After five series there were five winners. But now, there’s only going to be one actual winner.
The irreverent cult comedy hit that is Taskmaster is returning for a two-part special Champion of Champions in which series 1-5 winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Rob Beckett, Noel Fielding and Bob Mortimer will all return to try and retain their crown, their glory… but, let’s face it, probably not their dignity.
“It was a little bit like rutting stags,” Taskmaster co-host, comedian and producer Alex Horne tells RadioTimes.com just after filming the special episodes. “They were all strong and brilliant comedians – and also they’re all lovely people, but there was a slightly different vibe because they all came in as winners and yet only one of them could go home as a winner. So in a way, four of them had everything to lose.”
The tension was particularly high between stand-ups Rob and Josh, whose previous Taskmaster highlights undoubtedly include dressing as an old woman and blasting a pressure washer in Alex’s face (Rob in series 3) and getting a tattoo of ‘Greg’ in homage of presenter Greg Davies on his foot (Josh in series 1). “I heard them talking before they went on stage,” says Alex. “They had the most fierce competition between two people, I’d say.”
Which wasn’t the case for Bob…
“He’s maybe my favourite person in the world, but I’m not sure if he had quite the competitive glint that the others did,” said Alex. “He looked just happy to be there, if I’m honest.”
There are six tasks in total (the details of which Alex is keeping firmly under wraps) for Rob, Katherine, Bob, Noel and Josh to tackle – and Alex said he made sure there were tasks to “appeal to each of their strengths. One might be more surreal, one might be more practical. So hopefully, they’ve all got a fair crack at it.”
So who’s the smart money on for taking the grand title?
“You would think, after five series, the champions would get better and better because they’d have learned from the previous mistakes,” says Alex. “You’d think that Josh and Katherine would do well to get anywhere near it. So I think if you’re putting your money on it, I would go for the two recent ones – Noel or Bob. They’re slightly more experienced. They’re older than the others. They’re wily. They’ve got the creative juices.”
After the confirmation of a Champion of Champions, Alex said that “a lot of people” have asked him for a Loser of Losers, getting back no-hopers Roisin Conarty, Joe Wilkinson, Paul Chowdhry, Lolly Adefope and Nish Kumar.
“I don’t think we can reward the losers, that’s the only trouble,” says Alex. “You don’t want there to be a precedent set that if you come last, you’ll get put back on. But we’re keen to do something with non-comedians, perhaps, as a one-off… withsportsmen, musicians. There’s lots of suggestions for kids versions. I don’t know yet.”
The petition needs to start here.
Below, Alex rates the strengths and weaknesses of the five comic contenders in Taskmaster: Champion of Champions…
On Josh Widdecombe:
“He’s good at being enthusiastic. He is like a puppy. As he had the longest gap between series one and doing this, he was the most excited to be back and desperate to do a task. I think he has a ‘never say die’ attitude although he’s probably less good in the creative ones. His big weakness would probably be the hair. It’s just unrealistic.”
On Katherine Ryan:
“Katherine is smart. Very smart. And she has no filter. I don’t think she’s really got that many weaknesses and also, as you’ll see, she’s prepared to go one extra level than anyone else…”
On Rob Beckett:
“I think his main strength for Rob is his confidence. He would admit that it’s often not built on anything, but he has this unerring confidence in his own abilities and that will often carry him through. What he doesn’t have is a backup plan. If his first idea doesn’t work, he can often be flummoxed.”
On Noel Fielding:
“Noel is obviously the most artistic of the five. But he’s also got these hidden talents. He’s very good at football and he’s not bad at DIY, either. You’ll see that he has great fun at tidying up… he’s got hidden depths that people don’t know about. He’s a funny figure. I don’t think there’s many faults to Noel, except impractical clothing.”
On Bob Mortimer:
“Bob is like your dad. He can do anything and he’s done everything in his career and in his life. For me, I’m not saying he’s funnier than the other four, but he’s just the funniest person. And his little face. He’s just for the best face. I love his face. So he’s got a wealth of experience but the only thing that lets him down, I suppose, is that he had triple heart bypass last year. So there is that.”
Taskmaster: Champion of Champions starts Wednesday 13th December at 9pm on Dave.