News: Taskmaster – The Edinburgh Fringe Years

The new series of Taskmaster sees the unique game show move from Dave to Channel 4 for its tenth series.

The guests this time round competing to be champion are Daisy May Cooper, Johnny Vegas, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan Rizwan and Richard Herring.

Presiding over them, as ever, will be Greg Davies and Alex Horne. Well, we say, as ever, but once upon a time Greg Davies was not involved. You can read about how he felt about not being in the original, embryonic live version here.

On the other hand I was lucky enough to be in the live version which took place over a year, with the 'final' happening at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2011. And you can read an article about my part in Taskmaster's rise here.

Music fans like to claim that they saw the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in summer 1976. But if as many people saw them there as claim to have seen them the gig would have had to have been at Wembley Stadium. Maybe people will say the same thing about Taskmaster at the Gilded Balloon in 2011. Fortunately for me I was not only there, but thanks to photographer Isabelle Adam we have the photographic evidence of the events of August 26. 

Accompanying this piece are some shots of that momentous day...

The participants were, in no particular order, Steve Hall, Mark Watson, Tim Key, Henning Wehn, Josie Long, Stuart Goldsmith, Joe Wilkinson, Dan Atkinson, Lloyd Langford, Bruce Dessau. In the main picture Mike Wozniak, who won an extremely chaotic version in 2010 is on the left, Alex Horne is on the right. In the lower picture Josie Long clutches the winning trophy (looking back it was very white and male. Different times indeed).

Josie won in a tense showdown with Stuart Goldsmith – they had to compete to see who could get the most grapes in their mouth in one go. Goldsmith still remembers the crucial moment victory slipped through his fingers nearly a decade on: "I had her on absolute lockdown and then one fell down the back of my throat and I gagged. We reprised that challenge on episode nine of the Infinite Sofa (his online interview show - check it out) in May 2020 and she beat me again - this time by bringing a bunch of the tiniest grapes you've ever seen, retaining the win in a personal grudge match I'm happy to last the rest of our lives."

The man with the hood over his head is the Alex Horne lookalike brought onstage at great expense by Tim Key. Read the article in The i to find out more.

I have no idea why Lloyd Langford was in a children's car. Update: photographer Isabelle Adam has sent me her notes that she wrote at the time, published here below with an explanation in italics from me.

"There is a 'Dessau Describes' spot-prize: who “sometimes lacks focus, shooting off at tangents?” (I think this was a thing on the night when Alex Horne quoted my reviews of some of the contestants and others had to guess who I was referring to). Lloyd goes Long. Lloyd thus wins himself a toy Ferrarri. Child-sized, pedal-along Ferrarri. Which he gamely tries to drive around the stage. It is offered to the plate-stealing child who had scrambled up onto the stage to grab free glazed pottery some time earlier, and gleefully accepted."

Isabelle also recalled another task I'd forgotten (probably because I did so badly in it): 

"The second (?) task was to Send Us Something Expensive. The competitors duly did so, and their items were valued by an amenable (and somewhat sarcastic) Sven of Christie’s, here seen being scathing on the big screen.

Dan Atkinson sent in a “fragment of the cross of Jesus”, which Sven valued at £10, as a curiosity. Fairing slightly better was Bruce Dessau, whose “family goblets” were priced at £20; the family Midget Gems, described by Sven as a “bag of gelatine”, were priced at 20p. Stu Goldsmith sent in a We Need Answers plate – “I stole it from the set”, he says – which is put at £5, despite being, as Woz notes, “perfect condition”. It is still more successful than Steve Hall’s “very rare first edition Dostoevsky,” signed by the author in a Dan Atkinson, Bruce Dessau, Stu Goldsmith, Steve Hall, Tim Key, Lloyd Langford, Josie Long, Mark Watson, Henning Wehn and Joe Wilkinson dedication which begins ‘Dear Steve’s great-granddad’. Sven questions its authenticity, and prices it at 50p. At which point Steve pops, literally and metaphorically: Alex, alerted by the party popper, looks into it. “Who is that prick?” demands Steve. “Where’s HIS certificate of authenticity?” Woz docks him 5 points.

Kerfuffle soon forgotten, as we see Tim Key’s £500 entry: his [Perrier] award, which Alex made him submit. “This is the best thing I have,” he says, genuinely afraid of losing it. Stu asks the contenders to put their hands up if they won and would give it back to Key; only Lloyd does so. Langford whose Roman coin is valued at £50; Josie Long, by intangible contrast, offered up a piece of paper. “I gave all of my TV ideas,” she explains. “Bojo’s Dojo’, a karate vehicle for Boris Johnson.” It is put at £199, and Sven’s attention turns to Henning Wehn’s World Cup Puzzle: 50p. Lastly there’s Joe Wilkinson, with a surprise win in the form of a copy of ‘Con Air’ on VHS: “it’s a good movie”, notes Sven, and prices it at £9.99. (Which I doubt anyone would have ever paid)."

Taskmaster is on Thursdays at 9pm on Channel 4. Catch series 1-9 on All 4

©Isabelle Adam

Check out Isabelle's Flickr feed here.





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