When typing the name Alex Horne, it's incredibly difficult to resist the urge to add 'Little' in front of it – a struggle I'm sure many Taskmaster fans are familiar with. The nickname, which has stuck throughout 14 seasons, a move from Dave to Channel 4 and a BAFTA win, was bestowed to Horne by his co-star and onscreen overlord Greg Davies and perfectly sums up their theatrical presenting dynamic.


However, when I arrive at West London's Bush Hall to meet the Taskmaster creator in person, I can't help but comment on how incredibly tall he is. "I get that all the time," Horne says, before adding that his true height (6'2" according to Google) frequently surprises fans he meets on the street. Dressed in a colourful jumper, trousers and trainers, the comedian looks very different to the suit-wearing underling he plays on the gameshow – a character who is ready to step out of Davies's shadow in Horne's brand new Channel 4 comedy.

The Horne Section TV Show follows Horne – who is playing a version of himself – and his comedy band as they set about pitching their own chat show to unimpressed Channel 4 executive Ash (played by Doctor Who's Georgia Tennant), who accidentally commissions the project. "It is a bit of an amalgamation of all sorts of things," Horne explains. "So in the telly show, we get our own TV show. It's a fictional TV show set in my own house.

"It's a little bit like Alan Partridge. It's been done before – so like The Alan Partridge Show or 30 Rock in America, which is actually quite a big influence."

Alex Horne in The Horne Section TV Show.
Alex Horne in The Horne Section TV Show. Channel 4

While the comedian has appeared with his band, which is made up of his childhood friends Ben Reynolds, Ed Sheldrake, Joe Auckland, Mark Brown and Will Collier, on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, The Last Leg, Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer and audio series The Horne Section Podcast, this meta Channel 4 sitcom marks their first scripted show. "Because it's scripted, and that's different to what we normally do, we've also got bits of it where we just break out and we're in our rehearsal room just mucking about.

"So there is an unscripted element to it because we wanted to keep the fresh thing that we always do. So it's a bit of having our cake and eating it. There's a story but there's also us mucking about."

The group is best known for its comedy songs, while Horne is used to the improvisational style of conversation on Taskmaster. Was tackling script-writing a daunting task? The 44-year-old found it "weirdly" easy.

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"I've been told a lot about how horrible writing is but I find it quite natural, because I'm writing for my friends and I know them really well," he says. "But that was only the first draft and then there was about eight more drafts and then it got less and less fun."

Creating a sitcom was also a big lesson in "the language of telly", Horne says. "I learnt very quickly that less is more and how expensive telly is as well. I'd written in things like, 'Somebody exits on a skateboard,' and they said, 'Well they can't exit on a skateboard because you need a safety officer and crash mats in case they fall off.' So this guy walks out of the scene now.

"I learnt how to do narrative telly. It was really fun but it was different for us because every performance we normally give is live, one take, that's it. Whereas this was 20 takes, do it again and again from every angle. That was a skill we didn't possess before."

When I ask which format he prefers, Horne delivers a rather diplomatic answer. "I think I prefer having a mix. It's luxurious to have both in your life. By the end, we really enjoyed crafting it and having another go at something and making it as good as possible, but then when I went back to Taskmaster afterwards, it was a real pleasure."

Alex Horne and Greg Davies in The Horne Section TV Show.
Channel 4

While The Horne Section TV Show is a chance to show off the band, it also has some serious star power behind it, from the Emmy-winning John Oliver and presenter Anneka Rice, to singer Imogen Heap and Taskmaster's Greg Davies appearing as guest stars. However, just as Horne battles with Channel 4 over which guests to invite onto his chat show in the sitcom, life appeared to imitate art somewhat.

"We had people in mind, we had people suggested by Channel 4 and in the show, the fictional Channel 4 and us disagree about who's a good guest – and that's pretty accurate to what happened in the real thing," he says.

"I got Greg [Davies] by asking Greg. I always wanted him to be in episode 1 because he sort of releases me in the show," Horne adds. "But he's really fun, he's such a big presence, obviously, and he's a really good actor so I thought, 'Let's start with him.'"

The show begins in Taskmaster world, with Horne growing resentful of Davies's big personality and desperately trying to break out on his own – but when the cameras aren't rolling, their relationship is actually very normal. "The dynamic off camera is just two mates. On camera, you'll see in this, his character develops a bit. He's pretty peculiar, he's still the overlord but he's a bit odd and I'm still in awe of him and slightly scared of him, trying to get permission for everything.

"He steals the limelight and he doesn't quite want to set me free. It's quite a fun dynamic," he says, before adding that they've discussed tackling their "origin story" in a new project. "There's more we could do, just Greg and I. We've talked about doing an origin story or just why the two of us work together. It's quite a peculiar little double act. But genuinely off camera, we're just two normal people who work together and are friends."

Meanwhile, Taskmaster's Desiree Burch takes on the role of Thora, Alex's wife's friend who reluctantly becomes a producer on his chat show, working with Tennant's Channel 4 commissioner, who represents people in the TV industry "who've managed to get in that job and never get their hands dirty or know how to make a programme".

"[Tennant] is one of the funniest people in the show. She's really good at acting. She wrote a nice letter to me – she's a proper person and she wrote me a letter to say thank you," he says. "It said, 'Thank you for giving me that character,' so I think she enjoyed playing it."

Georgia Tennant and Camille Ucan in The Horne Section TV Show.
Georgia Tennant and Camille Ucan in The Horne Section TV Show. Channel 4

The whole team already have lots of ideas for a second season, although they're hoping that the real Channel 4 recommissions them. "My view is everything on telly should have a second series because you only learn by doing it. And if you commission one, that means you believe in it. If you believe in it enough to do one series, you should give them a second. We're all ready to do it so we need Channel 4 to let us do another one."

Even if The Horne Section TV Show didn't return to our screens, we're never short of Alex Horne content in Taskmaster – which is currently airing its 14th season, with Fern Brady, John Kearns, Munya Chawawa and Sarah Millican taking part. However, it's Dara Ó Briain who seems to be dominating the competition, racking up a whopping 102 points so far.

"I think [Ó Briain] is the perfect contestant because he's a very clever man. He's got his PhD in astrophysics I think, he's competitive, he's watched the show a lot – lots of comics go on it who don't really know it – he knows the show inside out so he knows where the tricks are. He knows to look under the table.

"Also, he's got children who watch the show so he's sort of doing it to impress them. He's pretty, pretty tough to beat but he doesn't have all his own way."

Horne says that on the next season, which has now been filmed, there is one comedian who is an even bigger contender. "We've just finished the next series, I can't tell you who it is but someone is as good or better than [Ó Briain], which is very exciting for me.

"But also, it's one thing being good at the tasks, but quite often people who were the worst are the most memorable. I think you can win Taskmaster without winning Taskmaster."

While Channel 4 is yet to recommission more beyond the upcoming 15th season, Horne says there's nothing to worry about. "I think we're hoping [for more]. I think they will announce things one way or another in the next few months. It's not the end of Taskmaster."

As for who he'd like to see take on one of the silliest gameshows on TV, the comedian has a few people in mind. "I went up to Edinburgh this year with my family and it was so exciting seeing people I had not seen before.

Greg Davies and Alex Horne on Taskmaster
Greg Davies and Alex Horne on Taskmaster Channel 4

"So there are people like Jack Dee or Dawn French at one end of the scale, but there's also these brilliant comedians coming through like Sam Campbell, who won the Edinburgh Award this year, or Jordan Grey, who I had not seen before who is just so brilliant. I don't think running out of comedians will be a problem. Running out of ideas might be."

Taskmaster has become an important platform for rising stars in the comedy world since it first aired in 2015 and with BBC Two cancelling Mock the Week, there aren't too many shows left that offer stand-ups exposure. "We now feel a bit of responsibility to show off new people as well as having one or two established people. It's a good way for people to show they're funny because it's them being themselves."

"It's a shame [that Mock the Week ended]. That was good especially for people doing a bit of stand-up. It's difficult. But then there's YouTube and stuff nowadays, I suppose."

As our interview begins to wind up, I decide to ask what has to be one of the toughest questions for Horne: what is his favourite Taskmaster challenge?

"It does change all the time like we just did a load of tasks yesterday and instantly, they're my new favourites," he says. "I like ones which are really open-ended. I wouldn't like to do them if I was a comic but when they walk in and it's something like, 'Surprise Alex when he comes out of a shed in an hour.'"

This was a task that featured in the third season of Taskmaster, which was ultimately won by Rob Beckett, who was also awarded five points for dressing as a granny, telling Horne that he had been a "bad boy" and firing a jet washer at him.

"I had to sit in the shed and it's all real, so I had to sit in a shed for an hour, thinking, 'Ah, I don't know what's going to happen.' And that's a good example of five people thinking in completely different ways and there being a punch line and me being involved. Let's go with that one."

"But then I quite often like the ones that are, 'Get the most sweat in an egg cup,'" he adds.

The Horne Section TV Show arrives on All4 as a boxset on Thursday 3rd November and begins airing on Channel 4 on Thursday 17th November at 10pm. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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