The 100 best Taskmaster tasks ranked - from watermelon gluttons to taxi-driven peas

Over 400 tasks are whittled down, in our ranking of the best challenges set by Alex Horne and Greg Davies

As someone who tried to make a career out of live comedy, I should probably hate Taskmaster. The premise – five comedians desperately compete to impress a famous comedian – is basically a concentrated version of my worst Edinburgh fringe anxiety dreams, the ones where I’m back in the Underbelly, Cowgate, but I’ve forgotten all the lines to the show, I’m naked and the only people in the audience are David Mitchell, Josie Lawrence and my horrible PE teacher from year 7.

But as it turns out, I don’t hate it, I love it. I’m obsessed with it. I have dreams where I’m being sprayed in the face with a power hose manned by Rob Beckett dressed as a grandmother.

Regular readers will know this is entirely predictable. “Oh, Bernhardt’s become fixated on the tiniest details of a television show as a coping mechanism for the horrors of reality in the 2020s? Change the record. Call me when he’s had a Frasier-inspired breakdown and thinks he’s Eddie the dog.”

But there’s something magical about Taskmaster that elevates it above my usual substitute-for-therapy fare. Perhaps it’s the way that it’s a funhouse mirror of lockdown – for most tasks contestants are stuck in a house, alone, where they are given a series of arbitrary rules to obey and steadily lose their minds. Perhaps it’s the way that it provides an insight not just into what people think, but how they think. At a time when we are isolated from friends and family, and days meld into one, that kind of intellectual intimacy – getting inside someone’s head – is precious. Or perhaps I just like watching Hugh Dennis carve a cake horizontally and arrange it like a serial killer in an episode of Hannibal.

Whatever the reason, I decided at the end of last year to detach myself from the news of Covid and Brexit and instead methodically catalogue the top 100 tasks in Taskmaster history, and I really need you to get on board.

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100 Tash-tastic

Series 8, Ep 2
The task where contestants have to put something on their face that looks like a moustache from a distance but isn’t. Paul Sinha wins by smearing caviar on his top lip. Disgusting and classy.

99 Sounds like …

Series 9, Ep 8
The task where the contestants have to provide the foley for Alex Horne’s silent film. Rose Matafeo ends up screaming loudly for about 20 seconds, and it’s genuinely harrowing.

98 Cry me an eggcup

Series 1, Ep 4
The task where the contestants must fill an egg cup with their own tears. Tim Key takes a no-nonsense approach: watching Elliot’s audition from ET while cutting onions. Classic.

97 Flagging

Series 3, Ep 3

The task where contestants have to create a meal that looks like a flag. Beckett plops some red mush on a white tray and says: “Konnichiwa.” The gall.

96 It’s a potato

Series 2, Ep 5
The task where the contestants have to create the best stop-motion movie with a potato. There’s something very satisfying about Richard Osman and Jon Richardson’s effort, where Horne is brutally murdered by zombie spuds.

95 There she blows

Series 6, Ep 10
The task where the contestants have to blow out a candle from the longest distance. Russell Howard screams into a drainpipe for five minutes to no effect.

94 Water carrier

Series 4, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to transfer as much water as possible between two fish bowls without moving them. Noel Fielding sucks up water through a snorkel and nearly drowns.

93 Long distance charades

Series 3, Ep 5
The task where the contestants have to play charades across the River Thames. This one gets in mostly because, within minutes, Sara Pascoe gets distracted by a passing dog.

92 Horsing around

Series 1, Ep 1
The task where contestants have to paint a picture of a horse while riding a horse. Romesh Ranganathan’s looks like one that has fallen into a meat grinder.

91 Step carefully

Series 3, Ep 1

The task where there’s a microwave in a field and the contestants have to get there in as few steps as possible. Beckett rolls like a sausage over a running track filled with a surprising amount of goose poo. Committed.

90 Butch box

Series 6, Ep 4
The task where the contestants have to do something manly with a cardboard box, so Liza Tarbuck puts it in front of the TV and makes it a cup of tea as it falls asleep. Strangely charming.

89 Egg-citing

Series 2, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to eat an egg the fastest. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Osman shots it like tequila. I feel ill thinking about it.

88 What do you do?

Series 3, Ep 4
The task where the contestants have to find out a stranger’s profession but he can’t speak, he can only shake or nod his head incorrectly. Just nice to watch a pleasant old man nod his head at comedians as they silently curse him.

87 Meat feast

Series 2, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to order a vegetarian pizza with bacon and pepperoni, but no tomato or cheese, without saying any of those words. Just infuriatingly, pointlessly difficult.

86 Christmas cracker

Series 7, Ep 7
The task where the contestants have to make the best Christmas cracker, and two separate comedians (James Acaster, Phil Wang) decide to have actual gravy sloshing about in there. It’s like Osman’s egg all over again.

85 Ringtone routines

Series 4, Ep 4
The task where the contestants have to make up a dance with Horne to a set of ringtones. Lolly Adefope’s “dance” routine involves a moment where she gets hit on the head by Horne, forgives him and tells him that “friendship is truth”. No idea.

84 Blooper reels

Series 1, Ep 6

The task where the contestants have to make a “hilarious blooper”. Tim Key and Frank Skinner invent a home movie where a man falls off a ladder so hard his entire torso gets embedded in the ground. Chilling.

83 Vanishing act

Series 10 Ep 1
The task where the contestants have to make the largest thing “properly disappear”. Mawaan Rizwan magics away a cow (impressive); Johnny Vegas magics away a 200ft socialist chicken as part of a moving critique of Britain’s political system (confusing).

82 Wang!

Series 7, Ep 7
The task where each contestant has to predict what another contestant will do when provided with certain items (an airhorn, a £10, an apple). In a task all about predictability, Wang grabs an apple and shouts “Wang!” before biting it. Renegade.

81 Pea passenger

Series 3, Ep 1
The task where the contestants have to propel a pea the furthest distance on a red carpet. Al Murray takes the red carpet, bungs it in a taxi and drives to Slough for £150. That is dedication to a TV show on Dave.

80 Sliding doors

Series 4, Ep 5
The task where the contestants have to slide for the longest. Mel Giedroyc is dragged about in a sleeping bag by crew members like a confused but delighted worm, and I could watch it for the rest of my life and be happy.

79 Sing the theme tune

Champions of Champions, Ep 2

The “special task” (ie, a task that is set for only one comedian to embarrass/demean them) where Josh Widdicombe has to sing the Taskmaster theme tune, and it’s exactly as bad as you’re imagining.

78 Golazo!

Series 8 Ep 6
The task where the contestants have to score a goal from the furthest distance. Only Sian Gibson scores – even football crazy Iain Stirling misses, and he got the crew to bring in an especially massive goal for his attempt. Wonderfully embarrassing.

77 Cake vandals

Series 4, Ep 1

The task where the contestants have to destroy a cake as beautifully as possible. Cake expert Giedroyc turns it upside down and smushes it (classic), Joe Lycett explodes it with firework (deeply satisfying).

76 Electric lizard

Series 6, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to make something spin for as long as possible. Tarbuck plonks a plastic lizard on an electric drill and leaves it going for 88 minutes. It’s oddly hypnotic.

75 Hidden pineapple

Series 2, Ep 4
The task where the contestants have to conceal a pineapple on their person. Joe Wilkinson chooses to cut it up and put most of it down his trousers. He immediately regrets this.

74 Trolley dash

Series 2, Ep 4

The task where the contestants have to put some items in a trolley on the other side of a river. Osman loses his patience with the trolley and, in a terrifying display of masculinity, throws it into the river. All that raw egg made him too strong.

73 Beach ball blues

Series 8, Ep 8
The task where the contestants have to power a beach ball to the finish line using water alone. Joe Thomas has a minor breakdown and tries to move the ball forward by pouring water over them with a pair of teapots. It doesn’t work.

72 I done a bad thing

Series 8, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to do the worst thing to Horne and then do the best apology. Lou Sanders hits Horne in the face with a pie, covers his car in flour and signs him up for a bunch of online classes. One of those is supposed to be an apology.

71 Blind car parking

Series 8, Ep 10
Contestants have to drive a mobility scooter around an obstacle course in a car park while blindfolded. Sanders drives into a hedge and nearly runs over a cameraman. The entertainment value was almost as high as the insurance costs.

70 Find the satsuma

Series 7, Ep 9
Contestants have to find the satsuma in one of 30 socks hanging from a washing line – by sniffing, hitting, listening, etc. Wang thinks he has found it, but when he checks, it turns out it’s a lime. He takes it well – by screaming “It’s a lime!” into the sky.

69 Phone box hide and seek

Series 8, Ep 6
The task where the contestants have to conceal themselves in a phone box. Sinha has a minor breakdown and decides to use members of the crew to cover him up. It doesn’t work.

68 Christmas tree wrapping

Series 10, Ep 5
The task where the contestants have to bag the heaviest thing in a Christmas tree bagging machine, carried from the furthest distance. Katherine Parkinson is wheeled in a wheelbarrow and throws herself into the machine, writhing around in the net like a trapped dolphin. Strange, but effective.

67 Toddle on

Series 8, Ep 4
The task where the contestants have to create an item that will engage a toddler the longest. Naturally, Sanders invents a game where children have to smash a plastic duck with a hammer to get sweets. Five minutes of fun for the toddler now, followed by a lifetime of therapy.

66 Spread the clothes

Series 3, Ep 4
The task where the contestants have to spread their clothes as far and as wide as possible – and while Pascoe, Murray, Beckett and Dave Gorman get on public transport and brave motorways, Paul Chowdhry chucks his socks over a fence. Job done.

65 Basketball ballet

Series 4, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to keep a basketball on a moving treadmill for as long as possible without touching it. Most contestants lasted a matter of seconds. Hugh Dennis holds a washing basin over it and pulls the plug on it – the basketball stays there for four months.

64 Romancing the chickpea

Series 9, Ep 10

The task where the contestants have to do the most preposterous thing with a chickpea. Ed Gamble has sex with its dead remains (standard), David Baddiel starts a cult with it (sure), Matafeo holds a funeral for it (genuinely moving).

63 Water features

Series 9, Ep 4

The task where the contestants have to make the most striking water feature. Jo Brand pours a teapot over some washing up; Gamble gaffa tapes a pressure hose to Horne’s nipple and turns him into a single-breast-spurting mermaid.

62 Grotto surprise

Series 7, Ep 8
The task where the contestants have to make something surprising come out of the top of an underground grotto. Rhod Gilbert puts Horne on top of a ladder, pulls down his pants and spurts water between his cheeks. Inexplicable, upsetting, strangely vulnerable.

61 Egg timers

Series 9, Ep 5
The task where the contestants have to make the most accurate egg timer. Brand screams Jerusalem as loudly as possible down the phone to the waiting Horne, because (apparently) the length of time it takes to sing it is the perfect cooking time for an egg. Masterchef.

60 Sisyphus

Series 2, Ep 1

The task where the contestants have to put three huge exercise balls on a mat on the top of a hill. Everyone struggles, except Osman, who simply moves the mat to the bottom of the hill. A devious little sneak.

59 Eye-watering

Series 7, Ep 7

Contestants must not blink for as long as possible. Gilbert gaffa tapes his eyes open for seven minutes. Afterwards, Horne reveals they could have just … closed their eyes and kept them closed for the whole task. A devious bigger sneak.

58 Ta-da!

Series 9, Ep 1
The task where the contestants have to make the most dramatic entrance. Baddiel comes out as the Doctor. Matafeo jumps out of a bush dressed as a bush and screams: “Stella!” Context doesn’t make that any easier to understand.

57 Going in circles

Series 7, Ep 2

The task where the contestants have to draw the biggest circle. Acaster decides to “draw” his circle by riding a bike while hula hooping. He immediately crashes, because he can’t hula hoop.

56 Bridge building

Series 2, Ep 5
The contestants have to make a bridge for a model village, strong enough to hold a potato, out of straws, rubbers and chewing gum. Only afterwards do they discover that all of the best building material was strapped under the table. Cruel.

55 Bouder-ly go

Series 1, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to move a boulder as far as possible in an hour. Roisin Conaty wastes 28 minutes of her hour trying to arrange for a courier to Camber Sands, because it’s a nice place for a day trip.

54 Lasso me

Series 9, Ep 5
The task where the contestants have to lasso Horne with a rope. Baddiel can’t get the hang of it, so decides to do the logical thing – tie multiple wooden spoons to the lasso. That’s something you don’t see in many westerns, mostly because it’s a terrible idea.

53 Hula hoops

Series 7, Ep 9

The task where Wang and Acaster have to hula hoop, live on stage in front of the audience. Acaster can’t hula-hoop (see No 57), but crucially Wang’s ultratight bodysuit means you probably don’t want to see him try.

52 Hopping mad

Series 6, Ep 5
The task where two teams have to find the link between lots of random items in the lab, and then do the link 100 times. Tarbuck works it out immediately (hop), but Tim Vine and Asim Chaudhry don’t listen – leaving her to hop all on her own. A bleak moment for female equality.

51 Soapy scenes

Series 7, Ep 6

The task where two teams have to come up with the best soap opera cliffhanger. Kerry Godliman and Jessica Knappett star in Cul de Sac, a harrowing tale of a mother in love with her son, while Gilbert plays a man in a bath who can only say “rub a dub dub”. Gilbert wins.

50 Beermat towers

Series 10, Ep 9
The task where the contestants have to make the tallest beermat tower and also ring the doorbell outside once every few seconds. Rizwan brings the doorbell into the house (genius), Richard Herring cuts himself on the doorbell and smears blood all over the door (less genius).

49 Clingfilm a bath

Series 4, Ep 5
The task where two teams have to fill a bathtub with items and cover it with clingfilm. Giedroyc and Dennis work together and do it with ease, Adefope and Lycett get into a fight where Adefope hides Lycett’s clingfilm in a bush and he breaks several tables.

48 Snowmen

Series 3, Ep 1
The task where the contestants have to make the best snowman on a non-snowy day. Gorman uses instant potato mash (upsettingly beige), Pascoe ice-cream (cute), Chowdhry takes a stuffed rabbit and pours a slushy over its head (serial killer vibes).

47 Tea break

Series 9, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to do several different tasks around the house as quickly as possible. Baddiel and Brand don’t understand this and have a tea break halfway through. As badass as it’s possible for a cup of earl grey to be.

46 Air horn

Series 7, Ep 3

The task where the contestants have to make their best noise, and Jessica Knappett decides her best noise is a woman imitating an air horn on a bike into a loudspeaker while ringing a bell. Wang rapidly wiggles his tongue. Awful.

45 Surprise!

Series 8, Ep 1
The task where the contestants have to sneak up on Horne in a snowy trainyard, in a game where contestants have to plot their route with intense, almost military strategy. Sanders runs about dressed up in a bin.

44 Chocolate surprise

Series 6, Ep 8

The task where the contestants have to put something genuinely surprising in a chocolate egg. Vine goes for a fly (astonishing), Chaudhry goes for a worm (upsetting), Alice Levine gets a piece of paper with Horne’s actual pin (more serial killer vibes).

43 Mr Coconut

Series 5, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to make a coconut look like a businessman. Nish Kumar puts it in a suit and gives it a Georgian accent and Mark Watson sets up a company for it. Commendable commitment.

42 Mannequin mania

Series 10, Ep 10
The task where the contestants have to hang up Bernard the Mannequin’s clothes on a rack three metres away. Johnny Vegas uses the mannequin to brutally drag the rack back to him, before feeling horrified remorse, whispering “my boy, my beautiful boy” to him at the end. Heartbreaking.

41 A big mess

Champions of Champions, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to make the biggest mess and then clean it up. Katherine Ryan decides to go metaphorical and tells her sister her husband has been cheating on her. For a television show. I’m sweating just thinking about it.

40 Name that animal

Series 6, Ep 7
The task where one contestant has to name as many obscure animals as possible, and is then told they have to act them out to their teammates. Chaudhry makes up “the eight bollock cat” and then has to sadly mime it to Tarbuck.

39 Exotic sandwiches

Series 4, Ep 8

The task where the contestants are told to make the most exotic sandwich they can … and then told to eat their exotic sandwich. Giedroyc makes a sandwich with nearly 50 chocolate bars and seven separate heart attacks, and the look on her face when she has to eat it is one of abject horror.

38 Spider in boots

Series 10, Ep 10
The task where the contestants put eight wellington boots in the lab on a stuffed spider in the garden. Parkinson doesn’t understand that she can leave the lab, so spends 20 minutes searching for the spider in the lab, before deciding that the table is a spider and putting the boots on the legs of that instead. Baffling, glorious nonsense.

37 Eat, throw, balance

Series 5, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have three items (a Weetabix brick, a jelly and a Twiglet) and have to eat one, throw one in a bucket and balance one on a pole. After four contestants struggle in vain, Sally Phillips steps up without a word, balances the Weetabix, throws the jelly straight in the bin and eats the Twiglet. Clinical.

36 Pie surprise

Series 1, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to find out the contents of five pies without breaching the pastry. Conaty gets round it by getting Horne to eat the pies himself. One of the pies is a hot toothpaste pie, a pie filled with hot toothpaste. It is one of the most upsetting things I have ever seen.

35 Camel, mind the gap

Series 4, Ep 6
The task where the contestants have to fit a stuffed camel through the smallest gap. While others pulverise their camels to fit it through tiny crevasses, Giedroyc drives to the nearest high street and runs through the entrance of a Baby Gap. Inspired.

34 Impress the mayor

Series 2, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to impress the mayor of Chesham. Osman makes up a poem and juggles (multi-tasking), Wilkinson buys as many Calippos as he can (extravagant), Ryan makes up a rap about the virility of the mayor’s testicles (extremely bold).

33 An extraordoinary journey

Series 6, Ep 2
The task where the contestants have to take a small wind-up man on an extraordinary journey. Howard gets Alex to shout Buddhist wisdom at his, Chaudhry chases his with lizards and fire, and Tarbuck takes hers on the most extraordinary journey of them all – death (she stamps on it to oblivion).

32 Video games

Series 7, Ep 10

The task where the contestants recreate a classic video game. Knappett goes Mario Kart in a set of golf buggies and a fake moustache, and Acaster does the best impression of the “jump” button from Grand Theft Auto to ever be broadcast on British television.

31 Hand-free basketball

Series 5, Ep 1
The task where the contestants have to get a ball through a basketball hoop without using their hands. Kumar kicks it in … after 54 attempts. At one point he calls the ball racist. The madness this show can drive people to.

30 Count the beans, and the hoops … and the rice

Series 1, Ep 4
The special task (again, just to torture Widdicombe) where the poor curly haired charmer is first made to count the number of beans in a tin, then the number of hoops in a can of spaghetti hoops, then the number of grains of rice in a bag of rice. And he doesn’t realise he’s the only one doing it.

29 Bananaman

Series 4, Ep 3

The task where the contestants have to camouflage themselves in a scene – so Fielding, dressed in his fluorescent yellow suit, shrinks himself and hides in a bowl of fruit. Mindboggling.

28 Taskmaster: The Film

Series 4, Ep 3
The task where the contestants have to make a trailer for Taskmaster: The Film, and Giedroyc and Dennis create a Scandi-thriller starring Giedroyc as Sara Lund and Dennis as a dead body. At one point Giedroyc shouts: “Ne ne Copenhagen” at a mannequin. Thrilling.

27 Reverse psychology

Series 1, Ep 2

The task where contestants have to film something that looks good in reverse – so Ranganathan invents Tree Wizard, a beautiful short film of a man who creates balloons out of thin air and jumps into trees (ie, reversed footage of him falling out of a tree and popping balloons). His face is filled with childlike wonder, five stars.

26 Hide and seek

Series 4, Ep 7
The task where contestants have to hide from Horne in a game of hide and seek. The winner is Adefope, who hides in a tiny crack in the shower; the loser is Horne, who accidentally touches Giedroyc’s breast when finding her, filling him with a shame that will never die. Fun!

25 Surprise Alex

Series 3, Ep 2

The task where contestants have to surprise Horne when he comes out of a shed. Pascoe presents him with a dead body (surprising), Murray bangs a gong semi-naked (more surprising), Beckett dresses as a grandma and sprays Horne with a powerhouse (just baffling).

24 Extension

Series 7, Ep 7
The task where two teams have to make an extension on the Taskmaster house – Godliman and Knappett do a fairly good job with some sheeting and half a wall, but Acaster has a fullblown tantrum at Gilbert for entirely ignoring a garage full of good building materials. Genuine rage, that’s all I want from this show.

23 Shoe catapult

Series 10, Ep 3

The task where contestants have to catapult a shoe into a bath. Johnny Vegas creates a contraption with a stepladder, jokes about falling off the stepladder and then immediately falls off the stepladder.

22 Back draw

Series 9, Ep 9
The task where contestants have to draw on the back of another contestant, who then has to draw that image on a piece of paper. Gamble is paired with Baddiel and suffers seven separate fury-related aneurysms (“WHY ARE YOU STILL DRAWING?” “WHAT IN THE LIVING FUCK HAVE YOU DONE?!”) when Baddiel goes rogue. More rage, all the time.

21 Theme tune lyrics

Series 9, Ep 8
The task where contestants have to make up lyrics to the Taskmaster theme song, and Matafeo blows everyone away with her country-and-western inspired tale of Greg “a tall old man” and Alex “with a brain full of corn”. A brilliant banjo-powered earworm.

20 Special cuddles

Series 5, Ep 1

The task where contestants have to give Horne a special cuddle. Aisling Bea interprets that to mean that Horne is a pervert (creating an overtly sexual Cuddlebot 3000) while Bob Mortimer uses the task as an excuse to get Horne into the boot of his car.

19 Edible masks

Champion of Champions, Ep 2
The task where contestants have to create their own edible facemasks for Horne to eat off them. Mortimer invents a Geordie sexually repressed alien who loves to get his Wotsit-and-Malteser-covered face eaten, while screaming: “I am a sinner! I have sinned!”

18 Wheelie bin obstacle course

Series 4, Ep 7
The task where a contestant has to get in a wheelie bin and guide another contestant through an obstacle course as they push them around, all while speaking another language. Giedroyc directing a baffled Hugh Dennis by shouting: “Ugg! Ugg!” (the French for Hugh) makes this.

17 Flying eggs

Series 10, Ep 1

The task where contestants have to land an egg, from a balcony, in a frying pan several metres away on a giant podium. While Daisy May Cooper ties the egg to a balloon and floats it over the frying pan, Rizwan cuts out the middle balloon and tries to fill an egg with helium. An egg. With helium. I just want to talk, Mawaan.

16 £20 gifts

Series 1, Ep 3
The task where contestants have to get a gift for the Taskmaster with £20. While Key goes for book tokens, Widdicombe takes the show to new levels of creepy by getting a genuine, actual tattoo of Greg Davies’s name on his ankle. If you’re not willing to physically scar yourself for a show on Dave, don’t bother playing the game.

15 Nursery rhymes

Series 2, Ep 2
The task where contestants have to make a video for a nursery rhyme. Richardson is a creepy little girl eating blind mice, Osman does a Verve-inspired Coming Round the Mountain, but the champ is Doc Brown, who writes a genuinely good rap version of Once I Caught a Fish Alive, involving him punching a salmon.

14 Exciting footage

Series 5, Ep 6
The task where contestants have to record some exciting footage with a camera strapped to their heads. Phillips hauntingly recreates Horne’s birth with Horne and clingfilm.

13 Horse or laminator

Series 9, Ep 7
The task where contestants have to guess what the Taskmaster is thinking of – a horse or a laminator. In a remarkable display of telepathy, Brand gets 13 right in a row, terrifying Davies and potentially marking her out as the next Uri Geller.

12 Smile!

Series 4, Ep 2

The special task where, while painting a picture of the Taskmaster from two metres away from the canvas, Lycett must also grin with increasing intensity at the camera every 30 seconds. By the end his eyes are empty husks, his face pained, his cheeks twisted and gnarled. He will never smile the same way again.

11 Watercooler moments

Series 5, Ep 5
The task where contestants have to create a watercooler moment using a watercooler. Kumar kicks it (terrible in slow motion, even worse at regular speed); Bea tries to go sailing with it (confusing); but the best is Phillips, who, naturally, has sex with it (horrifying but impressive).

10 Guard the flame

Series 5, Ep 6

The task where contestants have to guard the flame on a cupcake as it goes past various water-based obstacles to light a candle in the caravan. Kumar sees a bubble machine and shouts: “You bubbly fuck!” so loudly that his cupcake immediately extinguishes itself. This is why you don’t swear, kids.

9 Watermelons

Series 1, Ep 1
The task where contestants have to eat as much watermelon as they can in one minute. Widdicombe carefully opens it and gently spoons it into his mouth (lovely); Ranganathan immediately throws it on to the ground and starts shovelling flesh off the floor into his mouth like a zombie (not lovely).

8 Watermelons 2.0

Series 10, Ep 5

The task where contestants have to eat as much watermelon as they can in four minutes – but they can’t feed themselves. Cooper and Herring turn from reasonable, well-respected comedians into wild, watermelon-obsessed beasts, gorging themselves until their clothes run red with melon blood. Positively Ranganathanesque.

7 Quiet cocktails

Series 10, Ep 6
The contestants have to make the tastiest cocktail as quietly as possible. If they go over 60db they must start again and scream a phrase – in Cooper’s case, “I love this!” It’s like watching someone defuse a bomb really, really badly – every time she does anything (open a bottle, pick up ice, pour any liquid) she goes over the limit and explodes. The closest I’ve come to believing that Horne’s life was in immediate danger.

6 Siren call

Series 7, Ep 10
The task where the contestants are told that when they hear a siren, they have to stop whatever they’re doing, put on a boiler suit by the door and lie down on the floor. Closely followed by the task where contestants have to tie themselves up as securely as possible … and then that siren goes off. Acaster’s face as he hears the siren, midway through tying his feet up, his whole world crashing around him as he realises what that means – a 40-minute set-up for a glorious punchline.

5 Cheeky texts

Series 5, Ep 5

The special task where Watson has been told to send an anonymous “cheeky text” to the Taskmaster, every day, for five months – without knowing that absolutely no other contestant had been set this task. When this fact is revealed, Watson has a kind of frozen, horrified expression – he manages a laugh, but it’s the laugh of a man who knows that he has wasted so much of his life. What’s worse, every one of the texts was sent to Davies’s phone with no context or warning, so for five months Davies has been tormented with cheeky texts such as: “I have a big dick” and: “Can you lend me £50?” In the end, Horne reveals that Watson has missed out two days of texts, meaning that he has sent only 148 – so Davies takes great pleasure in awarding him zero points. What makes this task so wonderful is the fact that Watson, being the type of person he is, has spent hours agonising over the precise wording of each one of these texts – and then it’s totally worthless. In the words of Davies: “What a terrible waste of time.”

4 Creepiest things

Series 7, Ep 8

The task where the contestants have to bring in the creepiest thing – and Gilbert chooses to bring in a special video, titled When Your Friend Tells You He’s Leaving … Check. The video, as it turns out, is footage of Davies, asleep in his bed, filmed from Davies’s closet by Gilbert. Quite apart from being one of the most disturbing short films in the history of Taskmaster (the way that Gilbert stares dead-eyed at the camera and silently puts his finger to his lips at the start and the end of the video, as if to say “Shhh now. We wouldn’t want to wake Greg …”), there’s a staggering level of commitment to creepiness. Up until this point in the series, Gilbert had brought in a picture of Davies in Speedos for every one of the prize task rounds. He could have just brought that in again, maybe put it among some Halloween decorations – but no. He breaks into his friend’s bedroom and films him all damn night. Because that’s the creepiest thing, and that’s what this show requires.

3 Declare your love

Series 6, Ep 10

The task where contestants have to declare their love for the Taskmaster in the most meaningful way. The reason this task is so high up on the list is for one person – Liza Tarbuck. No one has quite played the game like Tarbuck. She has the vibe of a “relaxed headmistress on her day off” (to quote Davies), but she is capable of great ruthlessness at the drop of a hat/trousers. This is the pinnacle of Tarbuck, the crowning glory in her championship victory – declaring her love for Davies by getting Horne to sit, bare-bottomed, in a custard cake. There’s a kind of clinical sociopathy here – the way that she says, almost irritated: “I hope you enjoy this, it might be the only time in your life that you put your bare arse on a cake.” When Horne does the deed, his world transforms for ever – as Tarbuck says in the studio afterwards: “He was a different man!” It’s hard to disagree. “If that’s love, turns out I’ve never been in love before,” murmurs Horne sheepishly, cake dripping from his backside. But this is the magic of the show: before this series, I think my opinion of Tarbuck was that of a charming DJ and character actor. After this series, I was (and remain) obsessed with her – a wicked, bizarre mind, capable of mad brilliance and disgusting, sopping cakey cruelty. This show lets people blossom like no other, and Tarbuck is the embodiment of that. May we all find the happiness that she finds in making comedians sit in cake semi-naked.

2 Potato hole

Series 2, Ep 1

The task where contestants have to get a potato into a hole from the edge of a special red carpet. The reason this task is so high is because of one man – Joe Wilkinson. Wilkinson is the lovable loser in this show, losing his patience with Ikea flatpack furniture and smushing pineapple down his trousers, but with the potato task, he – and the show – reach new heights. In one fluid movement he whips around from the camera, leans forward, gives it a quick underhand throw and … straight in. The crowd goes wild. Back in the studio, Wilkinson stands up, walking around like some kind of potato-chucking god. On the VT, Wilkinson wipes away a tear, the achievement hitting him. “I’m really emotional. I think that’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

And that is that. Except, of course, it isn’t. Davies loves the footage so much that he demands to see a replay. From a different angle, above – and zoomed in. From where you could see the very top of Joe’s toe touch the forbidden red carpet. The audience noise turns from cheering to horror in a matter of seconds. Wilkinson is aghast, hands over his mouth. No. No, surely not. He gets on his hands and knees, crawling to Davies, gently pawing at his thigh like a mournful dog. “Please. Please. Please don’t take it away from me.” Davies can barely look at him; the guilt, the power, it’s all too much. In the end, his attempt is declared null and void. Wilkinson stares into the void as he tumbles from first on the leaderboard to last. In Davies’s words, “a genuinely harrowing moment”.

This glorious, pseudo-Shakespearean carb-based tragedy is the peak of what this show can do. It doesn’t just humiliate or frustrate comedians – it can make them believe that they are a sporting legend, a Muhammed Ali, a Lewis Hamilton, a Russell Howard … and then it can take it all away.

1 A song for Rosalind

Series 5, Ep 8
The task where the contestants have to interview a stranger and make up a song for her in 30 minutes, before performing it to her at Taskonbury. This task represents everything that is wonderful about the show – from the brilliant differences in approaches that it encourages, to its staggering creativity, to its sheer unpredictability and heart. Mortimer, Bea and Phillips write a confusingly scathing power ballad to Rosalind (titled Quite Good Considering, but more popularly known as Rosalind’s a Fucking Nightmare). It’s bonkers; pure, unadulterated nonsense. During the interview Mortimer’s first question is: “Do we strike you?”, which sets the tone for the whole endeavour – an inexplicably harsh song about how Rosalind is a thief (based on the fact that she stole sweets as a child), “an average cellist” and a “geriatric athlete [who] jumps quite far for a woman of her age”. It’s a song I find myself singing almost constantly now (mostly the line about her husband and a member of her string quartet: “The great thing about Alan / Alan could not be dreamier / But unfortunately the viola player / Well, he contracted septicemia”), and in any normal episode, it would have won by a landslide.

But Kumar and Watson’s song is just so staggeringly beautiful, so sincere, so heartfelt, that it can’t help but blow you away. When Kumar starts the song by shouting: “Good evening London!” to a crowd of one single woman in a deckchair, you can just feel the audience gear up for another classic Nish and Mark disaster. But once the song starts, it becomes immediately obvious that this won’t be another disaster – no, the story here is redemption. Between them, Kumar and Watson have been through a lot in this series – they have been covered in yoghurt, they have been humiliated by a basketball, they have been tortured by texts, mocked by Weetabix and hurt by headwear. But in this moment, it’s all made worth it.

This is their crowning glory – a heartfelt song textured by their experiences (the line “I try my best but it’s never … good enough” pretty much summing up their time on the show), and it reflects the show’s inherent joy. Every task is an opportunity to humiliate yourself and to create something genuinely excellent – to take the cruel and arbitrary limitations you find and make something inspiring. No matter how many times you are knocked down by a malfunctioning volcano or a distressingly loud ice machine, as long as you get back up, there is always the potential for redemption. Everything that looks arduous is a chance for greatness. We just have to keep getting back up.


Jack Bernhardt

The GuardianTramp

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