Hooray! Taskmaster is returning to Channel 4 for its fourteenth series on Thursday 29th September at 9pm. There’s no denying the previous thirteen series have provided some moments of pure glory: Richard Osman fiendishly finding a loophole to the gruelling ‘Place These Yoga Balls On The Mat On Top Of That Hill’ task. Kerry Godliman’s genius quick change. When Mawaan Rizwan made a giant cow disappear.
But if there’s one thing the UK loves more than queuing, it’s an underdog. Or sometimes just someone who isn’t afraid to admit they simply can’t be arsed. And in many ways it’s the contestants’ biggest, most epic failures that make some of the show’s best moments.
So it’s lucky that for every series of Taskmaster there seems to be one last-place contestant trailing miles behind the rest, who seems hopelessly inept, or whose mind just isn’t wired for little Alex Horne’s tricksy little tasks. Let’s take a look back at each series’ worst performing contestant and their most memorable moment:
Series one: Roisin Conaty (total series points: 68)
Aside from being hopeless at pretty much everything, from filling an eggcup with tears to eating watermelon, one of the major highlights to Roisin Conaty’s Taskmaster appearance was the fact that – due to them being close friends – Greg Davies took the opportunity to tell embarrassing stories about her during his weekly introduction of the contestants. Memorable introductions included ‘After a party at my house, I found this comedian asleep on my sofa with fourteen penises drawn on her face’ and ‘I genuinely once returned to my flat to find her in my bed eating biscuits and watching a documentary on Colditz.’
Roisin’s Conaty’s Best Worst Task: Paint a Picture of a Horse, While Riding a Horse
We got an insight into how much effort Roisin Conaty was going to put into her Taskmaster appearance fairly early on in her series. During episode one, contestants had to draw a picture of a horse while riding a horse, but to the outrage of her fellow contestants, it was revealed that Roisin refused to get on the horse and was allowed to complete the task while riding a mechanical horse instead. And her drawing was still rubbish.
Series two: Joe Wilkinson (total series points: 69)
The nonchalant silliness of Joe Wilkinson is a delight at the best of times, but made him one of Taskmaster’s most memorable contestants. From attempting to impress the mayor with some lager and 42 Calippo ice lollies to deciding to forfeit the ‘eat this egg as quickly as possible’ task so he could enjoy a leisurely fry-up, Joe Wilkinson completed tasks in his own inimitable style. But it was a different task entirely that led to arguably Taskmaster’s best ever moment:
Joe Wilkinson’s Best Worst Task: Throw a Potato Into A Golf Hole, Without Touching The Red Green
The sheer eruption of joy in the audience as they watched Joe Wilkinson get his potato on target on his first throw was surely mirrored in pubs and living rooms up and down the land, much like a World Cup goal. But oh, what happens next was tragic almost as tragic as losing on penalties, and probably one of the worst outcomes in all thirteen series of Taskmaster so far:
Series three: Paul Chowdhry (total series points: 66)
With a humour so dry he verges on the disturbing, Paul Chowdry played Taskmaster like he didn’t really want to be there, a bit he impressively committed to for the entire series. His lacklustre efforts included ‘surprising’ Alex by hiding in a cardboard box dressed as a clown for 45 minutes, and ‘spreading his clothes as far and wide as possible’ by draping them around the Taskmaster garden and chucking a sock over the fence.
Paul Chowdhry’s Best Worst Task: Make the Best Snowman
This pretty much sums up Chowdhry’s overall approach to his tasks, and has the bonus of one of the series’ most iconic lines: ‘bastard’s crying, innit’.
Series four: Lolly Adefope (total series points: 125)
If the task was ‘be the sweetest Taskmaster contestant ever’, Lolly would win five points any day of the week. When it came to destroying a cake, she smeared it on the wall in the shape of a lovely heart. When she has to choreograph a dance routine to a ringtone, she adds a storyline that involves her telling Alex Horne ‘friendship is truth and I believe in you all the way.’ She wasn’t even that terrible a contestant, her big (non-cakey) heart just got in the way sometimes.
Lolly Adefope’s Best Worst Task: Play Hide and Seek with Little Alex Horne
This is one of the rare occasions we’re going to feature the worst contestant actually winning a task, because it was so joyous:
Series five: Nish Kumar (total series points: 107)
Although probably the most hapless contestant of all time, Nish Kumar gets away with it because he’s a man who knows how to laugh at himself. Loudly. Uproariously. Frequently.
He performed so badly that at one point Greg Davies takes him to one side to give him a pep talk. His words must have hit a nerve, as Nish ended his Taskmaster journey in glory, when in the team task ‘write and perform a song about this woman’, he and Mark Watson’s performance earned them a standing ovation from the other contestants.
Nish Kumar’s Best Worst Task: Three Items, Three Tasks
Contestants were given three items – a weetabix, some jelly, and a twiglet – and had to decide which one to eat, which to balance on top of a pole and which to throw into a bucket. Nish eats the twiglet, and things very much go downhill from there:
Series six: Alice Levine (total series points: 152)
Alice really is the ‘best worst’ contestant, as she got the highest last-place series score of all thirteen seasons, and she even won two episodes thanks to some genius efforts. Although she wasn’t very good at spinning a bottle or telling the Taskmaster that she loved him, she put in a pretty solid performance overall.
Alice Levine’s Best Worst Task: Put Something Genuinely Surprising Inside This Chocolate Egg
Another good opportunity to highlight our best worst contestants actually being brilliant, although in this particular task you could maybe say Alice is the ‘worst’ from a moral standpoint…
Series seven: Phil Wang (total series points: 133)
From the moment Phil Wang first appeared on Taskmaster in his skintight yellow bodysuit that left nothing whatsoever to the imagination, we knew he was going to be a legendary contestant. The revealing outfit made the hula-hooping challenge an especially traumatising task to watch, and he also made this series’ prize tasks particularly good by repeatedly telling the same haggling jdoke, which somehow got funnier every time.
Phil Wang’s Best Worst Task: Excite Alex
It turns out a cup of coffee, smashing a saucepan and bad karate moves (which Greg Davies ‘can’t comment on, because all I could see was your genitalia’) aren’t very exciting:
Series eight: Paul Sinha (total series points: 136)
What makes Paul Sinha’s Taskmaster experience so endearing is that, despite how hopeless he is, it looks like he really tries. From hiding from Alex on a bridge to putting a loo roll through a toilet seat, he fails, and fails hard – but he never sulks about it. His good grace even earned him a bonus point when he was so reasonable about being disqualified from a task, unlike most contestants.
Paul Sinha’s Best Worst Task: Completely Conceal Yourself In this Phone Box
This one is a disaster from start to finish, but the ending really is gold:
Series nine: David Baddiel (total series points: 128)
David Baddiel’s performance is so bad there’s an outtake where everyone discusses how he’s always in last place, and he says he’s felt like he’s in last place since before the tasks even began. Watching David Baddiel on Taskmaster is like watching a middle-aged mum try to attach a photo to a text message – everything just seems slightly beyond him. He’s even terrible at seemingly simple tasks, like hiding some aubergines and scoring a goal with a football, let alone more outlandish ones like ‘lasso Alex’ and ‘do the most preposterous thing with this chick pea.’
David Baddiel’s Best Worst Task: Live Team Task
David’s performance in this live Pictionary-style task was so infuriating that Ed Gamble’s initial outraged reaction to being put on a team with him is entirely justified. Which just makes it all the funnier:
Series ten: Katherine Parkinson (total series points: 118)
It quickly becomes obvious in this series that Katherine Parkinson’s mind just works differently to the rest of us. When she has to create a portrait of the Taskmaster using (among other things) balloons, she admits it ‘never occurred to me to blow the balloons up’. When the task reads ‘put these wellies on the spider’s feet’ but there is no obvious spider in the room she nervously asks Alex, ‘…am I the spider?’ She is so wholesomely daft she must be protected at all costs.
Katherine Parkinson’s Best Worst Task: Catapult This Shoe Into The Bath Using Only Your Feet
This thirty-two-minute epic fail of a task starts with Katherine conspiratorially calling Alex over before whisper-asking ‘what is it you have to do to catapult something?’ to which he clarifies ‘They can hear this’. Other highlights include Alex repeatedly struggling to keep a straight face and Katherine’s wise declaration: ‘It’s a shame my hands aren’t my feet.’
Series 11: Charlotte Ritchie (total series points: 125)
Half the charm of Charlotte Ritchie is she seems quickly resigned to her slight rubbishness, and just gets slowly worse as the series continues, to the point that when the Prize Task is ‘best wobbly thing’ she brings in a jelly, inside which is a letter from her therapist about her wobbly self-esteem. Regardless of the outcome, she seems to genuinely enjoy every task, and as a result, so do we.
Charlotte Ritchie’s Best Worst Task: Trap The Rat
She gets disqualified for not reading the task properly, but doesn’t let that spoil her fun:
Series 12: Victoria Coren-Mitchell (total series points: 121)
One of the most surprising worst contestants, considering she’s the incredibly intelligent, witty host of Only Connect, Victoria often fails by being unapologetically herself and not conforming to expectations. Like many of the worst contestants, she does have one particular moment of glory, when she and Alan Davies unite in a riddle-solving team task with predictably impressive results.
Victorian Coren-Mitchell’s Best Worst Task: Learning To Ride a Bike
The jewel in Victoria‘s Taskmaster crown, however, is when she has to complete a cycling course as slowly as possible, and admits she’s never actually learned to ride a bike. The result is as entertaining as it is genuinely touching:
Series 13: Judi Love (total series points: 142)
Judi’s tactic for Taskmaster seemed to be seeing just how much she could get away with by blagging her way through, and we loved her for it. She also gave the latest series one of its most memorable moments when, in a task about finding hidden ducks, she managed to find one that wasn’t actually part of the task.
Judi Love’s Best Worst Task: Recreate An Emotional Moment from History
Aside from Judi’s hilarious reaction when she realises she could have used special effects like the other contestants, the very fact that all she did was plonk two traffic cones in some sand is funny enough. But the way she talks her way out of Sophie Duker’s accusation that she ‘glamourised slavery’ is the epitome of what makes Judi Love Taskmaster gold:
Who will be the worst-performing contestant in series 14? Find out when the new series of Taskmaster starts on 29th September.