Now deep into series nine, Taskmaster’s reckless mirth ploughs forward unchecked. Essentially just televised parlour games with participants much funnier than your great aunt, it’s a show which won’t grow old. The premise doesn’t cover how much there is to the show.
Greg Davies is the perfect host and Alex Horne (show creator) is the perfect foil. Davies reaches back to his teaching days, lording over proceedings like your favourite, curmudgeonly lecturer. Alex Horne takes the brunt of Davies’* scorn and revels in it, knowingly stoking the ire. From this wicked foundation the random mix of odd tasks and odd people builds a show you can’t quit.
Taskmaster could be easily dismissed because it’s on Dave – it’s recently pumped a significant amount of money into new comedy concepts. The caveat of its generosity being that most of the shows are crap. But Taskmaster isn’t.
Dave, via Alex Horne, has coughed up a comedy great which works on many levels. Simultaneously funny, a head-scratcher for the viewer and a fascinating insight as to how these comedic minds work given a puzzle to solve. Rolling giant balls up a hill, tying Alex Horne up, making a video game or a short film… all to win a golden bust of Greg Davies.
Watching whether the persona the performer presents is tethered to the real person makes for a kind of ‘behind the comedy curtain’. There’s a deeper joy to this aspect.
Almost all of the contestants come across very well; this series Jo Brand and Ed Gamble are stand out funny. From series past Noel Fielding, Aisling Bea, Philip Wang, Sally Phillips, Bob Mortimer and of course, Joe Wilkinson were all utterly hilarious every time. Though that’s just to name a few.
And you find new respect for people you’ve never met. You feel as if you know them – and isn’t that part of the point of a parlour game? It’s pointless but personal, revealing and amusing.
Russell Howard perhaps took it too seriously and displayed ego, but his competitive streak was still illuminating, showing the drive these entertainers have and largely hide to appear genial and disaffected. The hard graft put into making their craft appear effortless.
Taskmaster’s blend of these various elements is genius. Comedic alchemy. Yes it’s puerile and pointless, but that’s the point. To reference another oddball comedy great, Monty Python, it’s silly, just silly, and that’s Taskmaster’s joy. If you haven’t seen it, go, indulge yourself in the almost nine series on UKTV (Dave catch up).
*On a personal note, I love the contempt for adverts. Greg Davies extends the caustic criticism he covers the contestants in toward the commercials. Everyone hates the adverts and it’s wonderful they acknowledge that.