Interview: Lee Mack On Taskmaster

Interview: Lee Mack On Taskmaster

Taskmaster returns to C4 on Thursday, March 18 at 9pm. Here's an interview with Lee Mack to get you in the mood...

 

Have you always been a fan of this show?

It’s my children’s favourite show, it’s endlessly on our TV. I’ve been asked to do it before and haven’t been able to for a combination of reasons, but the kids begged me to do it: my son’s turning 16 this year so I have to do it while he’s still officially a child. It’s a big thing in our house, we play the board game all the time and they make up their own Taskmaster games. They’re showing a level of interest in my career that they’ve never shown before.

 

Did that pressure from the kids make you very competitive?

Definitely. They don’t want me to come last. That’s all they want. They’ll see second-to-last as a massive victory.

So I turned up not caring about anything beyond not coming last – if the kids are happy then I’m happy. But it’s amazing how much you start to care about whether or not you’re the best at finding out how many sides a piece of jelly has with your tongue. That’s what this show does to you.

 

Have you discovered anything about yourself?

I’ve discovered that I’m slightly more competitive than I thought, and that I’m older than the others – you’d think that wouldn’t be a discovery but in your head you think you’re the same age as these people and then you see it on screen and it’s very much the case of, ‘Oh no, I am considerably older than everybody.’

 

Has that been an advantage because you are older and wiser, or a disadvantage?

What you find as you get older is that you have to read the questions five times to understand what the task is. The second eldest is Sarah and she also struggled with that. She read it a few times, taking it in slowly.

 

Which sort of tasks were you best and worst at?

The ones I tended to do alright in were the ones that didn’t require any physical exertion. The ones I was bad at were the tasks that required remembering things. There was a particular one where memory was important: just forget it. I barely remembered to bring my clothes to Taskmaster.

 

Would you say Taskmaster is very different from other panel shows?

Yeah, it’s different in that you get to do the tasks so you’re not just turning up to the studio on the night, you’re turning up way before to a house in the middle of nowhere and completing tasks. Also you’re not interacting with other comics for those tasks, you’re on your own. On other shows there’s the pretence sometimes of a game or an idea when actually it’s an excuse to just tell jokes, but this really is about the task.

 

Did you go in with any kind of strategy when it came to being funny or doing the task well?

I’d like to pretend I gave it a second thought but when I walked through the door it was like, ‘Here’s your first task’ and then I just did it. If a man isn’t turning up with his clothes you can’t expect much more. I’m a middle-aged man who gets bewildered sometimes.

 

Did knowing Greg give you any kind of advantage when it came to trying to butter him up?

No, I don’t think so. I think the more you know him, the more he’s willing to abuse you. He’s on safe territory abusing someone he knows well and also we’re virtually the same age so he knows what it’s like to be old and he used that against me rather than for me.

 

Was Alex helpful or a hindrance?

He can be helpful if you ask him but you have to say ‘please’ – he doesn’t like it if you don’t. Basic manners, but when you’re hanging off a tree by a thread that could snap at any minute you forget your manners slightly. He can be very helpful when he decides to be and very irritating when he decides to be.

 

Did you try to reason with him?

Never on a task say the phrase, ‘Greg had better not … ’ because he will. There was one particular task where I was the only one obeying the rules and I said I’d be angry if he let everyone get away with it and of course …

 

How do you describe the relationship between Greg and Alex?

It’s borderline abusive and you can get rid of the word ‘borderline.’ It’s an interesting dynamic. There’s a lot of sexual tension. There’s something bubbling away that comes out as abuse.

 

Did you ask any former contestants for advice?

No, I didn’t talk to anyone about this actually. I think sometimes it’s better not knowing anything, coming in with a blank mind – which some would say is easy for me. Coming in and just being in the moment.

 

You won a BAFTA for Would I Lie To You. Where does it live?

It’s in a place BAFTA wouldn’t be able to find it as they might watch me on Taskmaster and ask me to give it back.

 

Did you lose anything precious to you during the first round?

I did offer my children up. Taskmaster has turned them into little monsters who get flour all over the house so I said, ‘Well you’ve ruined them so you can have them’ but nobody wanted them.

Apart from that there wasn’t anything too personal. I wasn’t confident enough to bring in anything I was worried about losing so it was all disposable.

 

How did you get on with your fellow contestants?

Sarah and I came from the comedy world during a similar era, so we first met in Australia back in the late 1990s: we were reminiscing about that the other day. Our paths have crossed over the years with various stand-up things but I haven’t done a lot of TV with her. Like me she’s busy scripting her own stuff now so I’m not sure how much stand-up she does anymore but I’m certainly doing a lot less that I used to.

I didn’t know any of the others. I was a fan of Charlotte’s because I like Ghosts.

 

How would you sum up Taskmaster for people who haven’t watched it before?

It’s an hour of insanity.

 

Lee Mack Interview supplied by C4/Avalon

Lee Mack Picture: C4/Avalon

 

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