies, Alex Horne, James Acaster, Jessica Knappett. Copyright: Avalon Television.

In terms of bringing you gifts and trying to impress you, has anybody done any research or really tried hard?

No!

No across the board. I think with all of the tasks that were designed to impress me personally, no one has done the slightest bit of research. In fact, Rhod has done anti-research, and he's deliberately chosen things that he knows would antagonise me - up to and including raiding my childhood toybox. One of the things he does is incredibly extreme, which did not surprise me for a second. I knew he would take this opportunity to try and turn the tables on me.

How competitive are the contestants on this series?

It's just the right balance. I think they want to do well, but they want to be seen to do funny things rather than necessarily complete the task. So that's a slight change this year.

What they really want to show is what they're good at, which is being funny, and I think they've all done that brilliantly. Deep down, do any of them want to win? I honestly don't think they give a s**t.

Often, we're surprised by people on the show: who knew, for example, that Noel Fielding was so sporty? Is that one of the pleasures of the show?

Yes, yes! One of the most, if not the most, joyful aspect of the show for me, is discovering something new about somebody.

I don't know a lot of people that well outside of having done stand-up with them, and stand-up is such a controlled medium. You give exactly what you want of yourself. So it's nice that on this show they're forced to give something else of themselves. I love that. And I think that no one ever comes out of that badly. But also, there are moments of genuine emotion. There is at least one incident of genuine anger in this series, where someone is visibly furious - and if you think about that in the context of what we're all doing here, the idea that it would bring out genuine, heartfelt fury delights me.

What's the difference between the way the older and younger generations approach their tasks?

I don't think it's necessarily consistent. I don't think you can say the 20-something comedian will tackle something differently to the older ones.

Having said that, anyone 50 or above, you'll see a weariness in their eyes more regularly perhaps.

Taskmaster. Image shows from L to R: Alex Horne, Greg Davies. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Who has been your favourite ever contestant or your favourite ever task?

I think that the realising of the video games in this series may be my new favourite task. Up to this point it was always 'impress a mayor', that's the one that's always made me laugh the most.

You know, I spend the whole record just laughing, so they're all wonderful.

Is there anyone on your bucket list who hasn't done it yet?

That's a good question! I'd like, ultimately, to invite people who are not necessary in the world of comedy.

I'd love to see people in earnest public roles doing this. I mean, imagine a politician special? Imagine if we had five politicians? Jesus Christ! I'd be like a kid in a sweet shop. That would be a bucket list thing for me, is to invite some people who don't fall into our selection process. It goes back to that thing of people revealing other things about themselves that we don't normally get to see.

What about a favourite contestant?

I do have a favourite contestant, is how I'll answer that. I do have someone who makes me laugh more than anyone else, and they made me laugh for the right and wrong reasons, but I'm not going to reveal who it is.

So do you think it's impossible for them to come into it with a strategy and present yourself in a certain way?

I don't think they've got a choice. And that is largely down to the ingenious structuring of the tasks.

You know, they're never allowed to rest, they're never allowed to think, "Well, this is going to be a task that requires this part of my brain."

Their brains are being worked constantly, you know, like boxers. They're getting punched. And there are a lot of soft areas that are getting punched a lot.

Do you know where any of the gold Greg busts have ended up over the years?

I don't know, actually, and I don't want to know! Because I suspect that they've not been respectfully placed by anyone.

If the show ever came to an end, would you be taking that gold throne home?

I think there is probably not a more tragic image than a deposed king sitting on a dusty throne. So, I would take it, and I would burn it. In a one-man ceremony in the middle of some woodland.

You'd invite Alex along, wouldn't you?

No! I wouldn't. We're over as soon as the show's finished. End of relationship!

More Taskmaster interviews

Published: Saturday 1st September 2018