Thursday, March 28, 2024

Taskmaster 17 Interview: Greg Davies & Alex Horne

 By Jonathan Bilski

Earlier, this week, I was granted an online interview with the Taskmaster himself Greg Davies and his assistant "Little" Alex Horn. Taskmaster is a long running British series where five comedians must complete utterly devious tasks and are then judged at how well they carried them out. Greg might be the long shadow over their heads that judges the contestants, but Alex is the actual creator and devises the wonderful wicked tasks.
I got right into it with them and asked the American response to Taskmaster. At first I thought they signaled they had none. Though Taskmaster has had 16 prior seasons, unless you had some sort of "special way" of seeing it, it only recently has been easy to access online. Greg told me, "No, I think Youtube is responsible for any presence we have over here, and  we've loved it. I mean, we've been in New York for only 2 days, and we've met a surprising number of people who are aware of the show. And we're delighted by that."

Bringing up the past I asked Alex about his one season American version of Taskmaster that aired on Comedy Central that did not have Greg as a host. Jokingly Greg said, "Believe me, it's a source of great tension between us. It's what fuels the dynamic."
Nick Mohammad aka Dracula
I asked Alex about one of the contestants choice of wardrobe, very noticeable during tasks, "Season 17 is about to start airing, and I've seen two preview episodes, which are already great. I love Nick Mohammed's choice of dressing like Dracula. And Alex, I think I've asked you this before. The contestants just choose their office. Is that correct?"
Alex told me, " Yeah, I think other TV shows you'd probably talk to a costume supervisor and the director, and so on. But no, they just turn upand and he turned up as Dracula." Greg did add, "It is worth putting on record that that is how Nick Mohammad addresses, though in life."

Next I wanted to know about any highlights or comedians that blew their minds for Season 17.
Alex went, "There's a moment when so Sophie Willen works on stage. You remember this?" Greg in response said, " I remember it. I remember it nearly every night about 3 AM. I wake up in a
and I'm all pale." Alex again "Yeah, Sophie and Joan do some extraordinary things.I guess we probably don't want to go into details. But yeah, Sophie twerking Joanne trying to get me drunk and Steve Pemberton does some sort of extraordinarily complicated things. Greg ended it with, "I really liked John Mcnally asking you how many sexual partners she has in the end. Well, she did do it for the record." Greg,  "None of us were expecting redacted."
Bringing up a fact we see in newer seasons I told the Taskmaster. "The show paints you as a tyrant, or atleast the press copy does, but it really seems Alex loves watching the suffering of others."

Greg immediately lit up with, "I'm glad you've seen that, because it's often the henchmen of the tyrants who are the cruel ones.and not many people noticed his glee. Alex looked away as though to hide from this. Then his head seemed to slink down and hid behind his hands as Greg said, "That's quite a recent trend to t to see Alex out in the field enjoying people's discomfort and openly, actually laughing. And, it's a trend I welcome, because you've right rightly spotted that he loves people's discomfort. And, it's nice that he's getting the reveal of that unpleasant side of his character."

Alex chimed in, "Who would you compare me to as someone in history?

Greg, "Goredacted"

Laughing I agreed to redact, but you can guess, if a fan.

"Then, there's Junior Taskmaster with Mike Wozniak in Alex's role, which seems great choice, " I said. "Now, I was just wondering, was Greg not considered for the kids show? Because, you know, he's just too intimidating?," I asked.

Greg went, "I used to be a school teacher, and all I'll say is that my qualified teacher status was withdrawn in 2003." The both then saying the new hosts are perfect for the job and glad they won't be as mean to children as they are to the adults on their show.

With their VR game coming out based on the show I asked about incorporating more video game tasks.
Alex answered, " It's quite a homemade show. So, I think, could we do something with VR. But actually, I think people at home couldn't relate to it. It's kind of easier to just do it involving cutlery and eggs and things. So, I think we'll stay lo-fi for a bit." Greg ending it with, " Yeah, I think that there's a,
well. Alex could probably answer this better, but I think there's a sort of parlor game element. There's quite an old fashioned influence to the show, and where people physically have to get up and do things. You know, before, we're all just living inside computers and not existing anymore. It's we, we quite like analog.That's what we like. Analog challenges."

Old school arts and crafts fun trumps any new sort of tech for the show, so don't expect to see any
gaming for the series.

Before, I left the two, for their New York promotion of the show, I ended with a final question of their favorite sort of tasks, now knowing gaming would not be.

"What are your favorite tasks? Greg. I assume it's art based for you. I feel like you love judging the art, my final question.
Greg, not needing a moment went, "Well, well, more often than not, Alex. Challenges them to do me as a painting or a sculpture. It's just playing into that awful ego maniacal size of my personality that this  show allows to run amok. So yeah, I do enjoy it, and it's much to my great shame."
Alex ended with,  "Yeah, I think I like the team ones. The very first team ones did it because they don't. They never know who they're with. They're introduced to each other, and they go. Oh, right! And then they have to instantly try to achieve something, and I think that dynamic is quite special."

One more from Greg, "I enjoy open ended tasks where really they can interpret it in any way an open-ended creative task. The one I always quote is that Alex came up with one where they had to impress a local official, a town mayor. And, that was their only brief, that they had to impress this.This mayor, and I loved that because there there were almost no restrictions on them. And, what they came up with was terrifying."

I thanked them both for their time, laughing over what not to leave in about Nazis.

Season 17 premieres in the U.S. starting March 29th on the official Taskmaster YouTube Channel and via the SVOD service Taskmaster SuperMax+ (it will be simultaneously airing in the UK).

Season 17 stars Joanne McNally (My Therapist Ghosted Me), John Robins (BBC Radio 5 Live), Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso), Sophie Willan (Alma’s Not Normal), and Steve Pemberton (Inside No. 9) as the contestants.