Published: Thursday, 16 November 2023 13:40 | Written by Jamie Ruby
Taskmaster, a series from the UK, pits five comedians against each other, performing tasks that will test their wits and creativity. The series is hosted by Greg Davies, who scores the contestants, and he is assisted by Alex Horne, who also comes up with the tasks. An all-new episode of series sixteen airs tonight, and will be available tomorrow on YouTube.
The two recently spoke with SciFi Vision about the series, where they discussed the most surprising tasks, what task was never to be, what parts are unscripted, Alex getting tortured by contestants, if they will ever try the tasks themselves, and much more, including answering a couple questions from fans.
SCIFI VISION:So, my first question is, obviously the contestants are often very mean to you, Alex. Maybe not always intentionally, but sometimes intentionally. So, what's been the worst one for you when you've assisted that they've done to you? And for Greg, which one have you enjoyed watching him being tortured the most?
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, well I mean, the worst for me, it's an easy answer. Rod Gilbert, it just seemed to be his go to thing. It was, “Right, how can I abuse this man?” But he’s a very good comedian, Rod, so he always did it the right side of funny. It was never bullying. Well, it was bullying, but it was funny bullying. So, yeah, I don't know which one in particular. I mean, making me wear a bikini wasn't ideal. He tricked me a few times, I think. He tied me up. Yeah, most of the things he did.
GREG DAVIES:My favorite was a bit more of a nuanced takedown of Alex, and it was in this recent series, and it was Julian Clary, who just treated Alex with such withering contempt throughout the series and was quick to pick up on - You know, Alex is by nature a very gentle soul, but he'll he'll often enjoy a snarky remark or [say] something sarcastic when they ask a question that's perhaps not as thought out as it could be. And Julian was very quick to shut Alex down and I enjoyed it. And I always look forward to it to see how he would witheringly demean my assistant.
ALEX HORNE:It was every single time, every task.
SCIFI VISION:Let me ask you, when you guys do the opening, when you're kind of bantering back and forth, is that part scripted, or is a lot of that just kind of on the fly? Because I know, especially the whole the whole Botox comment, you seemed very surprised. That's why us I ask, because it didn't seem to be.
GREG DAVIES:You mean the bit between Alex and I at the beginning?
SCIFI VISION:Yeah, the banter between the two of you at the beginning.
ALEX HORNE:So, I've planned a thing and do it, and then we see what happens. I don't tell Greg what I'm gonna do. So, we just see what comes out of it. Yeah, that particular Botox comment, Greg suddenly looked over at me and was convinced I had Botox. So, that was now a main bit of the show.
SCIFI VISION:Yeah, everybody riffed off on it too.
GREG DAVIES:Yeah, it really is sort of in the moment, and I frequently end up saying, “I've got nothing to say to you” with the starting point that he offers up for our banter. I often can't think of anything to say, so I just insult him. Some would say that he's almost bringing that on himself. It’s self flagellation.
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, but you accusing me of having Botox, it’s so funny. Like you didn't know you're gonna say it. I didn't know you were going to say it. I’ve got more messages about that than anything else in the show, weirdly.
GREG DAVIES:Yeah, well, I'm not 100% convinced still that you haven't.
SCIFI VISION:The other thing I want to ask that is specific to this series, is there actually a secret task? Because I keep wondering if that's just totally screwing with their minds. I just wondered if you could even tell me that.
GREG DAVIES:I don't think we should answer that.
ALEX HORNE:There's a few questions which I'll never answer.
SCIFI VISION:I’ll have to wait and see that then. What's the one task that you've done that really surprised you? Either people did really bad or really good that you just were really shocked by, that it did not go the way you intended originally. For both you.
ALEX HORNE:Well, there was a task in series two which was quite sort of a turning point for me, which was the one where they had to get these exercise balls onto a yoga mat. Richard Osman, who was not a comedian but is pretty smart, straightaway thought, “I'll go up to the top of the hill to bring the yoga mat down, rather than bring the balls up.” We haven't seen [that] coming, and it's sort of turned the show on its head a bit, that people could work out ways of doing things that we didn't spot. So, yeah, that was a big sort of [thing]. Before that, I thought, “Well, I know what they're gonna do,” but I didn't know that was coming. So, that stayed in my mind.
GREG DAVIES:I always quote this in an interview, so, I apologize to anyone who might have seen another interview, but Joe Wilkinson in season five or something like that - I don't know what season it was - their task was to impress a council official, a town mayor. He went and bought like twelve beers and thirty-six Calippo ice creams, and that was it. That's as far as he thought it through, and I just found the arbitrary nature of him going okay, “I think I know what to do here. He needs this amount of beers and this amount of ice creams,” I still find it funny to think about it. It's the specificity of the number of items that made me laugh for some reason.
SCIFI VISION:You just made me wonder, when you when you talk about bringing things. Have you ever - this was one of the questions I got from Twitter - have you ever gone on your vacation that Joe Lycett gave you with the yurt?
GREG DAVIES:You know, I get asked that all the time. I mean, really regularly, “Did you ever go?” because he bought me a glamping holiday, didn’t he? And I don't know whether I should answer it or not. I don't want to spoil the magic, because so many people seem to like the idea of me going on my own glamping. Maybe I'll leave it a mystery.
ALEX HORNE:I would say after series one that cast all went to Cologne, which I think it was someone's prize. They put up a trip to Cologne. They did all go, except Romesh [Ranganathan] pulled out on the day, and then Roisin [Conaty] pulled out in the day, so I had to go instead of one of them. But it was a very funny trip walking around with Frank [Skinner] and Josh [Widdicombe] and Tim [Key].
GREG DAVIES: I’ll bet.
ALEX HORNE: So, there is follow through to these things.
SCIFI VISION:That’s cool. Do you guys know though ahead of time what they've brought in?
ALEX HORNE:I do. He doesn't. Yeah, that's the ethos of the whole show, really.
GREG DAVIES: Yeah.
SCIFI VISION:Now, Alex, I know you come up with the tasks. Have you ever come up with one that you were going to do and either it was cut, or that you couldn't do, just because of like, for whatever reason, logistics or whatever, it just didn't work out as a task for people?
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, so the process is I come up with lots of ideas, and then I send them to the producer and the director, who are both call Andy. And often they will say, “That won't work televisionally.” Or, like I've got one recently involving fireworks, which we're not allowed to do, because of the environment, which is a good thing. So, it tends to be on those lines. It tends to be something that's impractical. But I would say, nearly everything I ask, happens. I mean, partly because we've done the show long enough now that I know what the parameters [are]. But the channel never gets involved. Channel 4 here in the UK, they don't even check what we're up to. So, yeah, I think it's a good thing. So, no, I'd say almost 99% of the time, the tasks make it. It's fairly smooth. I wish I had an example for you, but yeah, this recent one, it was to launch a firework from the furthest distance away, but they're worried that, firstly, the fireworks aren't great for the world, and also, that there was going to be people making flame throwers and things, and I think it'd be funny, but there are things
SCIFI VISION:I’m sure it would be funny, but maybe dangerous.
ALEX HORNE: Exactly.
SCIFI VISION: Do you guys ever yourself try them out? I mean, you've probably been asked this before, but I just, I'd love if they did like a special showing you guys doing it, or even like you two switching places or something for a day.
GREG DAVIES:I would absolutely love to have a go at them. The truth is, I sit on that throne every series, thinking, “I would be better at this than everybody.” That is the truth. And I'm sure that I would fall on my ass. So, I'm never going to put it to the test. I'm never going to do it. I'm just going to sit in the untested arrogance that I would be brilliant at all of them.
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, and I don't test them, because I tend to have come come up with him. But it did cross my mind that I’d quite like to go on a version in a different country and see what happens, but I think I'd be a really annoying contesting, because I'd sort of probably be able to spot how to do things, just because, obviously, it's our world. So, I think Greg's right. We should never ever crossed that line. It would be the end of all of us. I'm never going to do it. It will be a mystery for us.
SCIFI VISION:Do you ever though wonder like if you would be the host, how it would go, if you were to swap places? I'd love to see like, I don't know, an April Fool's episode or something. That would be fun.
GREG DAVIES:Maybe on the last ever episode we'll do that.
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, I think that would be funny for an episode, but it might also not be funny, and then that'd be a real shame. But yeah, just to switch chairs, there’d need to be a reason why. We would have to justify it. But yeah, maybe the last one.
GREG DAVIES:It’d be a very different world. It would be like such a shifting political party, that it would become a very different show, I think, because, you know, our dynamic is, to some degree, born of our personality traits. So, I think that Alex's kingdom would be a very different kingdom to mine.
ALEX HORNE:Yes, also, you'd have to be there in all the tasks and in the corner of the room. It'd be a lot of changes. I'm already I'm now worried about it and a bit stressed.
GREG DAVIES:There’d be a lot of admin for a man as lazy as me as well. I'm not sure I’m up to it.
SCIFI VISION: Well, it’d be fun for us to see at any rate.
ALEX HORNE:I’d have to teach you about spreadsheets.
SCIFI VISION:Well, we're about out of time, but I did want to ask you really quick, although I'm guessing this probably isn't up to you guys, but everybody keeps asking about why the breaks to commercials were cut out of YouTube. I assume you guys have nothing to do with that.
GREG DAVIES:I read this on something today, and I don't know what it means. I don't know what's been cut out.
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, we have nothing to do with it.
SCIFI VISION:I don’t know, because I don’t watch it through YouTube.
ALEX HORNE:I think, it's because on YouTube; they don't have the adverts, and they used to put them up and include your throws to break, and then you just come back. It turns out, people really like your throws to break. So, I think it's a logical thing -
GREG DAVIES:You say that as if you're surprised.
ALEX HORNE:Well, I'm not surprised that it’s funny, but it's a surprise to me that people would prefer to have these. There's now a break even when there isn't a break.
GREG DAVIES:I have seen that online, and, you know, as the person who writes the links to break, let me tell you, I'm absolutely delighted that that is a controversy.
ALEX HORNE:Yeah, I imagine the people who do make that decision will see the comments too and put them back, because we want to be happy.