Interviews: Taskmaster Series 4: Page 2 of 3

Hugh Dennis:

What made you decide to do Taskmaster?

I just liked the silliness of it. It’s not anything that you ever get asked to do normally. I quite like the challenge of it. And once you get over the idea that you’re going to look like an idiot and come to terms with that, it’s really enjoyable. I watched previous series and had a couple of members of the public come up to me and say you should do the show and I thought what do they mean? What’s the underlying message? What’s the subtext? It’s just good fun isn’t it. It means absolutely nothing so therefore it’s great.

Are you quite good at doing tasks?

No I sort of get irritated with myself sometimes because I’m very methodical and rational. I saw Richard Osman do it last series and I noticed that every time he did a task he basically looked at the grammar of the task to work out if there was anything that he could get around: did he have to do the thing they were specifically asking? And I’m a little bit like that. It’s great because you get a shed and you go to it to get things like a hammer and then smash things to pieces or climb stuff, pour things in to other things. You get to be a big kid. It’s amazing and so silly.

Was it tougher than you thought?

Physically it wasn’t tremendously tough but if you’re not worried about what you’re going to do, it’s actually incredibly relaxing. They bring you lunch, you have five tasks a day, they set stuff up, you go in to a room and read the task, you do the task and there are more biscuits. It’s great!

Are there any tasks that you’re mortified by your performance?

I had to hide and I got caught. I was trying to get in to the loft but I couldn’t work out a way of getting in to it without a ladder. I ran out of time. But nothing else really. It’s kind of weird. I found myself on a football pitch somewhere in Buckinghamshire hitting a small Babybel cheese with a snooker cue. That was brilliant. Vaulting over a vaulting horse was my favourite task. Not that I vaulted particularly well – I sort of dived over it if I’m honest, on to a crash mat.

You threw yourself in to it then, quite literally...

I think you have to.

Are people going to see a different side to you?

I wouldn’t think so. I don’t know! People who know me very well won’t but I don’t know about others. A lot of the stuff I’ve done has been fairly physical. When Steve Punt and I started as a double act years ago the best description that anyone came up with was Steve Punt and his naughty friend. I was always doing somersaults and things like that so just sitting there on panel shows chatting was a new thing for me. In the past, I’ve just hurled myself about and pretended to walk like dinosaurs and that sort of stuff. So, it does feel like I’m rediscovering my childhood in rather an alarming way.

Who’s your biggest competition?

It’s impossible to tell because you don’t do any of the tasks with any of them. The only person I've done stuff with at all is Mel Giedroyc who seems pretty good actually. I’ve known her for a long time, both Mel and Sue. Mel and I had to get the most flour on to a landing area by throwing it. I thought we should use a fishing line but that didn’t work that well. I think we worked well together. She’s very funny; she makes me laugh a lot.

Are you very competitive?

I am competitive. The fashionable thing to say is but only with myselfbut I am with everyone. I don’t mind if I lose but I do want to do things well. On the football field my competitiveness consists of me being really cross. Sport I get cross. Most of the time I think I’m just very calm and relaxed. I always have been. Stand up is not a team game so it’s quite competitive whereas actors probably aren’t particularly competitive because you have to work with other people all the time.

How does this compare to other panel shows?

This isn’t really a panel show. Other panel shows don’t lock you in a house and force you to do strange things. I think it’s really good because it acts as a completely different area. It’s really interesting seeing how different people do stuff. How their brains work and actually the group tasks are interesting because you realise to what extent you tend to think you’re right. Like my own kids do if I’m trying to fix something on the Sky box then it’s very quick for them to come in and say no just press that and do that. Everyone finds it really difficult watching people do stuff that they think they know how to do. That’s become the biggest challenge of the joint task is finding the balance of that very British thing of no no, of course!And ‘that’s completely wrong. You have to find that balance.

What will it mean to you to win?

I think it might be the proudest moment of my life. It will knock everything else in to a cocktail. I don’t know really – until that moment and I do think it’s extremely unlikely – how do you win? No one’s every really told me. What happens? Greg decides?

Who else would you like to see do the show?

Well it’s all comics at the moment isn’t it and in a way, I’d like to see different types of people do it, like newsreaders and weathermen. It would be good, wouldn’t it? The cast of Casualty see if they actually are any good at solving issues. Some of the boys on DIY SOS to see if they actually can do stuff for all their talk and are able to fix things. Could they hit a Babybel with a snooker cue?

Joe Lycett:

What made you decide to do the show?

I love the idea and premise of the show and love Alex and Greg, so when they asked me to do it was a no brainer really. I’d wanted to do it before they asked. I rarely want to do things enough to ask to do them but it was one of those where I was thinking of asking my agent to push for it but then I was asked. As a comic doing a lot of panel shows, you end up doing quite a lot of similar stuff and I get quite bored of anything, I love new experiences so this is right up my street. I know a lot of people who have been on it so I spoke to Roisin Conaty and Sara Pascoe about it and they said do it; it’s the most fun. Every day you have no idea what to expect and genuinely you discover things about yourself doing it.

What have you learnt?

I’m dreadful at planning things. I come up with mad ideas and they never really work. There was one task where I had to get the highest splash and I made this bizarre thing so I could get a bucket of water as far away as I could and then threw a bowling ball at the bucket and it just chipped the side. I hadn’t actually thought about rehearsing the throw of the ball. So that was embarrassing! And I got really competitive about the creative ones where you have to draw or paint something. I love doing all that stuff and get frustrated when I feel like it’s shit, so when it’s being recorded and immortalised on a TV show, it’s even worse.

How good are you at applying yourself to tasks generally?

Normally I’m pretty lazy and try to avoid things until the last minute. I’m very much a ‘that’ll do’ kind of person. But that’s why the show is perfect because there isn’t enough time to perfect anything so you have to go with your instinct. I often do something once or twice and then get bored and do something else rather than spend years perfecting something, so this show is perfect for that kind of mind-set.

Was it harder than you thought?

I think so yes. I think I was more frustrated with myself than I was expecting. There was one where I had to keep a basketball on a treadmill for as long as possible and I managed to last 10 seconds because I didn’t think through all of the eventualities. I was really frustrated after that. The most annoying one was make an exotic sandwich because I should have second-guessed that they were going ask me to eat it. I made this giant sandwich with about three layers of bread with a lamb bhuna, arctic roll and smoked salmon and then they said eat it, fastest wins.

What was your favourite task?

There are so many! I do like the creative ones, like where I had to do a caricature of somebody I couldn’t see. My most favourite was probably the one we did as a group with Lolly and Noel. We had to get some loose flour from a bandstand on to a target without getting off the bandstand and in the end we ended up just throwing things. I threw a trestle table off the bandstand; I’d never done that before and it felt very liberating. You’re encouraged to be a big kid; you’re celebrated for it. I keep saying I want to do it again every year but you can only do it once, which is really annoying.

Are you very competitive?

Not normally, I’m normally like ‘someone else can win. But I really want to win this; it’s weird! It’s new to me that. Because I normally don’t care, as long as I can get to bed before everyone else then I’m happy! But this is different.

Who do you think is your biggest competition?

Well I was worried before I did the group day because I thought Noel would be really creative with his thinking. But having done it I realise that he’s just madder in his thinking, so it’s more scattered. So actually I think I might be more logical about things than him but I think Hugh might be more logical than me. And Mel will be better at certain things. I think everyone has certain skills but I think Hugh is the one actually who’ll think things through better. I think he’s wise but we’ll see. I prefer improvising because I don’t have homework to do, which is why this show is great because there’s no prep, you just turn up and hope for the best. I’ve surprised myself at how good I was at improvising certain things but I’m sure not as good as other people are.

Will people see a different side to you?

Yeah I think so. That’s the beauty of the show is that they see a different side of everyone on the show. It’s unlikely you’ll see Mel Giedroyc tying to camouflage herself or making a high splash or whatever the mad tasks are. A lot of the time rather than playing up to the cameras, you want to do the task well so you forget the cameras are there. I became a task geek rather than focusing on trying to be funny. So you’ll see a more concentrated version of me that you don’t in other stuff.

What will it mean to you to win?

Oh, a lot. I really want to win it! I am really surprised at myself. I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t, I’ll be sad.

Who would you like to see on the show?

I’d like to see Vic Reeves do it, and someone like Harry Hill would be amazing on this show. People like Alan Carr and Russell Brand I’m sure would be very amazing at it too. And Jimmy Carr because he’s quite methodical the way he does things. He’s a words person so putting him in situations where he has to make things; I don’t know how good his hand-eye coordination is.

Lolly Adefope:

Why did you decide to take part in Taskmaster?

I’d seen it before and I loved it and also it just looked like the most fun. It’s not like a normal job where you have to learn lines or get in to a role; it’s just like a job where you get to have fun. It’s not like any of the other panel shows either where you have to have topical jokes; it’s just being yourself and being silly.

How were you at approaching tasks?

It depends because some of them are like the time starts nowand you just panic. But if there was one where you had an hour or even half an hour I would tend to have five minutes where I was silent, thinking, where I’m like ok don’t mess this up. I try and work it out and then it always ends up being the last minute where I’m going mad, having abandoned all plans. I tend to leave everything to the last minute and then I just go in to auto pilot and go ok what needs to be done, let’s get it done. But until that point I’m like it’s fine, I have loads of time! Then I panic. I only work under deadline and the most extreme deadline as well.

Do you struggle in pressured situations?

It varies. Some of the ones in the lab you feel like ok I’m comfortable here, I know the space; I know what I can use. And then if it’s in the garden then I just go mad. There was one where we had to create a slide and I was using loads of fairy liquid and the hose and it didn’t work. I think I missed my slide though; I jumped over the slide and landed which didn’t work at all, but very fun!

Was it harder than you thought?

I think it was less stressful than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be like a game show where it’s so easy when you watch it at home but then when you’re there you freeze up. But actually, because everyone was really nice and the tasks are so silly, it’s not that hard.

Which was the task where you were most mortified by your performance?

There was one where there were different types of balls; a coconut, a golf ball and a Babybel and there were lots of different things to hit them with, a pool noodle, a snooker cue and a big novelty pencil, and I missed every time. I did the last one I think I threw it up and it actually went 10cm when it landed so that counted but I missed all the others I think I lost that one! I felt it from the reactions, which were like oh wow – I thought she’d hit it’.

Which was your favourite task?

I really liked 'destroy a cake in the most beautiful way you can'. That was really fun. I just smeared a cake on the side of a brick wall, which I’ve never done before. It was great! Stuff that you’d never think of doing and then when they suggest it you’re like, I would love to destroy this gorgeous cake.

Who do you think is your biggest competition?

I feel like Hugh maybe because I did a team day with Noel and Joe and they were both quite manic although really fun. I feel like Hugh is maybe more measured in his decisions about stuff. I feel he has a more cerebral way of thinking that will involve a lot less stress and panic than me, Noel and Joe. But also, Mel maybe, although I feel like she has a crazy side where she just goes mad.

Who did you know before?

Only Joe because we’ve done lots of gigs together. We’re good friends but I knew who everyone was. Actually, I’ve met Hugh before, I did a thing on Radio 4 with him but I still haven’t met Mel and I met Noel on the team day we did. They’re all lovely guys. I’m still very excited to meet Mel and I was very excited to meet Noel because I had no idea he was going to be there and I didn’t really have a chance to be like oh this is so exciting that you’re here! It was more like we were in the middle of a task and then he arrived to do the same task and I was like oh cool we have to do a task now. There’s no time to be like hey, how are you? It was probably quite good because I’m a huge fan. And it’s nice to meet someone like him who’s very silly and fun. We had such a lovely laugh; we all just threw ourselves in to our tasks.

Will people see a different side to you?

I think in some tasks yeah. Because I just have such a different approach to them. For some tasks, I think I was very measured and it might be like oh that’s interesting, I thought she might have gone mad. And then other times I’ve gone mad and people might think I would have thought about it for one second. The studio tasks are going to be my opportunity to win back. I hope so anyway! I thought Joe might be a bit madder and less formulaic with his plans. There was one task we did where he was like, we need to create a leverage system, and I thought this is not what I expected you to do. He’s probably done quite well.

How does this show compare to other panel shows that you’ve done?

I’ve only ever done QI, which is very different. Because that’s like the calmest, nicest panel show I think. Much nicer than a normal one where you have to elbow people out the way to get your word in. Taskmaster is everyone having a nice time and mucking around like you’re at school. It’s much better than any other panel show.

Read more interviews with this year's Taskmaster competitors here.

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