What's in store for Taskmaster S9

The almighty and powerful Taskmaster and Little Alex Horne share their thoughts on the new series.

Taskmaster

What do you think of this year's line-up?

Alex: They're brilliant. Jo [Brand] and David [Baddiel] are great because they're very experienced but they don't normally do this sort of thing. You see them do QI quite a lot and that sort of thing. Greg: They don't normally do full-on silly. They're cerebral. I always think it's funny when someone who's known as a thoughtful guest is thrown into this lion's den. Alex: You might think of Jo as being not very physical and not very practical but she is physical in this and she pulls it off. She does much better than you think she's going to do on the sporty ones.

The brilliant thing about taskmaster is that it does reveal a comedian's true personality....

Greg: I think that's the greatest joy of the show for me. It makes people dig into parts of their personality. Especially for the stand-ups, they get to select which part of themselves they put out to the world. And this show puts a stop to that facade. Alex: They're all quite brave to do it, to be honest, because you do have to let your guard down. Lots of people have been exposed as being pretty stupid. Paul Sinha and Mark Watson, for example, are both very bright people, but stupid at the same time. Greg: This lot have such contrasting responses to things. I've been constantly surprised at this series. There's never been a better series.
Alex: People probably know Rose [Matafeo] less well but she's so fresh on it. I think people will really like her. Greg: I love the varying levels of enthusiasm and energy.

There's usually someone who just can't be arsed on every series. Have you got one of those this year?

Greg: Jo Brand? Er, yeah. Alex: But she's by no means bottom of the pile for points. She's actually challenging for the top sometimes. Greg: It would be overly simplistic to say she doesn't care. But there are definitely some tasks where she's gone, 'I just don't give a ****'. Alex: Sometimes there'll be a task which involves moving but she doesn't want to move so she finds another way of doing it.
Greg: Very often the younger people will run around before they actually accomplish anything, whereas the older ones - just as I would be - are more heron - like and waiting for the easiest way for it it to work.

What's the dynamic between the contestants on this series?

Alex: Ed [Gamble] is definitely the loudest voice in terms of arguing. He's the one who's most annoyed by Greg's decisions. Greg: But they've all got a healthy measure of how seriously we should take this. Usually someone really gets cross at some point during the series. We haven't had that. Alex: Nobody's had to apologise. Greg: It's only a game, you know.

This is the first series where you've had more women than men. Does that make any kind of difference?

Greg: It doesn't at all. That's not really surprising. The debate of whether women are funny or not is just so boring. It's not on our radar. Of course they are. Alex: Women have won the last three series. There might be a moment where you'd go, 'the older ones approached it like this and the younger ones approached it like this', but we've never said, 'the women have done it like this and the men have done it like this'

Your point-scoring decisions have become more and more arbitrary in the last few series, Greg. Do

people even bother trying to win you over any more? Greg: I think some people attempt to. Alex: He's turned over a new leaf this year. He's definitely adhering to the rules more. Greg: I've had to obey the rules more because I've had some flack from people suggesting I was getting soft in my old age so I've toughened up. Alex: You went to the arctic and lay down in the snow to harden yourself up, didn't you? Greg: Yeah. The relationship between you two is growing weirder with every series.

How weird is it in this series?

Greg: It even freaks me out now, and I'm the aggressor. One of the great joys of the show is imagining Alex's life outside of the show. Alex: It's been decided now that I'm into muscly women, apparently. And I'm really into pink, the singer. That was a surprise to me. Greg: Painting his backstory is one of my favourite things about the show.

How pleased are you that the 'Little Alex Horne' nickname has stuck, Greg? Because you get a lot of comments about that in the street, don't you, Alex?

Alex: A lot of disappointed people going, 'Oh, you're quite tall'. That was never a planned thing. Greg: I don't remember the first time I said it. Alex: It just gradually came in. I don't think it was in the first two series. The high-pitched thing has gone a bit in this series though, hasn't it? Greg: Yeah, quite consciously. I realised there was nowhere higher for me to go. I reached the top of my range. It's a great delight to me that a 6ft 2ins man is having 'Little Alex Horne' shouted at him in the street. And if I can create more lies for his backstory, that inconvenience his life, then I couldn't be happier.

There's no sign that you're running out of ideas for new tasks, is there?

Alex: No. You get some that are similar to others: a blindfold one, or a race one, but they're all different in their detail. Greg: Alex sits in a hot tub on his own thinking up ideas. Alex: That is true. I've got a hot tub now. I don't know that I want the world to know that, though. It's so embarrassing. Greg: I knew you wouldn't, which is why I said it.
Alex: It's where I work best because I can't take a computer in there. I have a waterproof notepad, no distractions. Greg: And more often than not, he's naked. Alex: Yeah, but I don't have any neighbours.

Do you contribute ideas, Greg?

Greg: All the time. Most of the best ones are mine.

What was your favourite task this series?

Greg: I did like the one where they had to make a water feature. Alex: Sometimes we give them an hour but on this one they only had 20 minutes to make a fully-blown water feature. And two of them were brilliant. Ed's was a work of art.

Would you be any good at Taskmaster yourself?

Alex: For the very first task of this series, I had to do part of the task myself. I had to find some aubergines. And I really didn't enjoy it. So I don't think I would. Greg: Your face went to 'real Alex' during that. Every now and again, the facade drops and I can see he's genuinely annoyed. He was really annoyed in the aubergine task. You know what? For many series I thought it was ironic that I am the Taskmaster and yet I'd be really rubbish at the tasks. But increasingly, I don't think I would be. I think I'd be good. As long as there are no numbers involved. Alex: I think you'd be really good at it. The main thing to do is never to worry and just get on with it. Greg: Is that how you live your life as well? Alex: No. The opposite.

How have the first rounds been on this series, when they bring in gifts?

Alex: Everything Jo has brought in has been from Jo Brand's life and I really like that. Rather than just going on eBay. Young people do that a bit more. Greg: I like it when there's a story behind the object, from their lives. Alex: When people go home with things like the twig from David's mantlepiece, or the ashes from the cat... When they end up with a thing in their house that's from someone else's house, that makes me laugh.

But do they swap the gifts back afterwards?

Alex: Legally, we have to let them have the prizes because it's a gameshow. Greg: We make them take everything home. And then we monitor it closely. After ten years they can give them back. Alex: I think Josh Widdicombe is nearly ready to give back Romesh Ranganathan's car.

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

Alex: I always say Jack Dee. And we talk about Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, don't we? Greg: I'm a big fan of throwing in a few non-comedians and I don't know why Fearnley Whittingstall keeps coming up. Realistically it's probably just because it's a name I can remember. And he's such a left-field choice, he'd probably be quite fun. Alex: Similarly I think Ainsley Harriott would be really good. We know him as a roly-poly chef but he's a comedian as well. He did 100 episodes in America of The Ainsley Harriott Show. Greg: Justin Trudeau has expressed an interest. He'd be great. Alex: Yeah, I wouldn't mind a bit of Trudeau.

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