Gear up for more Taskmaster action by looking back at the best (and best for different reasons) contestants in the show’s history
By Simon Ward, Content Editor
The familiar sound of Alex Horne’s whistle. The roar of Greg Davies as he lambasts a comedian who has somehow agreed to sit opposite his verbal hairdryer for weeks on end. A TV audience of millions. And tasks. Oh. So. Many. Tasks. Yes, TV’s most consistently funny show is back. It’s Taskmaster time.
For those who have been living under a rock (which sounds like a task in itself – Hide yourself under a rock. Most time spent under a rock wins), Taskmaster sees comedians and others line up to participate in a gaggle of fiendishly tricky tasks. Everything from impressing a town mayor, to eating as much watermelon as you can. With, erm, these results…
We’re now on to series 12, and the contestants are once again a brilliant mix of people you always thought would be good on the show and those who are a genuine surprise. They are: Alan Davies (QI), Desiree Burch (Too Hot To Handle), Guz Khan (Man Like Mobeen), Morgana Robinson (The Windsors) and Victoria Coren Mitchell (Only Connect). What a stellar line-up.
But then again, the line-up is always superb on Taskmaster. As such, we’ve picked out the 25 greatest human beings (in no particular order) who have made us laugh – either intentionally or unintentionally – throughout the previous 11 series. Some went on to claim the golden sculpture of Greg Davies’ head as series winners, while others were Nish Kumar.
Your task is to read the whole thing twice. Your time starts… now.
1. Daisy May Cooper (series 10)
Daisy went from the cult star of the brilliant This Country to the leader of the cult of Daisy May Cooper after her epic performance here. And it was a cult we all wanted to join. Pregnant, dressed as superhero “Achievement Woman” and, by the end of it, ready to end Richard Herring. Just don’t ask her to pronounce “phenomenon”.
Best moment: Either the frankly graphic eating of watermelon alongside Richard Herring or being tasked with shouting “I LOVE THIS” while trying to silently make a cocktail. Honestly, you’ll cry watching it.
2. Bob Mortimer (series 5)
He was always going to be brilliant on this, wasn’t he? Whether it was giving Alex a cuddle in a car boot, producing a graph IN SAND of the total amount of urine produced across the country or filming a video of himself discovering his own head in a box of Wotsits, Bob was gold-plated goodness. A Taskmaster contestant for your soul.
Best moment: Making a coconut look like a businessman by simply drawing a face on a coconut while shouting over a close-up, “I’M A [BLEEPIN’] BUSINESSMAN”.
3. Mike Wozniak (series 11)
Another figure to prompt a cult-like internet following after his glorious showing on Taskmaster. Part geography teacher, part giraffe, part Enid Blyton character made real, Manic Mike was a revelation who threw himself into everything, and was the only contestant to leave the studio with a medical need for a cushion. Speaking of which…
Best moment: Accidentally passing a haemorrhoid during a farting task. It’s as funny and disgusting as it sounds. The noise will haunt you ’til the end times.
4. Liza Tarbuck (series 6)
She was just very good. Like when she was tasked to make something manly with a cardboard box, so she put it in front of a TV where it “fell asleep” as she delivered it a cup of tea, or when she beat Very Good Darts Player Tim Vine at darts. Her sadistic side was also a joy to behold. Speaking of which…
Best moment: She made Alex sit on a cake bare-bottomed. “I’m in” was more than any of us needed to know from Alex. Our definition of “best” is quite loose here.
5. Katherine Ryan (series 2)
If you’ve ever wondered what a gangsta rap children’s song in ode to the Mayor of Chesham with a chorus that goes “That’s Peter Hudson, you know that you can trust him” would sound like, then step forward Katherine Ryan. Consistently excellent at tasks, and a very deserved series 2 champion.
Best moment: Definitely the Mayor of Chesham task – one of the all-time great tasks, full stop. But the great lengths she went to conceal a pineapple on her person was deeply impressive, too.
6. Sally Phillips (series 5)
Some say series 5 was the one where Taskmaster went from a show well-loved by a few to the mega-hit we have today. Sally Phillips played a vital role in that. The eat, throw, balance task involving a Twiglet, Weetabix and jelly where she instantly balanced (the Twiglet), ate (the ’bix) and threw (the jelly) without saying a word was pure poetry.
Best moment: She had many, but she had to record the most incredible footage with a headcam, and so she filmed a quite epic and vivid movie of Alex being birthed. Equal parts insane and wonderful.
7. James Acaster (series 7)
Another belting contestant, and we knew we were in for a treat when he refused to acknowledge Alex during tasks. Alex would say, “Hi James,” and Acaster would look straight through him. Highlights included filling a Christmas cracker with gravy, and trying to pass off a Matrix DVD as the most confusing thing in a prize task.
Best moment: The task was simple: hula hoop for as long as you can, and then try to improve that time months later in the studio. And James did, but he fluffed his one attempt, before showing us how good he’d actually become in that time. Too late. The Taskmaster didn’t care. Two points.
8. Phil Wang (series 7)
An honourable loser. He was not good, but fantastically so. When he had to increase Alex’s heart rate by exciting him, his calming mix of near-miss internet videos and sensual karate kicks managed to actually decrease his heart rate, while his picture of the Taskmaster using items from a bin somehow looked worse than when it was just a bin.
Best moment: Can we just say his entire outfit choice? It was skin tight to such a degree that, years after the show first aired, we can still describe – in detail – what we saw. It’s a memory we really wish we didn’t have…
9. Joe Thomas (series 8)
If you’d told us the deeply awkward Joe Thomas had been kidnapped and made to do every task as a form of punishment, we’d probably believe you. But he was a genius booking, flipping between not caring at all to caring almost too much, blowing his top when he demanded his team “put some [BLEEPIN’] effort in.”
Best moment: When he managed to sneak up on Alex on a railway bridge in a hide and seek task, and then didn’t know what to do once he’d completed it in possibly the most awkward conversation committed to screen.
10. Rhod Gilbert (series 7)
Some people quake in fear at the Taskmaster’s roar. Then there’s Rhod Gilbert, who spent most of the series winding up his friend Greg by constantly resurfacing an old photo of him in his pants or – in the creepiest things task – revealing he had hidden inside Davies’ closet and filmed him while he was asleep. Beautiful.
Best moment: When tasked with not blinking for the longest time, he went to extraordinary lengths, including gaffer tape and tipping the tears out of his eyes. Not one to watch if you’re squeamish.
11. Mark Watson (series 5)
More ammo for series 5 being The Best Series. Mark Watson was a bundle of nervous energy. When he got it right – such as the £18,000 garden gate he brought in for the most surprisingly expensive item task – he nailed it. Other times, he was paired with Nish Kumar. But a hard-fought second-place finish.
Best moment: Occasionally on Taskmaster, contestants are given individual tasks. Mark was tasked with sending “cheeky texts” to the Taskmaster every day for five months. He dutifully obliged. On his own. Every day. Except one. So... no points. You have never seen a man so broken.
12. Joe Lycett (series 4)
If you can find someone that looks at you like Joe Lycett looked directly into the camera and smiled during the task to paint the best picture of the Taskmaster from a distance, then you’d be a lucky person. A very laudable second-place for the man who destroyed a cake by exploding it with fireworks.
Best moment: In a Taskmaster first, Joe performed a task – opening a jar of mayonnaise covered in Vaseline in the quickest time – before even reading the task. His time of 0.00 has yet to be beaten.
13. Romesh Ranganathan (series 1)
A benchmark setter in series 1, Romesh’s dry, sardonic wit was made for moments like filling an egg cup with tears (it involved chilli sauce, urgh). He has the honour of being the first contestant to win a recorded task, and a less special kind of honour by never winning a single episode, despite finishing second overall.
Best moment: When he had to film something that would look impressive in reverse, he met that brief with extraordinary results, and “tree wizard” was born.
14. Kerry Godliman (series 7)
While so many contestants are methodical, considered and thoughtful in their approach, Kerry adopted the bish-bash-bosh method of completing a task, often being midway through a task before she had come up with an idea. But it worked. The Series 7 champion, ladies and gentlemen. Wallop!
Best moment: “BECAUSE HE’S YOUR SON,” ended the team task where she had to write and perform the most suspenseful soap opera cliff-hanger. It was something.
15. Jon Richardson (series 2)
Second-placed in series 2, Jon’s analytical mind was often very good. That was until that mind let him down – such as when he sang “Desperado” to the Mayor of Chesham to impress him. It was a moment that Jon had to leave the stage because he couldn’t watch. Worse still, it didn’t even impress the Mayor.
Best moment: In yet another “moment from Taskmaster that haunts our dreams”, his modern-day version of “Three Blind Mice” was disturbing on a Hitchcock level.
16. Aisling Bea (series 5)
Another series 5 comic, and Aisling was brilliant. Not always at the tasks, sadly for her, but she certainly brought chaos and the unexpected. She had many, many highlights including her rainbow scene of a leprechaun painted in the dark or her parody film of Taken called Took starring Spoony Neeson, a wooden spoon.
Best moment: In a classic It Was Over Before It Even Started, in the task to build a tower of cans while shaking Alex’s hand and naming different countries between whistle blows, Aisling missed the first whistle. So, despite saying 62 countries and building a 10 can high tower, she only received one point. We bet she still isn’t happy.
17. Johnny Vegas (series 10)
A man on the brink of a Taskmaster-inflicted breakdown during nearly every task. During a task involving some balloons, he was so confident about his idea, right up to the point the balloons floated away. While he was constructing a beer mat house, he was so good, until it kept falling over. Each time, so near, and yet…
Best moment: So many, but during a task to catapult a shoe into the bathtub, he used a stepladder and made a joke about falling off. You can probably guess what happened next.
18. Lolly Adefope (series 4)
The nicest contestant in Taskmaster history? Perhaps. One of the greatest contestants at the prize task? Definitely. She got top marks for four out of eight prize tasks, and equal numbers of fours and threes in the remaining shows. Her most surprising photo of her as Princess Diana offers a very different interpretation of The Crown.
Best moment: In a game of hide-and-seek, she was so good, she kept phoning Alex to taunt him. She’d probably still be in her hiding place if she wasn’t off doing Ghosts and another shows, because Alex wasn’t even close to finding her.
19. Katherine Parkinson (series 10)
It’s unclear whether actress Katherine Parkinson had ever watched Taskmaster. She certainly didn’t get why Alex was there, often utilising him somewhere between a butler and her husband. She was very, very bad at the tasks, but endearingly so. One of the best bad contestants in the show’s run.
Best moment: “Am I the spider?” is a question that will haunt Katherine Parkinson for life (watch the video above). She might win an Oscar one day, but if nobody in the press conference following her acceptance speech asks her if she’s the spider, we will have failed as a people.
20. Lou Sanders (series 8)
It takes a bold person to wear an outfit with the words “Taskmaster Winner Series 8”. But Lou Sanders was that bold person, and also slightly psychic as she did eventually win it. She brought a manic energy to all the tasks and did remarkably well not to commit a crime against the very bossy Iain Sterling during all the team tasks.
Best moment: Either the moment she made Alex eat from a dustpan or her very grim insect moustache.
21. Nish Kumar (series 5)
Two things we know: 1. Nish Kumar is a very intelligent man; 2. Nish Kumar was hopeless on Taskmaster, to the point Greg took him aside to give him a mid-series pep talk. “You’re not a bad guy, Nish,” he told him. His Weetabix crumbling as he grasped it was basically a metaphor for his appearance on the show.
Best moment: The final episode. The final task. Alongside Mark Watson, he wrote and performed a song for a stranger. That stranger was Rosalind. And it was so joyous and lovely. Certainly kinder than Bob, Sally and Aisling’s one about Rosalind being “a nightmare”. (And yes, we have cleaned that up considerably).
22. Iain Sterling (series 8)
Many comedians go onto Taskmaster to have a laugh or do something a bit different. Not Iain Sterling. He went to win. His super competitiveness – as seen in his meltdown over the standard of ventriloquist dummies made by his opponents in episode 1 – felt like it would carry him to victory. But alas, Lou Sanders was too strong.
Best moment: When tasked with travelling the furthest distance while making a constant noise with his mouth, Iain opted to beatbox, which famously isn’t a continuous noise. As such, he recorded one metre.
23. Josh Widdicombe (series 1)
The OG winner (and first Champion of Champions victor) who set the pace. Although, upon swearing blind that by simply attaching a handle to a wheelbarrow means it’s a mug during the task to throw a teabag into a mug, Josh Widdicombe is not a man you’d ever want to offer you a cup of tea.
Best moment: Again, in a benchmark-setting move, for the task to buy the Taskmaster a present for £20, Josh bought a real tattoo of Greg’s name on his real foot. One of the rare moments the Taskmaster has been genuinely speechless.
24. Joe Wilkinson (series 2)
The best review of Joe Wilkinson’s performance on Taskmaster is that he behaved exactly as you’d expect Joe Wilkinson to act on Taskmaster. In the Mayor of Chesham task, to impress him, Joe bought the Mayor 42 Calippos, eight cans of lager and bunged him £15. He came fifth in that series, out of five. Robbed!
Best moment: Just as heartbreaking as Aisling Bea’s tower. In the task to get a potato into a golf hole from a distance, Joe just flung it in on his first attempt and scored a potato in one. It was amazing. Except, the rule said that you couldn’t touch the red mat surrounding the hole, and Joe’s foot was slightly touching it. Disqualified.
25. Ed Gamble (series 9)
So good was eventual winner Ed Gamble, that he now does the official Taskmaster podcast. He had many highlights, from the task to do the most preposterous thing with a chickpea (it involved a date, a dinner, a car accident and a rattling caravan) to the moment he dressed as a baby to sing lyrics to the Taskmaster theme tune.
Best moment: Hard to top the chickpea – and later hummus – incident. But when he was turned into a BSDM buckaroo in the task to make the best real-life board game, it was an entire mood.
Taskmaster series 12 start date
Taskmaster begins on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Thursday 23 September at 9pm. The series continues for 10 episodes every Thursday until the grand final on Thursday 25 November. You can catch up on episodes you’ve missed in Apps & Games > All 4, as well as finding the previous 11 series there, too.
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