Interview: Charlotte Ritchie on Taskmaster

Interview: Charlotte Ritchie on Taskmaster

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

 

Were you a fan of the show before you signed up?

Yeah, it’s great. I couldn’t believe I got asked to do it, I was so chuffed. Especially as I’m not a stand-up, I don’t write anything, so they’re taking a risk and I think they’ll see that they’ve taken a risk now that they’ve seen me in the studio!

 

Did you have any qualms about doing it? Some actors don’t want to do TV as themselves.

Yeah, I did. I generally don’t like being myself in anything but I couldn’t turn this down. But all the characters I play are versions of myself: I’m not in any way claiming to be a Daniel Day Lewis, and the thing is these days you do know quite a lot about people. I just couldn’t say no. When I look back on my life I want to be able to say I was on Taskmaster. So I just thought, ‘F**k it.’

 

What have you learned about yourself?

I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I come across. The big running theme is – and this is no disservice to them because it’s a really honourable industry and profession – but Greg has called me a children’s TV presenter a lot. And actually I’m going to own it because those people access the purest of us, i.e. children, and if they can be on a level with children, before they’re corrupted by the world and trauma, I’m really happy to be counted amongst those people. 

 

So what is it about you that has come across like a children’s TV presenter?

Well I didn’t help myself with my outfit because it’s like something from Jackanory. Actually, I think I might be dressed exactly like one of the puppets from In The Night Garden

So there’s that, and then also my relentlessly positive demeanour which doesn’t really chime with what goes on in my head. It’s quite unnerving to watch because that’s not what I’m thinking so clearly there is a big disconnect between my inner world and my outer world. But if I come across as a positive person then I’m happy with that.

 

Do you think you’re trying to put a positive spin on everything to make yourself feel better when actually it’s a bit nightmarish at times?

Oh yeah. There’s a good correlation that the more I’m laughing, the more I’m in hell, but I think that’s fine because there are two options: you could either wallow in something or you really over-compensate in the other direction. That tends to work out better in life so that’s how I’ve gone.

There’s a good chance I’ll never be cast in anything again. I’m happy, I like Jackanory and I bet the money’s good.

 

Was it different than you imagined?

Yes, I was really nervous all the way through all of the tasks. I find being creative or entertaining on demand impossible.

So the tasks were okay because I could just get on with them, but the studio was a real adjustment. I feel like it was a real baptism of fire because the only other studio I think I’ve ever done was 8 Out of 10 Cats.

I went from being completely petrified in the first episode to being like, ‘This can never end: I want us to all be perpetually in this room talking about nothing’. It’s been an adjustment and it’s definitely more full-on than it looks on TV but that’s great. Difficult things are good … most of the time.

 

Were you intimidated by the fact that the others are stand-ups and comedians?

Yep. Because their job is being funny by themselves and the only time I’ve ever been funny is if someone else has written something good for me to put in my mouth. Without that I’m an empty vessel that needs to be filled with genius. The proof will be in the tweets following the show so I’m looking forward to learning who I am on the internet.

I was intimidated but also I’m in good company. It’s pretty great to be around those people whose brains work as fast as that.

 

Tell me a bit about your co-stars.

I knew all of them by name but I hadn’t seen any of them live except Mike, whose show was on when I did my first sketch show in Edinburgh about ten years ago. His was the show before mine so every night he would be leaving and we would be coming in. I saw that show and I loved it.

I was also in a play the same time as Lee down the road about four years ago. He was in a play with lots of my friends and I was in a play with his friends and it was a long slog, so we were both experiencing the same things at the same time. 

But Sarah and Jamali I’d never met so it was interesting to get to know everybody. I wish we had a week together at a theme park. 

 

How competitive did it get between you all?

It actually started off really competitive and then slowly relaxed. I didn’t know how I could argue that I would win or find that passion to want to win, but then we all seemed to really chill out. Nobody likes a winner anyway.

Also, not having an audience does feel sometimes like we’re just having a chat whilst we’re waiting for the cameras to start.

 

Who was the most competitive?

It’s difficult to choose. Lee, I think, because he had a lot of pressure from his kids to win because they love the show. His reputation as a father is on the line whereas I don’t have that pressure and that freed me. 

 

Is there any difference between the way the different genders or ages approached it?

At the beginning that did feel like more of a thing, but then the nuances of our personalities began to shine through and we started breaking through our gender identities a bit. It was quite varied, the reactions and approaches to tasks and the ways we argued our cases.

Having said that, Sarah and Lee seem to have it in common that they can’t read the tasks and understand them which is quite funny. But it all became a lot more complex as the series progressed and the dynamics changed as well. It was really cool to witness that.

 

Some people describe doing Taskmaster as being like therapy. Have you found that?

This is what I’m worried about! I do feel really exposed. I don’t think I thought that through. I thought it would be fine, no-one would ever get to know me but put anyone in front of a camera for long enough and if they do tasks and answer questions you’ll get to really know them. Oh God.

 

Did you try to butter Greg?

I want to say I did, but I can’t think of any instances where the way I pitched something actually changed the outcome. I tried different tactics, and some were more successful than others. I feel like when I was defeatist at the beginning about my prize task then it was game over, but if I pitched it right and appealed to his particular interests then there was more of a chance 

 

Did you bear the brunt of any of his tempers?

He relentlessly bullied me from start to finish. The way I come across is like I’m asking for it. I would bully me if I could meet me, having seen the footage of the way I am behaving on this show. 

 

How have you found Alex: helpful or a hindrance?

I enjoyed his dynamic with Greg in the studio: that’s something I love in general about the show. But he’s a snitch and a brown-noser. So quite often when I was at the lowest place he’d eagerly go to point directly at me when the points are being read out 

 

How would you describe their relationship?

It’s like they’ve been married for a very long time but it’s quite a psychologically abusive relationship. Alex has got Stockholm syndrome and Greg is a messed-up patriarch of the family. 

 

Did your day job come in handy in any way?

Disappointingly there was one task where I had to make the house haunted. Considering I‘ve just filmed two series about a haunted house, I think I performed poorly. 

In terms of musical tasks there weren’t many which is lucky, I think. I sing but I’m not a singer-songwriter. Like I say, I’m an empty vessel, so I think it’s quite nice that I didn’t really have to show whether that’s true or not. 

There was a lot of stuff that involved physically moving around and sometimes I think I look like a puppet on a string, I can’t believe how I move. Greg said I’m a human cartoon, which pretty much sums it up. I do think there’s some footage that will make future employers be like, ‘I would have hired her but did you see the way she moved on that show? I don’t think we can have that associated with our film about WWII.’ 

 

Did you bring in anything precious for the first round?

I only brought in stuff that’s mine, which turns out is too Route One. Greg said, ‘You can’t just bring things from around your house’ and I was like, ‘That’s literally what I thought you were supposed to do’. That’s 100 per cent what I thought. Some of the stuff I was very pleased with. I brought in my granddad’s old tankard which has a clear glass bottom. It’s not funny, it’s just a classy object. 

 

Did you get any advice from anyone who has done it?

Yeah, quite a few people. Katy Wix, Lolly Adefope, Rose Matafeo. All of their advice was the same, that you can’t really plan anything: you just have to do it. So I guess the proof will be in the pudding.

 

Charlotte Ritchie Interview supplied by C4/Avalon

Charlotte Ritchie Picture: C4/Avalon

 

 

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