TV Review: Taskmaster, Dave

It is no surprise that comedians are ruthlessly competitive. What I didn’t realise until Taskmaster came along was how cunning and crafty they can be when he comes to getting one over on their stand-up rivals.

There’s a story in stand-up circles about a star who, in his early days as a compere, would tighten the mic into the stand to wrong-foot the next act. He has nothing on this bunch who have to compete against each other in a series of bizarre challenges set by Greg Davies, going full Bond villain, and his trusty sidekick, Alex Horne.

The competitors in this second series are Doc Brown, Joe Wilkinson, Katherine Ryan, Jon Richardson and Richard Osman. In fact scrap my theory about comedians being competitive, Osman is the most competitive of all in this Krypton Factor-with-laughs series and he's not a stand-up.

He is certainly the best at lateral thinking. The first challenge involves balancing three yoga balls on a yoga mat on the top of a hill. Or does it? While everybody else – “fuck” “bollocks” – huffs, puffs, struggles and gets frustrated, Osman finds a way round it. Only Katherine Ryan, employing the kind of Girl Power that Geri Halliwell would have been impressed by, shows comparable ingenuity. Doc Brown is far too nice to win, while Jon Richardson just gets into a sulk at the drop of a yoga ball.

When it comes to a game of surreal golf involving getting a potato into a hole Osman is also pretty inventive, but then so are the others here. Except for Joe Wilkinson who simply pulls off a magnificent shot. Only for Osman and one other nameless participant to oust him for a trifling rule infringement. Who even knew these games had rules?

Sometimes the rules, if there are any, aren’t made that clear. In one round contestants had to work out what a Swedish person in front of them was saying. Ryan goes for the phone-a-friend option and calls helpful Dane Sofie Hagen on her smartphone. But if smartphones are allowed why didn’t someone just use Google Translate?

Anyway, I’m getting picky now. But maybe that's because I once took part in a live version of Taskmaster in Edinburgh and was brutally drubbed by a bunch of jokers. They might have had smiles on their faces but, as in this show, boy did they take winning seriously.  

Taskmaster, Tuesdays, 10pm, Dave. Watch the first episode online in advance here.

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