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Taskmaster’s 50 best ever tasks

Taskmaster’s 50 best ever tasks

The greatest and silliest show in the world is back! We run down the comedians taking part in series 14, plus look back at the 50 greatest tasks of all time


By Simon Ward, Content Editor

It’s hard to pick the greatest show on television because it’s so subjective. For many people, The West Wing, The Wire or The Sopranos stand head and shoulders above everything else. But we ask you: did any of those Peak TV shows feature a comedian vindictively making another comedian sit bare-bottomed on top of a cake for your entertainment? No, they didn’t. Tony Soprano definitely missed a trick there.

 

Yes, we’re talking about Taskmaster. (The comedian was Liza Tarbuck and the victim was Alex Horne, just in case you needed that case closed). It’s back for its 14th series with another stonking line-up of comedians. They are: Dara Ó Briain (Mock The Week), Fern Brady (British As Folk), Munya Chawawa (Race Around Britain), John Kearns (Guessable) and Sarah Millican (The Sarah Millican Television Programme).
 


Each week across ten episodes, the comics will compete against each other (and occasionally as a team) in a series of tasks judged by the titular Taskmaster Greg Davies (The Cleaner). Each episode has a winner who takes home a collection of rubbish prizes from the initial “Prize task”, while the comedian with the most points across the series takes home a golden statue in the shape of Greg’s head.

 

Making sure all the tasks are followed to the letter is the much-maligned Taskmaster’s assistant/punching bag, “Little” Alex Horne (who, in reality, is actually quite tall; he also created the entire show, makes up the tasks, and probably does the catering and make-up).

 

Why the show has remained so fresh is a testament to the creativity of the tasks. But there’s something more. The comedians reveal themselves over the ten weeks like nothing else on TV; their foibles, their pettiness, their annoyances and how their brains work. It all comes out in the wash. You root for some, you sympathise for others (hello, Nish Kumar!). It’s also without doubt one of the funniest things on TV.

 

With 13 series so far, there have undoubtedly been a lot of incredible tasks. So ahead of Taskmaster series 14 starting on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Thursday 29 September at 9pm, we’ve picked out the 50 best ever tasks (in series order).

 

Your task is to read the whole thing translated into a language that isn’t your own (or you could just read it normally, we guess). Your time starts… now.

 

1. Reverse, reverse

Series 1, Episode 2

Film tasks are always a highlight. In the OG one, contestants had to film something that looked impressive in reverse. Romesh Ranganathan made the immediately iconic music video for “Tree Wizard”, the story of a Tree Wizard who magicked balloons into existence.

 

2. The present

Series 1, Episode 3

This task to buy the Taskmaster the best present for £20 featured in the opening three series, but it was never bettered than in series 1 when Josh Widdicombe got a real tattoo of Greg’s name on his foot. Greg Davies has still never looked so shocked. Five sweet points.

 

3. Counting conundrum

Series 1, Episode 4

Occasionally, comics get individual tasks for the sheer hell of it. Ahead of an ad break, Greg wondered aloud how many baked beans were in a tin. It then cut to a filmed segment of Josh Widdicombe answering that very question in a task he did alone. Then for ad break two, Greg speculated the same about spaghetti hoops in a tin. The same happened, and again, just Josh. But the cruellest was yet to come as he finally questioned the number of grains of rice in a bag. Cruel, yes. Funny? Very.

 

4. Hole in one (almost)

Series 2, Episode 1

Get the potato into the golf hole. You may not touch the red green. Joe Wilkinson stepped forward and flung that spud into the hole on his first attempt. No camera trickery. He really did it. The audience lost their minds. Joe called it the “best thing [he’d] ever done.” It was so good, that we just had to see it again. Then came a replay that showed… Joe’s foot had been touching the red green. It led to a crushing disqualification. It was, to quote Greg: “genuinely harrowing.”

 

5. Nursey crime

Series 2, Episode 2

In which Jon Richardson in the task to make the best music video for a nursery rhyme showed the bloody aftermath of “Three Blind Mice” with accompanying horror film-style instrumental. Were the discarded walking canes and glasses too much? You decide…

 

6. Mayoral race

Series 2, Episode 3

How many Mayors have had a rap and a poem written about them (Katherine Ryan and Richard Osman) and have been serenaded by the country’s best comedians (Jon Richardson and Doc Brown). Despite Katherine Ryan winning this task to impress the Mayor of Chesham (“That’s Peter Hudson, you know that you can trust him”), it was Joe Wilkinson’s effort to impress that sticks in the mind: 42 Calippos, 8 cans of lager and £15 in cash.

 

7. Spread your clothes

Series 3, Episode 4

Lateral thinking goes a long way in Taskmaster. Here, contestants had to spread their clothes as far as possible at their own expense. Al Murray spent £340 on two taxis to send his clothes across 6.2 square miles. Paul Chowdhry, meanwhile, put his socks on a tree in the Taskmaster Garden. He might have received only 1 point, but he also saved £340, so…

 

8. Destroy this cake

Series 4, Episode 1

If you’ve ever wanted to know what Bake Off hosts really feel about baking, in this task to destroy a cake, just watch the glee on Mel Giedroyc’s face as she violently squashed a cake into a table with her bare hands or Noel Fielding’s joy at putting his cake in a washing machine. You wouldn’t get a “Hollywood Handshake” for that!

 

9. Long distance painting

Series 4, Episode 2

Joe Lycett was a revelation on Taskmaster, and this was one of his highlights when he had to paint a picture of the Taskmaster at a distance from the canvas. Joe had an extra task: to smile at the camera with increasing enthusiasm every 30 seconds and, well, the results were incredible.

 

10. Fishbowl fails

Series 4, Episode 3

Two reasons why the task to move water from one fishbowl to the other without moving the bowls was an all-time great. The first is any task that has the contestant reading the rules and then immediately breaking them (Lolly Adefope, who instantly moved the fishbowls). The second is when there’s a hidden rule they miss. Random objects were left out to help them move the water, including a bar of chocolate. The secret rule on the back of the envelope said that any contestant who ate the chocolate would be deducted five points. Guess what Joe Lycett and Mel Giedroyc did…

 

11. Special cuddles

Series 5, Episode 1

Bob Mortimer was a Taskmaster G.O.A.T. For the task to give Alex a special cuddle, he opted to do it in his closed car boot, largely because he confessed, he’d been looking for an excuse to get into his car boot. Quite amazing.

 

12. Hoop dreams

Series 5, Episode 1

Nish Kumar was brilliant, although more through lack of accomplishment than anything else. But in episode 1, we all thought he was a Michael Jordan-like God in the task to get a basketball through a hoop without using his hands. First go, he kicked the ball straight into the hoop. The audience went wild. That was until it was revealed there had been more than 50 previous attempts over half an hour. It set a precedent for Nish.

 

13. Coconut businessman

Series 5, Episode 3

The task to make a coconut look like a businessman involved Bob Mortimer drawing a face on a coconut. That’s it. But boy, was it funny.

 

14. Eat, throw, balance

Series 5, Episode 3

Contestants were offered a jelly, a Weetabix and a Twiglet. They had to balance one item, throw an item into a bucket at a distance and eat the remaining item, all in the fastest time. Sally Phillips was bing (threw the jelly), bang (ate the Twiglet), bosh (balanced the Weetabix). It was very impressive.

 

15. Cheeky texts

Series 5, Episode 5

Oh, Mark Watson! Has an individual task ever been this cruel? Mark had to send the Taskmaster an anonymous “cheeky” text message every day for five months. Yes, you read that right – five months! Which he dutifully did. 148 texts, in fact. The only issue was that the task required 150, so he failed. Never have you seen a man so utterly broken.

 

16. Birthing footage

Series 5, Episode 6

Sally Phillips should have (arguably) won series 5. Her finest moment was when she had to record the most incredible footage with a camera strapped to her head, which she interpreted as showing the very vivid, graphic, horribly realistic birth of Alex as a 183lb baby. Other notables in this task were Aisling Bea’s parody of Taken called Took and Bob Mortimer discovering his own head in a box of Wotsits.

 

17. Taskonbury

Series 5, Episode 8

Arguably Peak Taskmaster is a team task to write and perform a song about a woman named Rosalind. In front of Rosalind. Aisling Bea, Bob Mortimer and Sally Phillips wrote an unhinged ballad called “Quite Good Considering” about her being “a nightmare” and “an average cellist”, while Mark Watson and Nish Kumar – in their finest hour on the show – did a lovely, heartwarming, really-quite-excellent song called “I’m Always Seeing You (Do Cool Stuff)”. Taskmaster has had a lot of song tasks, but this was a cut above them all.

 

18. Extraordinary journey

Series 6, Episode 2

The comedians were presented with a little wind-up man and instructed to make him go on the most extraordinary journey. So, Liza Tuckbuck made the little man cross the road where he was quickly hit by a car. To complete the journey, she stamped on him. Well, death is the final journey, which is extraordinary in its way…

 

19. Bedtime story

Series 6, Episode 3

Contestants had to write, illustrate and read out a bedtime story for grown-ups. Liza wrote a story about a scatterbrained man who ate an old prawn sandwich and pooed himself. It was a moment.

 

20. 100 times

Series 6, Episode 5

This team task wasn’t so great because of the task per se. It was because of how it played out. Asim Chaudhry, Liza Tarbuck and Tim Vine were presented with a series of clues connected by string that spelt out the word “hop”. Once you’d worked that bit out, you had to do it 100 times. Liza worked out the link in under a minute, while Asim and Tim ignored her and continued trying to work it out. So, Liza did the 100 hops herself and won the task for her team.

 

21. Cake love

Series 6, Episode 10

Liza Tarbuck is a national treasure, and much of that national treasure status was formed in her ten weeks on Taskmaster. She was inventive, quick-minded and some kind of evil genius. In the task to tell the Taskmaster you love him in the most meaningful way, she leaned into that inventiveness and turned full-blown Bond villain as she made Alex put his bare backside on a cake inside the shed. The funniest part was watching her run away giggling to herself. She later admitted she felt dirty, as did we all.

 

22. Fast story

Series 7, Episode 2

Two very important parts of this task to write a ten-word story before you reach the finish line: you must be running while writing, and the fastest across the finish line wins. Rhod Gilbert took 10 minutes and 12 seconds (his accurate 1-point claiming effort: “The man ran for exactly 10 minutes 12 seconds, losing”). James Acaster, meanwhile, gave us this legend in just 20 seconds: “The boy ran to France, and I loved that boy.”

 

23. Excite Alex

Series 7, Episode 3

The most notable thing about Phil Wang in Taskmaster wasn’t necessarily his task performance. Rather, it was his Kill Bill outfit that showed – well – everything. But the task to excite Alex so his heart rate would increase, as measured on a blood-pressure monitor, was his high point. No, it didn’t involve his revealing outfit. Rather, he gave Alex a sugary coffee, did martial arts in front of him and then showed him videos of near misses. Alex was so relaxed that it decreased his heart rate.

 

24. Soap opera cliff-hanger

Series 7, Episode 6

More Peak Taskmaster with Jessica Knappett and Kerry Godliman teaming up to write and perform the most suspenseful soap opera cliff-hanger. Their one took place in soap opera Cul de Sac, as Donna (Kerry) fights with Donna (Jessica) who was about to sleep with Alex. It’s then revealed Alex is the son of Donna (Kerry), who then promptly throws up. No notes.

 

25. Don’t blink

Series 7, Episode 7

Genuinely distressing as the contestants had to not blink for the longest time with Rhod Gilbert taping his eyelids and tipping the tears out of his eyes for 7 minutes and 10 seconds. It has scarred us for life. Very much a “don’t try this at home” moment.

 

26. Hula oops

Series 7, Episode 9

This two-part task nearly broke James Acaster. First, you had to hula for a minute with a hula hoop. Then, whatever time you got, you had to improve on it live in the studio. Poor Acaster. He had really practised to improve on his time of 6 seconds. But when it came to showtime, he only managed 5 seconds. He then begged for a second attempt and showed everyone how good he had got. But the task clearly stated he had only one attempt…

 

27. Extension detention

Series 7, Episode 7

Seeing James Acaster lose his mind is always a quality watch. During the task to build the best extension to the Taskmaster House, Acaster had a full-blown rant at Rhod Gilbert for ignoring the garage, which was filled with building materials. Classic.

 

28. Video games

Series 7, Episode 10

One of those tasks where everyone does well. Here, contestants had to physically recreate a classic computer game. Jessica Knappett did a brilliant Mario Kart, Phil Wang did a clever GoldenEye, Rhod Gilbert seemed to want to get some frustration out by throwing tennis balls at a crowd of people to mimic Space Invaders, while Kerry recreated a very accurate Tetris. But it was James Acaster’s perfect impression of the movements in Grand Theft Auto – including the funny jump and runs – that won the sweet points.

 

29. Hiding in plain sight

Series 8, Episode 1

As much for Joe Thomas’ awkwardness as anything else. Alex was stationed on a railway bridge and contestants had to get close to him without Alex noticing them. He would duck down for 10 seconds and then pop up again for 10 seconds. Stealthy Joe won the task and got within 1 metre of Alex, but was then so awkward, it was a joy to watch.

 

30. Distant moustache

Series 8, Episode 2

If you’ve never seen Taskmaster, you’ve probably stumbled across this clip where comics had to make a moustache that looked different from a distance as it did close up. Lou Sanders (fake flies and real mealworms) and Paul Sinha (caviar) were great, but what sticks in the mind is how (probably unjustifiably) annoyed Greg was with Iain Stirling’s map of the village of Liphook.

 

31. Who’s a pretty boy?

Series 8, Episode 3

In which the comedians had to guess what costume Alex was wearing by asking him questions, and Alex could only communicate with a horn. Great for the parrot costume alone. Even better for Joe Thomas’ animal breakdown.

 

32. Card counting

Series 8, Episode 6

Basically: Paul Sinha managed to (almost) memorise the order of an entire deck of cards in five minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, “The Sinnerman”.

 

33. Aubergine hiding

Series 9, Episode 1

The task was simple. Hide three aubergines in the room for Alex to find. The longest time it takes for Alex to find all three, wins. David Baddiel, an exceptionally clever man, comedian and author taped one to the Taskmaster portrait (that immediately fell off the wall and alerted Alex), he put another in a fruit bowl and put the other down his trousers but forgot to do his flies up. It took Alex 2 minutes, and it’s amazing it took that long.

 

34. Taskmaster lyrics

Series 9, Episode 8

Write the best lyrics to the Taskmaster theme tune, and perform them in the most memorable way, was the task. Co-writer of the greatest England football song of all time, David Baddiel, did quite a poor effort, while Rose Matafeo’s Western-themed rap was properly brilliant. But it’s Ed Gamble’s attempt we’ll remember, as he was dressed as a baby crying about missing his mum (Alex). Weird, surreal, brilliant.

 

35. Chickpea romance

Series 9, Episode 10

In the task to do the most preposterous thing with a chickpea, everyone stepped up. David Baddiel staged a modern telling of the nativity (“chickpea-tivity”) and Ed Gamble went on a date with it, saw it die in a car accident and then… probably best if you watch it yourself. Meanwhile, Rose Matafeo hosted a funeral for her chickpea, “Chick Pataki”. Stunning.

 

36. Into the frying pan

Series 10, Episode 1

The first series on Channel 4, but also a scaled-back, Covid-safe series. Did it mean there would be any less craziness or competitiveness? No, quite the opposite. Here, comics had to land the most eggs in a frying pan while standing on a balcony. Every contestant had a breakdown, Johnny Vegas was genuinely broken. Only one point was given (to Daisy May Cooper). It was the perfect start to a new era.

 

37. Shoe won’t believe it

Series 10, Episode 3

Here, comedians had to catapult a shoe into the bath using a homemade catapult contraption. Johnny Vegas tried to catapult the shoe with a rake on a ladder. He joked about falling off the ladder. You can probably guess what came next…

 

38. Most watermelon

Series 10, Episode 5

This team task involved eating the most watermelon, but you couldn’t feed yourself. It descended into something akin to the last days of Rome as Daisy May Cooper and Richard Herring gorged – and we really underline the word “gorged” – on melon in a sight that will probably put your off that fruit (or indeed all fruit) for life.

 

39. Silent cocktails

Series 10, Episode 6

The comedians had to make tasty, pretty cocktails as quietly as possible. If they made a noise over 60db, they had to scream a phrase and start again. Daisy May Cooper’s was “I love this” and it almost ended her. And, to look into her eyes, she almost ended Alex.

 

40. Spider feet

Series 10, Episode 10

Actually, the task to put wellies (attached with string that wasn’t allowed to break) on a giant fake spider’s feet was simple. The spider was outside, and all the comics found it very quickly… except for Katherine Parkinson. She didn’t realise she could leave the room, so ended up building her own spider out of table legs. Taskmaster does strange things to people, and this task left Parkinson – at one point – uttering the legend: “Am I the spider?” Wild.

 

41. Plate delivery

Series 11, Episode 1

So many highlights in this task to deliver unbroken plates to Alex by either scooter, bike or hoverboard. Mike Wozniak on a hoverboard, for a start. Sarah Kendall shouting, “life’s for living”. Lee Mack delivering all the plates in one go on a tiny bike dressed as Evel Knievel. Jamali Maddix leaving a total trail of destruction. And Charlotte Ritchie laughing the whole way through. Brilliant.

 

42. Loo roll

Series 11, Episode 4

One of those great tasks where if you work it out with lateral thinking, then it becomes a lot simpler – but if you don’t, oh boy. The task was to get a sheet of loo roll as far as possible. Only that sheet could touch the ground. The loo roll couldn’t break. And it had to be always in the loo roll holder. However, it didn’t say you couldn’t remove the loo roll holder from the wall – something only Jamali Maddix and Lee Mack worked out.

 

43. Difficult sounds

Series 11, Episode 6

The individual task for Mike Wozniak was thus: fart. After quite some effort, out came a tiny squelching noise, the sound of which you can’t unhear. But then there was more. He revealed that the effort had also dislodged a haemorrhoid that was still hanging loose, an area he vividly described as an “absolute casserole.” We’ll let that notion dangle, so to speak.

 

44. Net balls

Series 12, Episode 5

Here because of the quite terrible effort in this team task to get the most balls in the net. It featured a series of intricate rules so complicated that both teams scored negative points (Alan Davies and Victoria Coren Mitchell, with Alex Horne helping, scored -128 points). It meant everyone finished the task with no points, a rare Taskmaster occurrence.

 

45. More cake sitting

Series 12, Episode 5

Sit on a cake. Fastest wins. It was here we learned Victoria Coren Mitchell always carries flapjacks with her, which she sat on in 25 seconds for five sweet points. Morgana Robinson, meanwhile, baked a cake from scratch and took 1 hour 45 minutes. So, what we’ve learned is always carry flapjack, because you never know when it’ll come in handy.

 

46. Dog toy

Series 12, Episode 6

The task was to make a cute dog toy for a cute dog, with the most engaging toy (from the dog’s POV) winning. The highlight – apart from Marco the dog, who was very cute – was Victoria Coren Mitchell being so excited about the prospect of a real dog, and her devastation that she wouldn’t get to meet him. “Whhhhhhhy!”

 

47. Bite the duck

Series 13, Episode 3

The most recent series was a bit of a classic. Chris Ramsey was very, very good at tasks. But occasionally, he just went for chaotic evil, such as in the task where you had to get a duck into Alex’s mouth by getting him the least wet (the duck was in a bucket you couldn’t reach). After a noble attempt that didn’t pan out, he gave up and just power-hosed Alex.

 

48. Tongue tasting

Series 13, Episode 8

If there’s one word for the task where comedians had to keep their tongues out and lick a lemon, sherbet and ice lolly and then stand in front of a fan over and over again, it’s this: ick. The tongue out for the longest time would win, so Sophie Duker did it for more than 26 minutes, almost twice as long as Chris Ramsey. Up there with Rhod Gilbert’s taped eyes and Daisy May Cooper and Richard Herring’s watermelon orgy.

 

49. House Queens

Series 13, Episode 10

Another brilliant music task, this time where the comedians had to record six separate tracks and could only use their mouths or body parts as the instruments. Ardal O’Hanlon and Chris Ramsey created a truly bonkers song about trying to please Greg that felt and sounded like a fever dream, while Bridget Christie, Judi Love and Sophie Duker birthed “The House Queens” that was instantly iconic and involved Bridget doing unnecessary whistling and a weird dance.

 

50. Duck basket

Series 13, Episode 10

Some people on Taskmaster don’t think outside the box. Some do the easiest possible version of the task. Some don’t try. Then there was Judi Love, a glorious booking who phoned it in at every opportunity – and we mean that as a compliment. Pick of the bunch was a task to get the most ducks in Alex’s basket while he rode around on a bicycle. Sensing this meant exercise, Judi just cornered him, she broke his bike and was at one point on the bike with Alex. Even after all of that, she still got disqualified as she failed to follow the rule of not carrying more than one duck. Bob Mortimer levels of greatness!

 

When does Taskmaster series 14 start?

Taskmaster begins on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) at 9pm on Thursday 29 September. You can also catch up via Apps & Games > All 4.

 

The series will continue for 10 weeks and will conclude on Thursday 1 December.

 

Who has won Taskmaster?

  • Series 1 – Josh Widdecombe
  • Series 2 – Katherine Ryan
  • Series 3 – Rob Beckett
  • Series 4 – Noel Fielding
  • Series 5 – Bob Mortimer
  • Series 6 – Liza Tarbuck
  • Series 7 – Kerry Godliman
  • Series 8 – Lou Sanders
  • Series 9 – Ed Gamble
  • Series 10 – Richard Herring
  • Series 11 – Sarah Kendall
  • Series 12 – Morgana Robinson
  • Series 13 – Sophie Duker

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