Taskmaster is coming to The CW tomorrow, and audiences will want to hang onto something. That’s because there’s nothing like this show, where host Greg Davies and sidekick Alex Horne (who also happens to be the series’ creator) challenge comedians to complete absurd tasks to win strange prizes. Who will win? Will they win anything that they actually want? How are the results determined?
It’s all up to Alex and Greg, and that’s what makes the series – a smash hit in its native United Kingdom – so fun.
I had the chance to chat with this dynamic duo ahead of the Taskmaster premiere about importing the series for American audiences, what U.S. viewers need to know, and all of the show’s various quirks. And if you can’t wait until Sunday to see it for yourself, scroll down to check out an exclusive clip from Taskmaster right here!
Brittany Frederick: What excited the two of you about bringing Taskmaster to The CW specifically?
Alex Horne: We’ve been doing it for quite a while in the UK; I think we’re getting better and better at it. What you’re seeing, hopefully, is us at the top of our game. There’s some brilliant comedians from Britain in the show and we’ve treated them very badly. It’s a really funny series, so yeah, we’re really pleased with it over here. It’s lovely that people over there can watch it too.
Greg Davies: This is the first TV version [that’s airing on The CW]. Alex did the show a long time ago. It was a live thing at the Edinburgh Festival, which is sort of the beginnings of the show. Then he came and asked me if I would present it once it went on to TV. Really, you are seeing the original TV lineup.
AH: And it’s a few series in [within the UK], but the show hasn’t really changed over the eight series. It’s just got hopefully a bit slicker, but it’s exactly the same format, which we happened to get right early on, we think.
BF: It’s important to note that this isnt the traditional game show or comedy panel show. It’s actually quite arbitrary, coming up with the tasks and deciding what is or isn’t a win. How fun is that for you to not have a strict road map?
AH: It’s really fun.
GD: It’s the most fun. It’s lots of fun, especially for us because we’re not the ones being put through the torture of the tasks. We just get to watch the mayhem and the public humiliation – and I say that in a very loving way – of contestants. But I find it endlessly fun, watching the incredibly different ways that they’ve approached the same task.
AH: Compared to normal panel shows, which have their place and can be great, it’s hopefully a little bit more interesting or at least different because they’re having to do things just on their wits. There’s no script. They’re just working on comic instinct, which is really fun to see.
We always find that people who do worst are the most memorable and the funniest. They’re the people that the public get behind.
BF: Do you have a particular creative process preparing for the show, or do you guys just wing it?
AH: To be honest, we don’t prepare an awful lot. A lot of it is we know how much fun we have on the studio floor. We prepare enough and then try to keep an open mind so we can improvise around it on the night. We’ve just done five days in the studio. I think some of our funniest stuff was completely off the cuff.
GD: I would agree with that. In terms of getting into the zone, I find that just looking at a picture of Alex makes me angry. (laughs) There’s just something about his face that makes me want to be mean.
AH: I’m the opposite. I look at his face and just feel so full of confidence and admiration.
GD: It’s a dynamic that works.
BF: Is there anything that you feel US viewers need to know going into the series premiere to understand Taskmaster?
AH: I would say you’ve got to go in with quite an open mind…The things that the contestants can win are the things that they brought in themselves. They range from something pathetic to…I think people sometimes win a car. But sometimes they might win a dead wasp. You’ve got to be thinking this is not like a normal telly show.
GD: It’s a ridiculous premise for a show, but we take it very seriously. I, as the taskmaster, take the judging of their efforts very seriously. It’s a bit of both really. It’s an authoritarian regime looking at people doing preposterous things.
BF: The CW’s unscripted programming is geared mostly toward families with the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and the like. Did you have to do any tweaking to fit in with their brand of content?
AH: It started quite late night over here, to a more male-oriented comedy audience. It became a favorite among families as we went along. We don’t really think about the audience at all. We just do what makes us laugh….There’s been some things which aren’t designed for kids, but I think the more extreme we get, the more the seven-year-olds enjoy it.
GD: I think the only thing that stops it being child-friendly is my inability to not use bad language. But we’ve got around that. There’s a way of editing out the filth that comes from my mouth. So that what’s left is the genius and preposterous tasks, which kids absolutely love. Kids love thinking about how would they approach the tasks, as was proved by us opening up to the public during lockdown. Often children are better than the grown-ups.
BF: What are the shows that make you laugh? What should we watch after your show?
AH: the show here that is a guaranteed one to make me laugh if I want to watch a half an hour comedy show [is] Would I Lie to You? It’s a pretty simple formula. It’s a British parlor game, I suppose, but it’s very funny every time and it doesn’t try too hard. Do watch that if you like our show. Greg did a sitcom called Man Down, which I really like.
GD: You should definitely check that out. You should definitely watch Man Down. It’s available on Netflix, I believe. Yeah. I would encourage everyone you know to watch that. (laughs)
Taskmaster premieres Sunday, Aug. 2 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.