Series 10 of gameshow Taskmaster is about to land on our screens, with Greg Davies and Alex Horne returning to set a new line-up of comedians various pointless tasks for the chance to win a bust of Davies’ head.
The upcoming series marks several firsts for Taskmaster – not only is it the first to air on Channel 4 following a move from Dave, but it’s also the first to have filmed during a pandemic with socially distanced protocols in place.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Horne revealed that “95 per cent” of the tasks with the Taskmaster line-up were luckily filmed before the coronavirus outbreak, however most the challenges they had to face revolved around scenes shot in the studio.
“So obviously in the studio, we have the live tasks where they’re all up on stage, so for those ones they all had to be two metres apart,” he said.
“But that was quite fun because you just sort of work it into the rules and you make it part of it so it’s been something we’ve had to think about but we always have limitations – normally on budget – the Taskmaster house is quite small but limitations just make you more creative I think so it’s not been a problem.”
Greg Davies added that social-distancing requirements also meant that both him and Horne couldn’t interact with the other comedians outside of filming.
“The other effect it had which I think’s interesting is we couldn’t hang about. We couldn’t hang about and chat before we started the record, so it’s almost, it sort of adds to the feeling that we’re now in Taskmaster world because the first time that we all chatted during all of the day’s filming is when we walked onto the set just before the cameras start rolling.”
He continued: “I actually think that added in a way because it gets you into the mindset that this is the world we all live in now, this strange world where people are set challenges and they do well or badly and so it’s an added claustrophobia that works to our advantage.”
Alex chipped in: “Also we don’t do any rehearsal at all with the people. As soon as you’re on the set, we’re off basically. There’s no practicing for them. So normally we burst our bubble a bit by hanging around in the make up room and stuff. This was pretty intense.”
“I liked it because you somehow take it more seriously,” Greg added.
The comedy duo also spoke about what it was like filming without a studio audience for the first time, which Davies admitted he “rather liked”.
“It was quite a daunting prospect because we’ve done nine series where part of what we do in the studio space is entertain the audience, or attempt to entertain the audience, and they became a character in the show so I was worried about it going into it,” he said.
“But immediately, it just became a slightly different way of focussing your energies and for me personally, I liked that it was more intimate and we were really drilling into their responses in more detail because there wasn’t any part of your brain that was on entertaining the 200 people in the studio, so I rather liked it.
“Not that I don’t enjoy a studio audience, I do, but I think as comedians, often if there’s a live audience there, your instinct is always to entertain, entertain, entertain them,” he added. “So in between takes we would be using a lot of energy trying to keep them happy and I think it’s sort of focussed us more on the tasks in hand and I enjoyed it.”
Alex added that at first, he missed having a crowd to cheer the comedians on and the “bear pit” set up of the show but he was ultimately happy with how they substituted a studio audience.
“We then played it to a genuine cinema full of Taskmaster fans, who just treated it, without being told, they treated it like they were watching the live show so you still get that atmosphere and when it’s all been put together, I’m really happy with how it turned out,” he said.
“In the room, I think we actually were more focussed and because it’s seven of us all looking at each other, we’re not a panel show sitting behind desks looking at a camera – we’re looking at each other so you didn’t really notice. After ten minutes it was normal for us.”
Taskmaster’s tenth series will see This Country co-creator Daisy May Cooper, writer and actor Johnny Vegas (Benidorm), BAFTA-winning actress Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd), stand-up comedian Mawaan Rizwan (Live at the Apollo), and podcaster Richard Herring take on various challenges in a bid to impress Davies, while reigning champion Ed Gamble will be hosting an official spin-off podcast, dissecting the antics throughout the upcoming series.