Absurdly fun comedy show Taskmaster, in which comedians are set and awarded points for completing a series of brilliantly nonsensical challenges, is a tonic for heart-heaviness. It is joyful nonsense and precisely the cleanse required for those occasions when the real world gets a bit much. Watched the news? Dismayed by Twitter? Let Noel Fielding disguised as a banana make it all better.
Series 10, which will feature Daisy May Cooper, Richard Herring, Mawaan Rizwan, Katherine Parkinson and Johnny Vegas, is currently filming and being readied for its new home on Channel 4 following last year’s move from Dave. Den of Geek chatted to the Taskmaster and Little Alex Horne to find out how social distancing measures will affect the finished series.
‘Luckily, we’d filmed 95 per cent of the series 10 tasks before lockdown, so we’re all good to go in the autumn. We’re just starting filming in the studio,’ says Alex Horne. ‘There is a strange thing where five per cent will have slightly different rules because we’ve done some team tasks pre-lockdown and some after with social distancing.’
The main changes, therefore, will be in the studio and not in the tasks themselves.
Greg Davies explains, ‘It will be quite different. There’ll be no audience, and we’ll all be sitting miles away. It’ll be odd because normally we would all mix before a studio record, but we’ll just be meeting on the studio floor. I think it’ll be fine though, I think it’ll be fun.’
Horne, who recently worked on social distanced BBC One Saturday night show Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer, says that not having a studio audience is simply the industry standard now. ‘This is the way things are made, so I don’t think it will feel as odd as it would have three months ago.’
Each of the show’s episodes features pre-filmed tasks screened and judged in the studio, culminating with a live task filmed on stage. How will the COVID-19 regulations affect those?
Minimally, says Horne. ‘We were worried about that, but because of the breadth of the stage, they can still do it, that’s actually alright. Because they’re facing forwards and not each other, we’re alright. We’ve designed them so they don’t touch each other, but they rarely did anyway.’
In conclusion, says Horne, ‘the broad skeleton of the show is exactly the same.’ He thinks the safety measures help to make series 10 more relevant and funny, ‘because we’re all watching it in this socially distanced world.’
‘We don’t actually lose anything except for a feeling of closeness,’ concludes Davies, joking that it’s a bonus for his co-presenter. ‘Alex doesn’t like physical contact.’
‘It’s unnecessary’, deadpans Horne.
Far from being stymied by the global pandemic, Taskmaster’s format really came into its own during lockdown. The show’s creators came up with #Hometasking, an online audience version in which fans from all over the world submitted their entries to tasks set in online videos, which were then judged and ranked.
‘Hometasking was genuinely a team effort,’ says Horne. ‘Because we were all in lockdown and didn’t have anything to do, the team watched lots of videos and passed them on to me. It was a really nice way to spend a few months and feel like you’re actually helping other people. Also, it did show us that the British public and the American public – I think a third of the entries were from North America – were very funny and entertaining and imaginative, so it was really refreshing.
Davies loved the global span of the videos they received, ‘coming in from all over the world and really obscure places. Like Alex says, it’s great to see that the people out there have got great imaginations and they’re really clever and funny. It’s just such a lovely thing to be part of.’
Taskmaster series eight makes its US debut on The CW on Sunday the 2nd of August.