Awesome, Dear Boy: Casting for Series 1 was a struggle. Comedians were wary about the show at first, but when Frank Skinner agreed to appear, people started signing up because the project received a seal of approval from a respected figure in British comedy. Frank himself was interested in signing up partly because of Greg Davies' involvement, according to Alex on the official podcast.
Multiple comedians have come on because they are fans of the show, such as Richard Herring and James Acaster.
Other contestants have signed up after hearing from prior competitors how much fun they had while filming; the British comedy scene is a small world. Johnny Vegas and Katherine Parkinson are examples of word of mouth encouraging participation.
Al Murray signed on to Taskmaster Series 3 since it was an opportunity to do something exciting that didn't involve memorising lines or consistently hitting a proverbial comedic mark. He enjoyed his time on the show so much that he is still gutted that he was only able to do 5 episodes, and wishes he had held out for an 8 or 10 episode series. He loves it so much, he even regularly passes by the Taskmaster House when he's out for walks, with Mel Giedroyc claiming he was a frequent behind-the-scenes presence when she was filming her tasks for Series 4.
The Cast Showoff: While most contestants on the show are comedians, and most of the tasks are things nobody would ever do in real life, every once in a while a task will come along that plays right into a contestant's special skill set:
Doc Brown is a rapper in real life, so when the "Make a nursery rhyme music video" task comes along he does a rap rendition of "Once I Caught A Fish Alive" and wins the task easily.
Noel Fielding shows off his artistic skills several times in Series 4. He also enjoys making masks, and chats about admiring Venetian masks recently when he is set a task to make an edible mask. Ironically he still loses to Bob Mortimer's monstrosity.
Johnny Vegas studied fine art and gets several opportunities to demonstrate his skills during Series 10. His time spent working as a barman also pays off in episode 6, where he made the tastiest and most complicated cocktail for Alex silently.
Channel Hop: To Channel 4, after spending five years on Dave, and becoming its most popular program. Rumours spreads that other channels, such as The BBC and ITV were interested, but Channel 4 won in the end.
Alex Horne isn't a fan of how the "paint a horse whilst riding a horse" task turned out because it was time consuming and forced the contestants to approach the task in the same way (with one exception).
Romesh Ranganathan doesn't look back too fondly on his performance during his run (mainly because he feels that he completed tasks comparatively "route one" when compared against the others and didn't use any lateral thinking at all), even though he enjoyed his time on the show. However, the one task that he is most ashamed of is the team task to film a realistic home movie blooper, in which his team's film came across as painfully unfunny. On the podcast, he tells Ed that whenever he, Josh and Roisin talk about their shared experience on Taskmaster, they never bring up their poor attempt at the task and their subsequent attempts to justify its quality. He also half-seriously suggested that if he enjoyed his current level of fame and influence back when he was on the show, he might have asked his agents to lean on the production team to ensure that task was never broadcast.
Jon Richardson and Richard Osman are both still sore over the scoring of the "catch the most rabbits in a hat" task. Rather than scoring out of five, like usual, Greg gave points equal to how many rabbits were in each hat, which allowed Katherine Ryan to pull ahead into an insurmountable lead.
Doc Brown didn't really enjoy making the show overall, due to his discomfort with the panel show format and the speed-improv nature of completing the tasks, and has apparently tried to erase the memories of doing so from his mind as much as possible.
On the companion podcast, Dave Gorman states that while he enjoyed the studio tasks as a whole, the only one that he absolutely detests is the one from the Series 3 finale (the doughnuts on a stick, with the winner having the lowest unique number of doughnuts). Rob Beckett had the lead going into the studio task, but any one of Al, Dave, or Rob could have won the series if they had won that studio task. Dave's major objections are that the results were so close, that the task involved no skill whatsoever other than second-guessing the other competitors, and that there was ultimately no mystery to even that guessing aspect since he was able to see what Paul was doing with his doughnuts.
Iain Stirling has expressed regret over his aggressive behaviour in Series 8, claiming that he was unfamiliar how to conduct himself on panel shows and tried to play up his competitiveness to be the villain, further saying he got along fine with the other competitors when the cameras weren't rolling. He also says that this attempt drained him and that he dropped it by the last two days of the studio recordings as he couldn't maintain it.
In a Reddit interview Alex has said that he would happily watch Bob Mortimer perform every task Alex has written. He refuses to say whether he has a favourite contestant though.
Alex when pressed does say that if he had to invite back five contestants, he would enjoy Tim Key, Mel Giedroyc, Romesh Raganathan, Katherine Ryan and Bob Mortimer (but that would leave out other contestants he loved just as much).
Greg is tight-lipped about his favourite contestant, beyond saying that he laughed at them for "right reasons and wrong reasons". That said, in the live recordings Greg is noticeably more excited to see Paul Chowdhry's attempts in Series 3 than he is to see most comedians' clips.
Alex says that his favourite ever task often changes, but "Impress the Mayor of Chesham" in Series 2 was his favourite at the time of the Reddit interview.
In a a 2020 interview Alex refers to the Series 7 task to put on a boilersuit as a favourite of his, despite its simplicity. Alex has separately said on the podcast that he gets greater satisfaction when he thinks up a simple task (i.e. one that can be written in a single sentence).
Alex mentions in the official podcast that his favourite task of Series 10 was the finale's "Hang Bernard's Clothes Neatly on the Hanger", because it was so funny watching the contestants smash Bernard the mannequin's head open on the floor.
When discussing Prize Tasks on the official podcast, Alex says that his favourite is in Series 4, where the contestants had to bring in a vegetable signed by a celebrity.
Greg similarly says that "Impress the Mayor" was for a long time his favourite task, but is possibly surpassed by "Recreate a Classic Videogame" in Series 7.
In Episode 9 of Series 11, Greg says the task to build a tower and topple yoghurt from it has become one of his favourite tasks (while judging it).
Richard Herring has said that his favourite task was painting a wolf on a revolving teapot while naming US states.
At the end of Series 11, Greg outright states to camera that the current series has been one of his favourites overall.
According to journalist Jack Bernhardt, a Taskmaster superfan featured on the official podcast as the show's unofficial statistician, Series 4's Noel Fielding has the highest average score on tasks judged subjectively by Greg, indicating at least some hint of favoritism. On the flip side, Series 1's Roisin Conaty has the lowest average score on tasks judged subjectively.
Doc Brown normally avoids going on panel shows because he isn't comfortable making quips and riffs in a competitive environment. He only agreed to appear on Taskmaster because Alex was so nice during the pitch, and he's friends with Alex and some of the Horne Section.
There was a bit of surprise at Katherine Parkinson's participation in Series 10, as she very rarely makes appearances on comedy game shows/panel shows like this one.
The New Year Treat special is even shorter than the Champion of Champions special at only one episode, and has no comedians in its line-up.
The 200 Extraordinary Tasks tie-in book includes details about several tasks which were filmed in their entirety, but not broadcast for various reasons (including equipment not working, most of the contestants simply not bothering to complete it, and a Series 1 task involving the contestants dressing up in parrot costumes and standing around in a shopping centre asking for autographs which was felt didn't work because the contestants lost their dignity rather than "choosing to shred it"). Contestants are also not allowed to disclose what the tasks are in case they are reused in future series.
In series 5, the contestants were tasked with creating sand bases. The results were so unsatisfactory that task was released as an online exclusive.
A task that involves popping an entire role of bubble wrap was tried out in three different series. The task has always been cut out of final broadcast due to everyone eventually resorting to the same method of jumping on the bubble wrap.
Because each episode is approximately 45 minutes long (not including ad breaks), the studio recordings (which run about 2-3 hours long) have to be cut down to accommodate the pre-recorded material. Starting with Series 4, outtakes have been released by UKTV Player, mainly from the studio recordings. Some of the outtakes include material from Greg and Alex warming up the audience and the cut tasks mentioned in the above examples.
On Taskmaster: The Podcast, Doc Brown mentions filming a task for Series 2 involving skimming chocolate digestive biscuits on a pond that was cut from broadcast, one of the few (if only) tasks where he felt he excelled.
In Series 6, a task that was cut from broadcast but was released in an exclusive outtake on Dave was to "make the most life-enhancing instructional vlog." Alice demonstrated an inventive way to fold clothes, Liza used an empty water bottle to create a sprinkler cover, Asim showed how to turn vegetables into fruit, Russell proposed a new way to pick up dog poop, and Tim Vine demonstrated the proper way to throw yourself into brambles.
In Series 7, a task that was cut from the broadcast of "A Coquettish Fascinator" but was released in an exclusive outtake on Dave was for the contestants to compose lines of exactly 8 syllables in a poem about the Taskmaster. Each contestant stood on a different section of a fire escape staircase and were assigned two lines each: James had lines 9 and 10, Jessica had lines 4 and 8, Kerry had lines 1 and 5, Phil had lines 3 and 7, and Rhod had lines 2 and 6. Greg is satisfied with Jess and James's lines, but is less than pleased with the other three's compositions as they portray him quite unflatteringly:
Who knows what the Taskmaster wants? Fetid waste of human offcuts Rancid prawns and cigarette butts He ate and stuffed within his guts Up and down and around his brain maze Genghis Khan't do his trousers up Nor reach his cup from which to sup Beware the wrath, the dictator Let's share a bath, a potato I love a laugh and Greg Davies
Doing It for the Art: Some contestants go above and beyond what is required to win a task, mostly because they think it will be funny or they really want to win.
James Acaster took the hula-hooping task very seriously. He bought one of his own and took it with him on tour so he could practice at every available opportunitynote This is why he was particularly sore about his disqualification and Greg's subsequent leniency toward Rhod in the satsuma-in-a-sock task. He'd made a genuine effort, but was denied points because of a strict reading of the rules and became infuriated to see Greg be willing accept Rhod's Loophole Abuse..
Rhod Gilbert hid in Greg's cupboard for hours just so he could take a video of him sleeping.
Many contestants have offered up submissions of considerable financial and/or sentimental worth for the Prize Tasks, which contractually they are giving away to the episode's winner (they are allowed to politely ask the winner to give them back though). Prizes have included a blank cheque, a car, wedding rings and certificates, Guinness World Records certificates, a bass guitar, jewellery and an envelope full of cash.
Contestants are not told about any of the tasks before they take part. The exception to this is Series 1's "collect the most tears in this eggcup"; Alex Horne reveals on the podcast that this was the task he revealed in his pitch to the five contestants, so they had an idea of the sort of tasks they'd be facing.
Contestants are kept in the dark about how others are doing and how their own performances stack up so that they can react genuinely in the studio. They are even requested not to discuss their performances if they happen to meet before the studio shows.
Greg is also not informed of task results before recording the studio segments so he can make judgements off the cuff, and because it better suits the freestyle nature of the studio segments. Alex will however discuss some details of the tasks with Greg beforehand if it is felt some context is needed e.g. Alex's honest opinions of the homemade Marmites in Series 5.
Some of the abusive nature of Greg and Alex's banter is a result of Alex's half being scripted while Greg's isn't and Greg is reacting in frustration because he doesn't share Alex's strange sense of humor.
Many contestants find the lab (with its vinyl sheets, sterile lighting, and a solid wall of crew staring back at them) to be an off-putting location that messes with their heads, which is why so many lab-based tasks seem to go off the rails.
On Episode 2 of the companion podcast, Nish Kumar reveals that he was told by production to look out for the edit of his attempt at the shoot-the-basketball-through-the-hoop-without-using-your-hands task (he was told that the edit would be "something special" but he didn't know that they would make it look as if he chipped the basketball in his first attempt). Knowing how poorly he actually did, Nish's initial victory celebration in-studio was a genuine reaction... until the illusion is broken when Alex shows all his other attempts at chipping the basketball through the hoop.
For health and safety reasons, nothing can be done on the Taskmaster House's roof and contestants are told they can't climb up there, although many try. Alex has said that at least once a season a contestant has asked to.
One proposed task involved "painting the biggest thing red" in and around the Taskmaster House, but that was shot down because having to reset for each contestant would have taken weeks and the house is a rental, so nothing permanent can be done to the property.
For the "impress the mayor" task in Series 2, Doc mentions in the podcast that his original idea was to find the roughest-looking youths and have them rush the mayor, at which point Doc would swoop in to "rescue" the mayor. His idea was shot down by production for legal reasons, so he went with serenading (embarrassingly off-key) the mayor with one of his karaoke go-tos.
Interestingly, the "special cuddle" task from Series 5 was nixed from an earlier series, as the producers felt it wasn't appropriate. They apparently has a rethink about the tone of the show.
Ed Gamble tried to bring in LaserDiscs of Kevin Spacey movies as the prize for the "best defunct thing", but was told to find an alternative submission for fear of causing offense.
Follow the Leader: The success of Taskmaster has managed to get several not dissimilar shows about celebrities competing against each other over a series of episodes commissioned (most notably Richard Osman's House of Games, which had been pitched to TV executives before but turned down).
Hostility on the Set: In the companion podcast, James Acaster says he was genuinely frustrated with Rhod Gilbert during team tasks and that having Phil Wang as a buffer helped prevent his anger from getting too bad.
Though Romesh Ranganathan has expressed similar feelings, that's partly due to hiscomedic persona. According to this AMA response he did enjoy doing the show overall, but found some of the "injustices" he faced genuinely annoying. He elaborated further on the Taskmaster podcast, where he said he genuinely enjoyed his time on the show, and any apparent dislike is due to generally disliking watching himself on TV after a show is recorded. He does admit to being genuinely embarrassed by the "blooper" he, Roisin and Josh made, to the point where he states that had he been in the more secure and influential position in his career that he currently enjoys, he might even have asked his agents to make sure the task in question was never broadcast.
Doc Brown has said he's tried to erase his time on the show from his memory because it wasn't the most pleasant experience for him. This is based on a general discomfort with the format and the skills required to effectively participate in it (e.g. improvisation), and embarrassment at some of his task attempts, rather than behind-the-scenes issues or personality clashes. Doc did make clear on the podcast that he liked working with the other comedians, he appreciates that the show raised his public profile and that he has no real hostility or bitterness about the show or anyone involved; it just wasn't his preferred type of job.
The tasks aren't shot in the order they're shown. Rather, they're shot in blocks over the course of several months (depending on contestant and location availability), with the team tasks always being recorded last, before being cut into episodes. This can result in changes in appearancenote such as Lee Mack's alternating outfits in his pre-recorded tasks, since his original outfit was severely ill-suited to hot weather and wild shifts in weather (which can prove to be an advantagenote such as Kerry Godliman using heavy snowfall to draw a large circle or disadvantagenote such as Rob Beckett suffering through outdoor tasks due to freezing temperatures) from task to task.
Some days, the contestants read out multiple tasks in a morning shooting block and perform them in an afternoon/evening block with a gap in between so the crew can gather requested materials. This is noticeable in tasks that are read out while the sun is out but suddenly jump to them being completed at night.
Averted in the live studio shows. For the first series, the producers wanted to switch up the order until it was shown how the evolving story and development of running jokes meant that episodes worked better if filmed and broadcast in order.
Playing Against Type: This is one of the rare occasions where Al Murray appears as himself rather than playing the Pub Landlord.
Richard Herring spent years saying he wanted to be on the show before finally making it as a contestant on Series 10.
James Acaster makes it clear in his appearance that he is a fan of the show. One task required the contestants to run around the Taskmaster house hunting down clues, and Alex Horne commented that James seemed to know the house's layout better than he did.
Nicola Coughlan is a huge fan and leapt at the opportunity to appear in the New Year's Treat. On the official podcast, she expressed some regret over participating in a one-off special and how it might prevent her from appearing in a full series in the future.
Ed Gamble is the ultimate promoted fanboy of the show, getting onto Series 9 and then becoming the host of the official podcast.
The infamous Red Green from Series 2 episode "Fear of Failure" has reappeared in subsequent series' tasks, to again mark out an area that the contestants cannot step on.
The parrot costume used for a task that was cut from Series 1 (as mentioned under Deleted Scene) was reused in Series 8 episode "Stuck in a Mammal Groove" where the contestants have to guess what Alex is wearing and Alex can only answer with a horn.
Rhod Gilbert says he found Alex Horne's vagueness during tasks to be a bit infuriating. The humiliating/dangerous things Rhod puts Alex through the taped tasks were a result of Rhod taking out some of his frustrations.
In general, reading between the lines of the public statements made by several contestants suggests that making Series 7 was genuinely a bit contentious at times, as can be seen in the dynamics between several of those involved (in addition to the above, in particular James Acaster and Rhod Gilbert seem to have clashed a bit personality-wise). Amusingly, Series 7 is generally considered by the fanbase to be one of the best.
Recycled Script: The international adaptations all use tasks from the UK original either taken either wholesale or adapted slightly to suit the available location. One exception is Taskmaster (NZ), which mostly used original tasks.
Rule 34 Creator Reactions: In preparation for Greg's appearance on The Horne Section Podcast, Alex searched their names on Google and discovered "quite a lot of smut." His response? To set one such fic to music for he and Greg to duet on as the first song of the episode. Greg, after expressing shock that they'd be the subject of anyone's fantasies, opines that the author must be deranged and complains about the poem not rhyming and having a disorganized structure. Alex's only comment? "Part of me was pleased."
Greg separately mentions in the Taskmaster podcast coming across pornographic fan fiction about him and Alex when browsing Reddit.
So My Kids Can Watch: Lee Mack appeared in Series 11 because his kids are huge fans of the shownote On the podcast, he says that the children constantly have it on, play the board game, and even produce their own home version and force him to participate. He also admitted to a certain amount of competitiveness and drive based on this, because they asked him to make sure he didn't come dead last.
Downplayed, but series 7 appears to have involved rather more personality clashes between contestants than usual. James Acaster and Rhod Gilbert in particular seem to have rubbed each other up the wrong way quite a bit.
The tasks for series 10 were filmed on the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and social distancing measures threw a wrench in the producers plans. The two most obvious effects on the show was that the team tasks for Johnny, Mawaan & Katherine had to take social distancing into account so one of the three might have to undertake a task not related to the group task and were essentially sidelined, or tasks were more difficult as the contestants had to keep away from each other while competing. However, Richard and Daisy was recorded prior to the pandemic hitting London so they were fine. The second effect was that there was no audience for the studio segments, and audience reaction was recorded separately from the participants and hosts. These filming conditions continued through the Taskmaster New Year Treat and Series 11. In Series 11, the location tasks at the airfield hangar, the team tasks, and the live shows were all filmed during post-lockdown social-distancing conditions. Series 12 is the first in which the entirett of filming took place with social distancing measures.
The pandemic did turn out to have one positive effect, however; studio filming for series 10 took place not long after the first UK lockdown was lifted, and apparently everyone was so happy to actually get out of the house and see other people that everyone was falling about the place with laughter. This also helped compensate for the lack of a studio audience.
Richard Ayoade was going to feature in one of the earlier series, but then had to drop out as the filming schedule clashed with Travel Man.
Jo Brand was originally meant to be in the seventh series, but apparently Kerry Godliman replaced her (James Acaster had already started filming when the latter was cast, and he thought the former would be one of his opponents).
Series 9's lasso task was meant to be a tie break (the contestants were told so ahead of time), but ended up being used as a proper task because David Baddiel's attempt was so loony, the producers wanted people to see it. Ed and Rose are visibly surprised in the studio when Alex shows it as a full task.
Subverted in the podcast. Apparently, the producers weren't sure how many studio recordings Katy Wix would miss and had Paul Chowdhry, from Series 3, lined up just in case she had to be absent for a third episode. However, Paul disclosed this in the official Taskmaster podcast after he had already made several blatantly false claims about his time on the show, so this one should be taken with a grain of salt.
Charlotte Ritchie says she was originally going to wear a yellow shirt with her task outfit but switched to a lavendar one when she realized she'd be opening herself up to comparisons to one of Gru's minions.
Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: The show often obtains large pieces of equipment and only starts to figure out what to do with it after the fact. For instance, they rented a steamroller for Series 9 without a task in place for it.
After appearing in Season 1, Tim Key is credited as a "task consultant". Alex Horne admits that this just means that him and Tim can brainstorm tasks together at the pub without Alex feeling guilty.
In the companion podcast episode which was released immediately after Series 10 episode "Air Horn Andy" was broadcast, Alex reveals that the live task was written not by the Greg, Alex, or the Taskmaster production crew, but a child of a future Taskmaster contestant (later confirmed to be Lee Mack's 8-year-old daughter Millie).
Bonus Fact Finder (BFF) facts from Taskmaster: The Podcast
Portraits of the Taskmaster (as of 22 October 2020):
There have been 15 tasks where the competitors had to create a portrait of the Taskmaster
There have been 13 specially-commissioned portraits of the Taskmaster found in the Taskmaster House foyer, main living room, and the back of the studio stage.
There are 12 photos of the Taskmaster around the Taskmaster House.
Upside-Down Films (from "Point of Swivel") — Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" cost $400,000 to produce. Richard Herring's film, meanwhile, cost £12 to produce, utilised excellent acting from Richard and wires constructed by the director, and took 45 minutes to shoot.
Persuasion Task (from "Toshwash") — The task was filmed in the public. One task that was filmed in public, but was scrapped from the edit (due to it feeling more like a hidden camera prank show), was one in which the Series One cast were dressed in a parrot costume and had to convince as many people as possible in a shopping centre to sign their slip of paper within 20 minutes. Alex still has the footage and will only share it for £1 billion.
Top 5 Worst Things That Alex Has Put in His Mouth (as of 19 November 2020):
Burnt pornographynote Lou Sanders's concoction for the most delicious dust in "I've Been a Bit Ill," which was a combination of the objectification of women (as represented by the ashes of pornography magazines) and Fizz Wizz popping candy
Ed Gamble's spit in a teacupnote The best cup of tea from "Think About the Spirit" used with implements locked down to the table, during which Ed Gamble sucked up some milk and spit it back out into the tea. Alex does explain on the companion podcast that it was the idea of Ed's spit and knowing where the milk had come from which revolted him more than the actual taste itself
Dog food pastanote Tim Key's alphabet ingredient meal from "The Last Supper," which included dog food as an ingredient and which Alex ate on behalf of the Taskmaster
An entire key lime pienote a prize submission which Jessica Knappett brought in and which Greg forced Alex to eat live during the credits of "A Coquettish Fascinator" in celebration of the programme's 50th episode
Bob Mortimer's facenote Bob Mortimer's insane frosting and Wotsit edible mask monstrosity from "I've Sinned Again" Conversely, the best thing that Alex has put in his mouth is hot toothpaste pie from Series One episode "The Pie Whisperer."note On the very first podcast episode, however, he does still think it is one of the worst-tasting things he's had to eat or drink in the series
Top 5 coldest location shoots (as of 26 November 2020):
Printworksnote used as the main off-site location shoot for Series 10, including for such tasks as the mini robots one
Buckinghamshire Railway Centrenote used as the main off-site location shoot for Series 8, including the task to get as close to Alex as possible without being caught.
Horseridingnote used for the Series 1 task where the cast painted a horse whilst riding a horse.
Chesham United football groundsnote used as an off-site location shoot for Series 4, where the cast scored a goal with a plastic bag and where Mel attempted to hide a massive beachball from Alex.
Scout hutnote used as an off-site location shoot for Series 6, where the cast constructed the best parachute for a wooden spoon The hottest shooting location has been Frensham Pondnote used as the main off-site location shoot for Series 5, where things such as Aisling taking off her trousers, Nish tossing foodstuffs into a bucket, and Bob creating a urine-based graph took place.
Just Some More Random Trivia, because we know you love that sort of thing
The oldest contestant to appear on Taskmaster to date is Frank Skinner (born January 1957) in Series 1. The youngest is Mawaan Rizwan (born August 1992) in Series 10.