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.

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Taskmaster. Jo Brand. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Jo Brand interview

Jo Brand reveals her motto for life, and says she didn't mind getting humiliated on Taskmaster as long as the end result was funny.

Why did you sign up for Taskmaster?

I have teenage kids so I was aware of it, and I've worked with Dave in the past. I just heard great things about it right from the start from people who'd been on it.

As much as comics try to deny it, there's an element of competition in most of us, otherwise we wouldn't be doing this job.

I'm the middle child of two brothers so I'm definitely competitive.

Does that mean you're in this to win it?

No. My motto for life is 'lower your expectations' because then you're really pleased if you do well. I never expect to win anything. I'm just enjoying doing it. If something nice happens, like I get the most points for a round, that makes me really happy.

What was your strategy?

I think a general strategy is 'Don't forget you're a comedian'. You do see comedians on telly going, 'I'm on Question Time now' and they sort of forget to be funny. So my strategy was to try and be funny. I don't care if I get humiliated as long as it's funny. There's nothing worse than being humiliated in a really boring way, is there?

Taskmaster. Image shows from L to R: Alex Horne, Jo Brand. Copyright: Avalon Television.

And did you get humiliated?

On a few occasions, definitely. I'm like one of those kids doing a GCSE where they open their exam paper and they don't realise there are two more questions on the other side. I did a fair bit of that. So yes, I was humiliated a few times.

Did you learn anything new about yourself?

I'm quite old now. I know myself. I know I'm competitive, I know I can be quite bad tempered and I have to suppress that. I'm much better at verbal tasks than conceptual, abstract building tasks. And I'm not fast either. If you have to do something quickly, I'm going to come last.

Did you know any of your fellow contestants before filming?

I've known Dave since 1986 and we are good friends, actually, so I was so pleased when we were put together, even though we've been re-framed as the 'old codgers'. We just wander around looking for a cup of tea and going, 'Ooh, where are my glasses?'.

We did the team tasks together as well which was really good fun.

Was there any difference between the way you and the younger ones approached the tasks?

I suppose there's a truth that the young ones are all springy and keen, and we're all jaded and farty and smelly.

Greg tried to make out there was a difference but it's interesting because I'm 62, Dave's 55, and Greg is 51. So he doesn't really have a leg to stand on when he starts going on about us being 'oldies'.

But to be fair, Dave and I were much more likely to go, 'Oh, f*** it', and sit down for a cup of tea.

Taskmaster. Image shows from L to R: David Baddiel, Jo Brand. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Was there any difference between the men and the women?

I wouldn't say so. You might think the women are more likely to hang back and go, 'After you', but actually I don't think that's the case. They're equally competitive.

Did you try to butter up Greg for extra points?

No. It's a lost cause trying to work out how Greg's going to react to something. Sometimes you think, 'Greg's going to really hate this', but he really likes it. There's absolutely no point buttering him up. In a way, it's almost easier to insult him.

How did you get on with the first task where you have to bring something in?

I put in medium effort, I'd say. I didn't make anything myself. But I picked things I thought would be interesting and quirky. There have been some really brilliant ideas in this series. I'd say three of mine were very good, three were medium, four were crap.

How would you describe the relationship between Alex and Greg?

I think it could quite easily trip over into some kind of court case. Greg does really tease Alex but he has a really fondness for him so there's nothing sinister going on, shall we say. I've probably got that wrong and in a year's time Greg will be in prison.

What was your relationship like with Alex: did you find him helpful?

He's such a tremendously likeable person. I hope my relationship with him is just a friendly one, really. He's so genuinely helpful. Occasionally he'll steer you, without telling you what to do. And he'll describe the limits of what he's prepared to accept physically in the challenge. But I wouldn't dream of humiliating him.

Taskmaster. Jo Brand. Copyright: Avalon Television.

Did anything surprise you about the tasks?

I wasn't sure how much of a Saudi prince you were allowed to be when you were demanding things to help with the task, but actually there's a real willingness to get anything you need, within reason. I mean they won't helicopter you over to the Isle of Wight for a particular pebble. But I was really surprised there was a lot of stuff that they're prepared to get for you.

What was your worst task?

Going into a room where there were loads of things hanging from the ceiling, and not even taking the blindest bit of notice. Then I went to the caravan and Alex said, 'Name as many items from the ceiling as you can'. I didn't have a bloody clue. That was embarrassing.

And your best?

I did a rap using language that my daughters have taught me, and I thought it would be so embarrassing, like a grandma. But it was actually quite good. I was quite pleased with that one.

Who would you like to see in future series of Taskmaster?

Obviously Donald Trump, and our lovely new prime minister, Bozza. They could go against Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy.

I actually think it would be quite nice if some lofty figures would come down from their pedestals and do it. So Micky Flanagan, Sarah Millican, and John Bishop, could be in the arena-filling series. You have to fill a 12,000 seater arena to be eligible. And what's Russell Brand doing now?

More Taskmaster interviews

Published: Monday 2nd September 2019