What’s your favourite Taskmaster task? Did it result in a delicious failure or a triumphant win? Was it a crafty solution from a cunning mind, or a bonkers, impractical response that could only have come from the brain of John Kearns?
We asked our writers to nominate their favourites, in order (and not including Prize Tasks because that’s already been covered here), and collated the results into the Top 50 below. With 15 series proper, two Champion of Champions specials, and multiple New Year’s Treat episodes, there were approximately 89,000 tasks to choose from, hence a nice, neat 50.
If you’re at all concerned about the scientific robustness of our approach, rest assured that Google Sheets formulas were used in the creation of this list, resulting in an entirely accurate ranking order that cannot be questioned. Well alright, you can question it. (At points during this 9,000+ word endeavour, we all questioned it.)
So, what are the best Taskmaster tasks of all time? Here’s our top 50. Your time starts now.
50. Write a ten-word story before you reach the finish line. You must be running while writing (S7, E2)
We open our list with a task that sounds simple enough but in great Taskmaster tradition, is it really? Not when Phil Wang or Rhod Gilbert are involved.
In a lovely country field, the series seven contestants all decided that rather than thinking about their story first, then running while writing it down, the best thing to do would be to pelt off with zero thought or planning. This led to some strange stories involving giants (Wang), shoes (Kerry Godliman) and of course, an albino partridge (Jessica Knappett). Highlights of the task include James Acaster’s slick fence jump, Rhod Gilbert running for 10 minutes and 12 seconds and being so knackered that he couldn’t read his story aloud, and Phil Wang citing Homer and deciding to use the ‘oral tradition’ of storytelling for his ten word tale (when really he had missed the fact that there was a pen and paper available). – Elizabeth Donoghue
49. Make the largest object properly vanish. You may not use any editing trickery (S10, E3)
First impressions count – especially on the opening episode of the tenth series of a beloved show like Taskmaster, on its new Channel 4 home. For Mawaan Rizwan this was even more important as arguably the least well-known contestant in the lineup going into this series, up against Bafta-winning Daisy May Cooper and Katherine Parkinson, and Johnny Vegas and Richard Herring’s combined 50 years of comedy experience.
But we needn’t have worried, because BOOM, straight off the bat, Rizwan gives us one of the best moments of the series. The contestants needed to make a large object disappear, and while Richard Herring made Alex Horne disappear by hiding behind a mirror and Johnny Vegas went on a political rant with a giant chicken, Mawaan Rizwan ingeniously made the Taskmaster house’s giant cow statue disappear in a way that genuinely elicits gasps when his methods are revealed. And just like that, Rizwan cemented himself as a contender well worth watching. – Laura Vickers-Green
48. Keep the basketball on the running machine for as long as possible. You may not touch the basketball or the running machine (S4, E2)
Taskmaster’s greatest tasks prompt both idiocy and inspiration, as seen in this ‘keep the basketball on the moving treadmill without touching either’ challenge. The inspiration came from Hugh Dennis, whose solution of cupping the ball in a bucket was so effective that he quickly tired of success and requested a chair and a book to pass the time.
The idiocy? That came from everybody else. Joe Lycett and Noel Fielding’s plan to load the running machine with sofa cushions and welcome mats were enjoyably stupid, and instant failures. With her snow shovel, Mel Giedroyc gamely fielded the ball for entire… seconds, while Lolly Adefope came so close to the Hugh approach but fell at the last hurdle by inexplicably not keeping hold of her bucket. Yes, we could argue whether Hugh eventually unplugging the running machine counted as touching it (it definitely did) but by then, his victory was so assured that who cares. Good. Honest. Fun. – Louisa Mellor
47. Hold a meeting with yourselves. There must be eight of you at the meeting. Most dramatic meeting moment wins (S13, E6)
Despite Judi Love being the only contestant to grasp the concept of a “dramatic moment” (and duly receiving the maximum five points), this unusual task was an insight into series 13’s minds. They had to hold a meeting in which a dramatic moment occurred, using visual camera trickery to create the illusion of there being eight versions of them in attendance. Nobody came out of it looking exactly good, but we certainly came out of it knowing them much better.
Bridget Christie, for instance, used the opportunity to give her personality flaws a pep talk (to Overly Sensitive: “You know what, be sensitive, just not overly” Helpful.), while Chris Ramsay sniffed out a chocolate thief with some grade-A acting, Sophie Duker solved the killing of Alex Horne, and Ardal O’Hanlon delivered a short play about tennis club embezzlement (and murder). Only Judi, with her Jeremy Kyle-style cheating revelation, pulled it off in any style, but we all went home a bit closer than before. – LM
46. Send the Taskmaster an anonymous cheeky text message every single day for the next 5 months (S5, E5)
Mean as it may seem to set a comedian a solo task that they think everyone else is doing but which turns out to be just for them, it’s really an act of love. You’re the chosen one! The one singled out from your peers because your reaction to learning the truth will be the funniest. Mark Watson’s reaction to learning that he and only he had been asked to text Greg Davies a cheeky message every day for five months – and that because he’d missed two days he didn’t even get any points for it – was the funniest. It showed the lengths comedians will go to for the promise of a point on this show, and showcased Greg Davies’ comedic ruthlessness. Watson’s response was only rivalled by that of Taskmaster New Zealand series one’s Guy Williams (whose little brother is the Taskmaster’s Assistant over there), who was the sole comedian made to sit a legitimate school maths exam. Carnage. – LM
45. Destroy this cake in the most beautiful way (S4, E1)
Which other show on television would allow, no, encourage a contestant to put a cake in a washing machine on a regular cycle, or explode one in slow-motion as part of a classical music and fireworks extravaganza? No other show on television, which is why Taskmaster is the greatest. This task gave the comedians free rein: here is a cake, there must be destruction and it must be beautiful.
Giedroyc’s work was fast and furious (and, as discussed in the studio, symbolic of years of pent-up career-based cake rage due to her role as co-presenter of The Great British Bake-Off), Dennis’ work was bizarre and clock-based (?), while Lolly Adefope’s was sweet and simple. After past criticism, Taskmaster these days tends not to waste as much food on the show as it used to, but anybody could see that this act of wastage was in the name of art. – LM
44. Find out the following information from this Swedish person. The Swedish person may not speak or write in English (S2, E1)
The opening episode of series two is one of the best in Taskmaster history, and this task has a lot to do with that. Fred the Swede returns (after series one contestants had to make him blush) and this time he holds the power, answering a series of questions including “what does your father do as a job?” and “what’s your greatest fear?” in Swedish while the contestants have to find ways to work out what he’s saying.
Not only do we get a rare moment of superbrain Richard Osman making a stupid mistake – asking Fred to spell out a word and taking excruciatingly too long to realise he was spelling it in Swedish, which is no help whatsoever – we also see Doc Brown jump to the nonsensical conclusion that the Swede’s sweeping gesture to demonstrate his father’s job (a painter) meant that he was a croupier.
Best of all, however, is sole female contestant Katherine Ryan running rings around her male counterparts by simply calling her Danish friend and getting her to translate Fred’s answers for her. Easy Swedey. – LVG
43. Walk over and hit that drum in exactly 9.58 seconds. Bonus: Most magnificent walk (S7, E7)
Taskmaster’s live tasks range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but this series seven task manages to be sublimely ridiculous thanks to one over-excited contestant. Jessica Knappett’s task enthusiasm would bring a smile to the face of the most curmudgeonly fan of the show, and in this task she truly earned her bonus two points for the ‘most magnificent walk’ by pretending to fall off the stage with a comedy leg in the air move until turning and actually falling off the stage. It’s a chef kiss of a Taskmaster moment that managed to beat all the other magnificent walks (even if it took her 27 rather than 9.58 seconds – it was worth it). – ED
42. Make the best noise (S7, E3)
It’s incredible, really, that it took until series seven to get to this gem – an idea so simple and so Taskmaster that it feels it should belong in the pilot episode. “The best noise” is a chaotically subjective category. The funniest? The loudest? The one created, experimental music-style, in a particularly surprising way such as by driving a tank over a picnic? It’s an extremely open field, as reflected by these responses.
Kerry Godliman used a balloon to make a fart noise (natch), James Acaster created a racket using some water-filled wellies and a guitar, Jessica Knappett over-delivered with a symphony of sounds (the objectively best of which was her spot-on airhorn impersonation), Rhod Gilbert used the opportunity to continue his campaign of bullying against Greg and recorded the sound of dropping dog dirt onto a cut-out of the Taskmaster, while Philly Philly Wang Wang was responsible for this tongue/lip monstrosity. (Bonus unaired clip here of Greg Davies making his own best noise, prompting frenemy Rhod Gilbert to ask if he’s alright. We all know that he isn’t.) – LM
41. Direct your teammate into the red circle. You must stay on your chair at all times. You may only issue one instruction of three words every 30 seconds.
The team tasks are split into one group of two contestants and one group of three. Does having an extra contestant give the team of three an advantage? This task – where one contestant has to guide their blindfolded teammate(s) to a red circle in the middle of a golf course using only three-word commands – proves that’s a resounding no.
While Lee Mack adeptly guides a blindfolded Mike Wozniak to the designated spot in four minutes without breaking a sweat, an increasingly exasperated Sarah Kendall spends over 20 minutes getting Charlotte Ritchie to scamper gleefully around without a clue what she’s doing, only remembering to give Jamali an instruction when he asks what’s going on every few minutes. It’s an epic failure, but at least Charlotte Ritchie had a lovely time. – LVG
40. Have an argument. You must take it in turns to angrily make a point using nor more than 10 words, and you must always end your point with a different four-letter word. You must look at each other throughout the argument and the person speaking must angrily wag their finger during their speech. The argument is over when there is ten seconds of silence, or when one of you looks away. (S11, E2)
The first team task of series eleven was simply wonderful. It was a hilarious glimpse into the different personalities of the contestants and had a whole load of Wozniak gold; when given the instructions and discovering every sentence had to end with a four letter word, he proclaimed “my head is filled with the word duck… I keep refreshing it and just the word duck keeps coming up”, when he was insulted about his tash he replied “this is precious hair!”, and when Lee Mack spoke over him, ending the task, he apologised to Mack for “shilly shallying”. The first team task created such an excellent double act of Mack and Wozniak that Alex had to remind them “it is meant to be an argument” at one point as it swayed into a sort of (strange) seduction.
The other team were terrible at arguing but my goodness, were they entertaining; Jamali Maddix created the scathing insult “go to bank”, Sarah Kendall just scoffed “HAHA!” as a retort in one of her rounds and Charlotte Ritchie’s first thought of a four letter word was ‘hand’ (which she spelled out adorably). This task cemented Ritchie’s spot as one of the sweetest Taskmaster contestants ever, as her arguing style was just full of compliments including “the thing is, Jamali, is that you drive well”. – ED
39. Get this feather into the bath
This was a particularly fiendish team task: transporting a feather into the bath without speaking, touching the feather, letting the feather touch the ground, or allowing the feather to touch an object for more than five seconds. For an added torturous surprise, the bath had been sneakily moved from its usual spot in the garden to a room inside the house.
The juxtaposition of the two attempts at this team task are sublime. While Sarah Millican and Munya Chawawa come up with the clever method of feeding the feather down an array of pipes using a leaf blower, Dara O’Briain, Fern Brady and John Kearns just panic and start frantically using some plates to thrust the feather between themselves like a silent floaty cartoon bomb. It’s unclear which emotion is more deafeningly tangible: Fern and John’s desperate wish to please Dara, or his unrelenting rage at their ineptitude, which led at one point to them losing the feather altogether. As an added bonus, the task provided the episode’s title, thanks to Fern Brady’s description of their “system of endless plates.” – LVG
38. Say the word “metronome” between every tick of this metronome. Also you must blow up and tie a balloon so it’s bigger than your head, neatly gift wrap the balloon and eat three whole poppadoms (S11, E8)
Inflation. Some wrapping. A little bit of munch munch, and quite a lot of tick tock. That’s how Alex Horne introduced this ludicrous task, which – and Greg Davies is quite right on this – is an undeniably strange thing to be asked to do. Not though, for Mike Wozniak, who set about it with mill-pond calm and a desire only to obey. (Metronome.) He blew up the balloon. (Metronome.) He wrapped the balloon. (Metronome.) He ate the three poppadoms. (Metronome.) (Metronome.) (Metronome.) From the shine on his shoes to the poppadom crumbs in his moustache, Wozniak truly was the people’s princess. The others (Metronome) made a little more (Metronome) fuss and a lot more mess. (Metronome.)
It’s called semantic satiation apparently, when you repeat a word so much that it loses all meaning. (Metronome.) – LM
37. Complete these tasks. You may not step beyond this line. You had ten minutes from when the fire was lit. (S11, E7)
Task-crafting at its finest here, in this multi-layered, multi-part challenge that involved speed reading a set of 13 implausibly stupid actions to perform on a series of objects attached to a wall (sample: “embrace the fish,” “undermine the vole”), and crucially, remembering what action to perform on which object when the task self-destructed by dint of Alex lighting a fuse and burning it to ashes. Drama!
As with most series seven tasks, everybody but Mike Wozniak fell instantly apart and washed a toy dog. If they’d cracked the additional code-breaking task and realised that each action and object started with consecutive letters in the alphabet (all the way from “attack the biscuit” to “yank the zebra”), then they had a better chance of getting the combinations right, but few did. We learned that Sarah Kennedy doesn’t know what a vole is. Or a badger. Or the alphabet. We learned about the government’s tap-water chemical conspiracy from Jamali Maddix. We learned that nobody undermines a vole like Mike Wozniak. (“You’ve got no chutzpah!”). And we also saw a biscuit mount a creditable counter-attack on Charlotte Ritchie. Deserves a higher place on this list, in my opinion. – LM
There’s one very simple reason this series 12 task stands out in the memory: Desiree Burch’s gloriously disastrous attempt. Nobody’s saying it was easy: you had to pop a balloon from a fair whack of a distance as quickly as possible using only tools from Alex’s “shop” (darts, forks, rubber ducks), each of which “cost” you a certain amount of time on the clock. As a result, we got to watch Burch go from chirpily optimistic to stoically resigned to her fate, throwing literally everything she had at the task without success, culminating in a wonderfully hopeless finale that pretty much summed up her attempt. While the balloon was eventually deflated, her spirit wasn’t, and this episode one task earned Burch a firm place as a Taskmaster fan favourite. – LVG
35. Make the most exotic sandwich. Eat the sandwich (S4, E8)
This sneaky two-part task arrived in series four, before contestants were fully wise to the Taskmaster’s wily ways, so they set themselves up for failure in style. Particular sandwich highlights were Mel Giedroych’s towering sarnie filled with over a dozen types of chocolate bar, Joe Lycett’s concoction served alongside an entire arctic roll, and Noel Fielding, who made a striptease-dancing Alex Horne the filling of his sandwich. One of the best bits was seeing the reactions once they read the second part of the task: while Joe Lycett called Alex a “f***ing prick” and Mel sighed and said “Oh, gang”, Hugh Dennis merely shrugged and said “Let’s go.” In particular, Mel and Noel showed excellent dedication to the task, the former accidentally snorting an M&M during her attempt and Noel consuming some of Alex Horne’s actual beard hair. Stunning. – LVG
34. Do something that will look impressive in reverse (S1, E2)
If you didn’t fall for Taskmaster in the very first episode of series one, then perhaps Romesh Ranganathan’s backwards short film in episode two will have sealed the deal. Who wouldn’t be delighted by the enthusiasm in Romesh’s usually deadpan voice as he sing-narrates the unforgettable tale of the balloon-creating, flying Tree Wizard?
Tasked with doing something that would look impressive in reverse, each comedian gave it their own twist: Josh Widdicombe used his super-strength (and a skateboard) to tow a van behind him, Frank Skinner… stood up, Tim Key did a jigsaw under timed conditions, Roisin Conaty elegantly gobbed some water in black and white while reading a book, and Romesh went all out with this charmingly amateur but endearingly excited fantasy character, complete with surprisingly catchy theme song. – LM
33. Silently, make the tastiest and prettiest cocktail with the coolest name. If you make any noise over 60dB, you must pour anything you’ve prepared into the bucket, shout your given phrase at a volume of over 100 dB and start again (S10, E6)
One of the best Taskmaster task sub genres is people having to repeat a phrase as they become more and more exasperated (see also ‘Display the shoe Alex is thinking of’ below, and the metronome poppadom balloon extravaganza) In the silent cocktail making task this was all the more enjoyable as every contestant had to shout their given phrase over 100db.
Daisy May Cooper started off fairly sensibly before she descended into fury and needed to take a minute to calm down after all her silent cocktail making attempts led to far too many shouts of “I love this!” for her to deal with. Other highlights include Johnny Vegas opening a jar of olives in his trousers to muffle the sound (it worked) and cocktail-making novice Mawaan Rizwan asking Alex “do you think wine and milk go together?”. – ED
32. Display the shoe Alex is thinking of. All the other shoes must be out of sight at the end of the attempt. You may only ask yes or no questions and you must say/do your given phrase/action after every answer. Fewest questions wins. (S13, E4)
As Judi Love said, this task was like “guess who with shoes” or “shoe who” or “guess shoe”. All the contestants had to find the shoe Alex was thinking of while asking as few questions as possible. Ardal O’Hanlon, being Ardal O’Hanlon, thought that the best question to eliminate a lot of the shoes on display was to ask, “would you wear them to a funeral?” He had absolute confidence in his question and thought it would leave little room for error. Spoiler: there was a lot of room for error.
Chris Ramsey’s charming and enthusiastic shouts of “no way!” after each question made his performance even more enjoyable and Sophie Duker, given the extra task of getting more exasperated with each question, didn’t have to do much acting (Alex was being particularly irritating in this task). It wasn’t Judi Love’s best task as she asked the same question about the shoes five times, but the top performance was Bridget Christie who ended up asking more questions than there were shoes. Phenomenal. – ED
31. Team task: Solve the riddle. You must all stay in your rooms. Fastest wins (S12, E4)
It was almost unfair to dish out this riddle team task in series 12 when one of the teams comprised Only Connect and QI mega-brains Alan Davies and Victoria Coren-Mitchell. But that didn’t stop it being a joy to watch, as Coren-Mitchell was in her element, whizzing through the mental gymnastics put in front of them so fast it was like watching Usain Bolt slow down to a jog while breaking the 100m World Record. She even decodes a cypher on the back of a jigsaw puzzle single-handedly without realising Alan Davies has the other half of the code on his own puzzle. Often, Taskmaster’s best moments are the epic fails, but more rarely we see moments of pure, unadulterated brilliance, and this is up there among the best of them. LVG
30. Persuade three dogs/chickens to stand on the red mat. Exactly 12 legs must be stood on the red mat at the same time (S4, E3)
Which is harder, herding dogs, or herding chickens? An outbreak of bird flu meant that Lolly Adefope ended up wrangling a different creature than the rest of the contestants who landed dogs. Dogs are cute and can in theory be told what to do, but chickens are a damn sight less scary when worked up. In this task, contestants had to get exactly 12 paws (or 4 chickens) onto a red mat at the same time. The chickens were diluted with ducks. The dogs were a little bit jumpy and barky. Mel Geidroyc was scared and decided to put sausages in her driving glove. Joe Lycett alarmed the mutts by wearing a massive furry coat. Great fun if you like a lot of dogs, and the right level of stressful if you don’t. – Rosie Fletcher
29. One at a time, make a noise without the Taskmaster identifying you. The person who makes the most unidentifiable noises wins (S12, E10)
They truly saved the best series 12 task to last with this banger of a live task, which is akin to one of those brilliantly stupid games you play when you’re three sherries into Christmas Day afternoon and trying to think of something more fun than charades. The fact the contestants can’t audibly laugh without giving themselves away only makes it even more hysterical, and if you don’t laugh when Alan Davies does his “wow monster” impression you’re possibly dead inside. – LVG
28. Impress this mayor (S2, E3)
There are two main reasons this task is so brilliant. One is that the mayor the contestants were tasked with impressing is sort of adorable, the kind of man who would feign being impressed for anyone really because he’s just nice, and who comes out with Dad jokes as when he answered Jon Richardson’s question “do you like sport?” by saying “No – built for pleasure, not for speed.” The other is the glorious juxtaposition of four of the five contestants’ woeful attempts to impress the mayor with shameless showboating, and Joe Wilkinson, who arrives with 42 Calippo ice lollies and some lager, allowing him and the mayor to kick back as equals, and sweetening the deal by giving him 15 quid from his wallet. Classic Wilkinson. – LVG
27. Make and wear a popcorn necklace with at least five pieces of popcorn and then do the opposite of the following: You must under no circumstances not avoid not making the bell not ring. The task is over when you have either rung the bell or not rung the bell and said “I did the right thing” three times. Fastest to not do the wrong thing wins. If you don’t do the right thing, you lose five points (S12,E8)
Sorry, what? You’d think the popcorn necklace was a whimsical diversion from a task which is basically a riddle. But actually the contestants appeared to struggle as much with that as they did with working out the series of negatives and then doing the opposite. At face value (and notwithstanding struggling to thread a needle) it looks as if this task is made for absolute clever stick Victoria Coren-Mitchell. But look again – you can be smart as all hell and fail to accurately read the instructions on a task. Guz Khan’s absolute joy at learning he had inadvertently won the task is a picture. Especially after getting freaked out by the possibility of ghost nuns in the church where it was filmed. – RF
26. Neatly hang all of Bernard’s clothes on that coat rail. You must stay behind the line at all times (S10, E10)
A well dressed mannequin called Bernard, a clothes rail, weak hangers and a square you can’t step out of; all together these make an excellent series ten task.
Poor old Bernard the mannequin. He was used as a hook by Richard Herring, called a piece of shit by Mawaan Rizwan, manhandled by Katherine Parkinson, and had his head smashed in by Daisy May Cooper and Johnny Vegas. Giving Bernard the mannequin a name made all of the violent treatment towards him far more emotive, highlighted at the end of his task when Johnny Vegas looked upon Bernard with part of his skull missing and cried one of series ten’s best lines: “My boy, my beautiful boy!”.
It’s also memorable for being the only time terribly polite (and wonderfully daft) Parkinson managed to find a (slight) loophole which led her to a win (thanks to some support from Richard Herring). The tears in her eyes when she was announced as the winner further cements Taskmaster as one of the best shows on telly – somehow undressing and throwing about a mannequin is moving? Don’t ask me why, but it is. – ED
25. Paint the best picture of a horse whilst riding a horse (S1, E1)
Roisin Conaty was amusingly phoning it in throughout the first season of Taskmaster, never putting in more than 40% effort at any time, but she point-blank refused to even attempt this episode one task to paint a picture of a horse while riding a horse – a task that really set the standard for what this show was and could become. While Conaty’s fellow contestants trotted endlessly round in uncomfortable-looking circles barely able to put paintbrush to paper on their real-life horses, Conaty calmly announced riding horses wasn’t for her, so the production team got her a very tame mechanical horse to ride instead. It’s one of the only times a contestant has actually noped on a task, and we respect Conaty’s sheer commitment to not being bothered to try. LVG
24. Sneeze (S5, E4)
So simple. So weird.
Sally Philips and Aisling Bea just plain cheat by not doing a real sneeze. Nish Kumar tried and failed. Bob Mortimer snorts white pepper (after speculating that jumping really high might work…) and manages a spectacular and joyful sneeze. But Mark Watson is the true hero of the task. Initially attempting a kind of “nose boombox” manoeuvre (which he claims usually works), Watson hangs about for 40 minutes trying to drag a sneeze out. When he is unable he promises Alex a sneeze within one to two working days, and delivers plentiful sneeze videos which become something of a sneeze montage. That’s dedication for you. – RF
23. Get this wheelie bin across the finish line (S4, E7)
Mel Giedroyc has a degree in French and Italian from Trinity College, Cambridge, which served her well in this task requiring an obstacle course and mini-challenges to be completed from inside a wheelie bin, using a blindfold, Hugh Dennis, and not a word of English. Mel spoke fairly fluent French – entertainingly renaming Hugh “Ugh” for the duration -, was adorable throughout, and got the job done.
Cambridge degrees though, won’t get you everywhere (except booked the first five seasons of Taskmaster – badum tish!). Using only four words of German, including schnell, nicht, ja, and… balloon, Lolly Adefope directed a blindfolded Joe Lycett and Noel Fielding around that course faster than Mel and Ugh as a victory for the children and Noel. Beautiful silliness. – LM
22. Get this potato into the golf hole (S2, E1)
If this isn’t the best task, then it certainly produced probably the most memorable moment in Taskmaster history, at the considerable expense of poor Joe Wilkinson. While the other contestants wasted time trying to find a clever way to throw their potato into the golf hole while avoiding touching the surrounding red carpet, Joe Wilkinson decided just to give it a punt, and miraculously slam-dunked the potato on his first try. The audience reaction was something akin to one of those clips of drunk football fans in the pub celebrating England scoring in the World Cup, and Wilkinson lapped up his moment of triumph.
But as we know, pride comes before a fall, and oh what a fall it was, as Alex Horne cruelly revealed that Joe had accidentally put a toe on the red carpet when completing his miracle shot. His genuinely tortured plea of “please don’t take this away from me” lives rent-free in Taskmaster fans’ heads to this day. TV gold. – LVG
21. Snort, then blow a raspberry, then whistle, then repeat (S14, E9)
Sometimes the simplest things are the best things. This one started life as a tie-breaker task to be used in the event of an points draw between two contestants, but turned out to be so much fun that it was upgraded. That’s largely thanks to Fern Brady and John Kearns, neither of whom could really whistle, and one of whom fell apart with the absurdity of it all. Fern cracked up, rendering her basically unable to participate (it’s hard to focus when your tentative attempts to produce a snort leave you with tears running down your face), and Greg having described the resultant VT as “a fairly intimate film of a breakdown.” Competitive Munya nailed it and got the five points, but we were all winners that day. – LM
20. Dramatically alter your appearance. Most dramatic alteration wins. You may start altering your appearance when you are inside the lift and the doors are closed (S7, E4)
Was the desire for the comedians to dramatically alter their appearance decided before or after the production team saw Phil Wang’s revealing yellow jumpsuit? We’ll never know. What we do know is that this was a brilliant task, largely down to on-site failure and in-studio animus.
The contestants were given five minutes, a few costume props and asked to prepare a quick-change to take place during an 18-second lift journey. Under pressure, several of them did the natural thing and started to remove Alex’s clothes. Jessica Knappett shouted her famous catchphrase “love it love it love it FELT” while Rhod Gilbert correctly identified jam. It went well for nobody, least of all James Acaster who – by pressing the lift’s emergency button – clearly thought he’d done a Richard Osman and found a genius task loophole that would give him unlimited time, when all he’d actually done was: take off his jacket while shouting “No! No! No!” Yes! Yes! Yes! – LM
19. Alex is on that bridge in the distance with lights on his head. Get as close as you can to Alex without him noticing you. Alex will duck down behind the wall for 10 seconds, then pop up for 10 seconds, then back down for 10 seconds, and so on until he notices you (S8, E1)
A really fun large-scale task here for the season eight opener. Paul Sinha and Sian Gibson both got confused about when Alex was up and when he was down which led to them being spotted fairly early on (Sinha, hiding in a barn next to the Taskmaster cow declared he’d got himself “into a bit of bother” while Gibson tried to convince Alex that he had spotted a fox, not her, running along in a boilersuit).
The other three competitors gave impressive performances and all managed to get to the bridge Alex was popping up from. After abandoning her initial plan of hiding herself under a bright pink bin (“Will he notice me if I’m a bin?”), Lou Sanders did some nifty running and Iain Stirling put in a great, no-nonsense attempt.
Joe Thomas was the victor and proved to be fast on his feet in his genuinely thrilling attempt. Some of the best moments of this Taskmaster series are Thomas’ uncomfortable social interactions, and even after this great performance what we remember is his post-task chat with Alex that provided further evidence that he may be the most awkward man alive. – ED
18. Design and demonstrate the best quick-change outfit (S7, E2)
This was the first task of series seven, and it gave us a pretty good insight into how the rest of the series would go for each contestant. Jessica Knappett aced the quick change without breaking a sweat, going from a dramatic wedding dress to an eighties lycra workout ensemble. James Acaster tried adorably hard but failed miserably. Phil Wang failed miserably without even trying hard in the first place, living in his own wondrous world. Rhod Gilbert used the task as an opportunity to torture Alex by making him wear nothing but a bikini and then removing his bottoms. And Kerry Godliman simply got the job done, using a velcro high-vis suit to reveal a fancy ballgown – wallop. LVG
17. Fart. Fartest wins (S11, E6)
Is there a Taskmaster fan among us who wouldn’t willingly take Mike Wozniak home, tuck him into a cosy basket by the fireside and hand-feed him buttered crumpets all the live-long day? The man is a joy, and in this solo task, he demonstrates exactly why. 1) He’s athletic. Asked to produce a fart, Wozniak contorted himself into some gymnastic shapes, or, as he called them “brewing positions”. 2) He lives clean. There’s clearly no wastage in this former medical doctor’s diet. 3) He’s obedient and tenacious. Asked to produce a fart, he does so, but only after considerable effort and a medical… situation. 4) He’s a poet of the English language. The words “absolute casserole” are now a passkey between Taskmaster fans. Whisper them into a stranger’s ear to identify true believers (and then be prepared to have a conversation about personal boundaries and potentially, haemorrhoids). – LM
16. Serenade yourself (S9, E6)
‘Write a song’ tasks often garner the most memorable results on Taskmaster, hence their repeated appearance in this list. For this ditty, the series nine contestants used the power of a garden centre display and camera trickery to declare their self-love in song. (Rose Matafeo also used actual magic to float a flower up two floors like an actual wizard. No idea how she did that.)
Elton John and Bernie Taupin apparently wrote “Your Song” in just 20 minutes, and that’s how long this lot had to prepare their performances. The results were… not quite “Your Song”. Jo Brand did a rap (she’s a roadman), Katy Wix did a metaphor (according to Katherine Ryan, who was fighting her corner in the studio), Ed Gamble did a metal track, David Baddiel did… not write his fifth No. 1 hit, and Rose Matafeo stormed it with a great song, detectable musical ability, the genius phrase “As a matter of feo”, and the aforementioned actual bonafide magic. – LM
15. Generate a watercooler moment involving this watercooler (S5, E5)
A range of interpretations of what this task meant made the results all the more entertaining; Bob Mortimer ripped an apple in half with his bare hands, Aisling Bea (in a boat for some reason) toppled over the water cooler and smashed it whilst being surrounded by bars of Galaxy (the Moments chocolate she had asked for had unfortunately been discontinued in the 90s), Nish Kumar just kicked the watercooler over in slow motion and Mark Watson decided to use the watercooler as a kind of chain letter (?) that would go around the country with people writing messages on it (it managed to get 33 miles away in five months before it ended up in someone’s house in South East London).
But it was Sally Phillips’ performance that is one for the Taskmaster Hall of Fame. When Phillips declared herself a “watercooler virgin” at the start of the task, none of us were expecting what happened next; Phillips in a caravan in the throes of ecstasy with a water cooler. The goal of the task was something people are going to talk about, and by the flustered reactions of Watson, Kumar and the Taskmaster, Phillips absolutely succeeded and deserved her win. – ED
14. Have the best first dance with Alex at a wedding (S15, E1)
Series fifteen opened strong, with the contestants choreographing a wedding dance to perform with Alex, while both of them were wearing headphones, silent-disco-style. It told us everything we needed to know about this year’s line-up: Jenny Eclair pranced around like Kate Bush, poor Ivo Graham tried too hard with the chair-ography and fell on his arse, Mae Martin kept it simple, considered and heartfelt with a Greek wedding dance, and Frankie Boyle fearlessly danced to a Fatlip song while dressed as a bride and planted a smacker right on Alex Horne’s lips for good measure. But the best part about this task was Kiell Smith-Bynoe revealing he can move, he’s committed to doing an unironically great job with the tasks, and he’s competitive as all heck, even ending his routine on an impressive lift. And just like that, another instant Taskmaster fan-favourite was born. LVG
13. Write a classic song. You must write lyrics for a piece of classical music (S14, E4)
Look, we all know why this is one of the best Taskmaster tasks and it is because of three words: Me Fern Brady.
Fern Brady’s diss track to the tune of “Rondo alla Turca” blew all of the other contestants’ classic songs out of the water (even though they were all solid efforts). Let’s just remind ourselves of her take down of her fellow contestants: “Dara’s a big bold imbecile, Mr. Kearns is obsequious, and Sarah & Munya are losers and I’ll stamp on their toooooes”. No notes, perfect.
However, it wasn’t Brady who won the task but Sarah Millican for her sweet song that she could hardly bear to perform and couldn’t bear to watch because an ex-partner had made her lose all confidence in her singing voice. Her obvious discomfort led to a really lovely moment when Taskmaster Greg Davies gave a heartfelt “f off” to Millican’s ex-partner. And so say all of us. – ED
12. Cheer up this former traffic warden (S7, E5)
No Taskmaster task is ever predictable, but this one in particular, where the contestants are charged with trying to cheer up this grumpy old former traffic warden, really showed the range of personalities and approaches. Rhod Gilbert took the blokeist approach of just deciding the guy was fine and leaving him the fuck alone. Phil Wang tried jokes, Kerry Godliman visibly annoyed him rather than cheering him up and the wonderful James Acaster leant into the surreal by trying to recreate a lovely holiday with Alex Horne in the role of the man’s wife. But it was Jessica Knappett who won the day by identifying that actually our former traffic warden kind of liked being grumpy and nothing pleased him more than having a pop at people committing parking offences. Weirdly uplifting. – RF
11. Place these three exercise balls on the yoga mat at the top of the hill (S2, E1)
An absolute classic, this series two opener really had everything: a gargantuan effort (getting three massive yoga balls onto a mat on top of a genuinely massive hill), high-stakes tragedy as the balls inevitably rolled back down the hill at the crucial moment, and some excellent examples of how different people behave under pressure. Jon Richardson panicked (of course he did), Katherine Ryan turned on the charm to get some passersby to help her, and Richard Osman used his noggin to come up with a satisfyingly impressive loophole to get the task done in record time, much to the delicious outrage of his fellow contestants. 10/10. – LVG
10. Camouflage yourself (S4, E3)
Is there a more memorable image from Taskmaster’s early days than the sight of a teeny tiny Noel Fielding turning around to reveal himself as the banana in the caravan’s fruit bowl? It’s hard to beat.
When the series four contestants were given 10 minutes to camouflage themselves so that Greg couldn’t spot them in a photo, only the boys actually vanished themselves. Lolly was adorably visible on the front lawn concealed beneath an AstroTurf poncho, while Mel was just… clearly visible crouching behind a vase of flowers in the task-reading room. Hugh wore a door, while Joe engaged the services of passers-by and Al Murray to stage a Where’s Wally-style photo of multiple identically dressed people, one of which was him. Both great efforts, but what could top Noel’s camera trickery idea, utilising the power of his yellow skeleton onesie to become a banana? Nothing. – LM
9. Choreograph a dance for you and Alex to perform to one of these ringtones (S4, E4)
In this task the contestants were given some top notch old school ringtones to dance to and… there were some varied results; Mel Giedroyc went for contemporary dance, Noel Fielding decided on jazz hands and “cheeky, shrew moves”, Joe Lycett dressed Alex up in his Pat Butcher fur coat, Hugh Dennis choreographed some fireman’s lifts and spins and Lolly Adefope took the task to a higher level with her “friendship is truth and I believe in you all the way” dance mantra. Great fun, made all the more enjoyable when Dennis looked genuinely crestfallen when his dance was labelled as “horseshit”. – ED
8. Buy the best present for the Taskmaster. Here is £20 (S1, E3)
When Alex Horne says that the comedians really want to win Taskmaster, he means that the comedians really want to win Taskmaster, to the extent that one – so far – has voluntarily been tattooed with the Taskmaster’s name, just for points. The incredible thing is that this happened in series one. This insanity didn’t ramp up steadily with each new cohort, but was baked into the show right from the start.
Tasked with buying the best present for Greg Davies, most of series one’s contestants did the sensible thing. Tim Key gave him book tokens (actually a great present. I won’t be taking questions at this time), Frank Skinner got him glasses that let you see behind your own head, Romesh Ranganathan commissioned a drawing of Greg as a deity with duck feet, Roisin Conaty bought him a live mouse (please gift responsibly, kids) and Josh Widdicombe tattooed Greg’s name on his foot. It was a turning point. After that happened, the show became the wild west that it is today. All bets were off. – LM
7. Physically recreate a classic computer game (S7, E10)
A brilliantly inventive task which absolutely brought the best out of our contestants. Rhod Gilbert did a live-action Space Invaders where he threw tennis balls at the crew. Kerry Godliman made a version of Tetris that clearly stressed her out. Jessica Knappett had fun with Mario Kart and Phil Wang did a play on Goldeneye. But this one was all about James Acaster doing GTA. It’s the attention to detail that nailed it, from his jumping movement, “stunt bonuses” and beating up of Alex Horne and pinching his bike that sealed the deal. It’s packed with youthful exuberance and you never want it to end. Unfortunately James gets shot by the “police”. Game over. – RF
This team task itself was pretty standard – a series of bizarre conditions involving hand and hip placement, with the goal of getting as much sand into a trolley as possible – but it came with a whopper of a twist: John Kearns had been instructed to sabotage his team to lose the task, giving him a chance to win himself five sweet, sweet points. Despite him almost brazenly hindering his team’s efforts at every turn, Dara and Fern miraculously didn’t catch on to John’s secret task, although to be fair you could be forgiven for thinking he was trying to sabotage all the other tasks in the series given his woeful overall performance. Still, John’s hiding-in-plain-sight brilliance nabbed him a rare moment of victory, and oh how sweet it was. – LVG
5. Give Alex a special cuddle (S5, E1)
There’s more joy in this task than is medically advisable, making it a serious contender for the Best Taskmaster Task of All Time, if only the votes had fallen that way. We know all the best ones involve Alex, and this one involves Alex intimately (in that two of the contestants accidentally fondle his private place, and one does it deliberately). Aisling Bea’s Sexy Cuddle Bot 5000 created a spa atmosphere before wrapping its ducting hose arms around Alex for their special cuddle. Nish Kumar strapped on a pillow. Sally Phillips inserted slices of cake into his armpits and laid on top of him – providing a service she could charge big money for in certain Soho establishments. Mark Watson drew on years of their friendship for a romantic riverside cwtsh.
All good, but none quite as special a cuddle as the one Bob Mortimer chose to give Alex in the boot of his Audi A8L. The thing to remember about Little Alex Horne is that he’s actually six foot one, making this a snug fit. “Can you turn your arse towards me?” requests Bob. Duly done, the boot lid comes down and Alex has a smile on his face happier than in his wedding photos (probably) and you can hear a little “tee-hee” from Bob. Hard to improve on. – LM
4. Surprise Alex when he emerges from his shed in one hour (S3, E2)
When a task immediately makes two of the competing comedians (Sara Pascoe and Al Murray) think the best option to win is to kidnap Alex Horne’s kids, it’s got to make it into our top ten. This series three classic was a simple one, Alex is in a shed and you have one hour to think of a way to surprise him. Al Murray decided to go for banging a gong and stamping on air horns in his pants. Paul Chowdry dressed as a clown with a bloody axe and hid in a box. Sara Pascoe tied someone pretending to be dead to a chair with a bloody note saying ‘Alex did it’. Dave Gorman went for a classic ‘hide behind Alex and jump out’ move.
But the real highlight was a sleep-deprived Rob Beckett, who decided that dressing as a Nan, spraying Alex with a pressure washer, maniacally laughing and shouting, “Alex, you’ve been a bad boy” was a good idea. It truly was surprising, a little bit concerning, but above all, hilarious. – ED
3. Eat as much watermelon as possible (S1, E1)
This was the first ever Taskmaster task, and despite the apparent simplicity of asking contestants to eat as much watermelon as possible within one minute, it gave us a lot to unpack. Roisin Conaty was unbelievably, anger-inducingly rubbish at it, taking 58 of her 60 seconds to simply cut the melon in half, but the other four contestants had a marvellous range of approaches, from playing-it-safe Josh Widdecombe eating his melon at a leisurely grandma-like pace to Romesh Ranganathan, who launched himself into the room and smashed his melon over the floor like it was the severed head of his greatest enemy. This also led to him scrabbling around eating smithereens of melon off the floor until he made himself vomit, and as Taskmaster tasks go, you don’t get much more committed, or entertaining, than that. It was simple, it was stupid, and it set a standard. LVG
2. Get all the rubber rings on your bargepole (S15, E1)
It’s surprising that it took 15 series of Taskmaster for us to get a barge task, especially considering how bloody brilliant this one was. It has all the makings of a classic, and like all the best tasks, the performances can politely be described as ‘mixed’.
Don’t expect to see Frankie Boyle or Jenny Eclair on your local canal piloting a barge anytime soon, as they were absolute disasters; Boyle missed all but one of the rubber rings and Eclair almost immediately crashed the barge, apologised profusely then crashed the barge again. The other three contestants on the other hand had the absolute time of their lives on this task; Mae Martin cried “I feel so alive!”, Ivo Graham pulsated with excitement (until he broke the steering apparatus) and Kiell Smith-Bynoe had a whale of a time making his own barge-reversing noises.
There are so many wonderful soundbites in this task including “brace brace!” from Jenny Eclair, Kiell Smith-Bynoe’s party anthem “one/two/four on a bargepole for meee” and of course Ivo Graham shouting “I’m on a boat!” as an apathetic Alex replies “yes you’re on a boat” with all the enthusiasm of an exhausted dad at the end of a family holiday. – ED
1. Write and perform a song about this woman (S5, E8)
From the second that Bob Mortimer whispers into the mic “Rosalind. Rosalind. Rosalind’s a nightmare…” you know this is the one. It’s no wonder it was voted top; it has all the ingredients of a stone-cold classic (it’s from series five – aka the best series of Taskmaster so far, it’s a team task, it involves a member of the public, and it’s a songwriting challenge) and boy, does it deliver.
The task was entertaining enough when it simply involved the teams interrogating a stranger for information about her life, largely for Bob’s leftfield enquiries (“Do we strike you? Have you stolen much in your life? What’s your favourite meat?”). By the time Mark and Nish came up – in just half an hour, remember – with a very respectable track written and performed with talent (“That was a miracle, I think?” was Alex’s response. He was not wrong.), things were looking good.
And then came the Products of Conception, who rhymed “dreamier” with “septicaemia” and it was immediately clear that we were in the presence of greatness. Nish’s singing, Mark’s drums, Bob’s whispers, Sally’s harmonies and Aisling Bea’s rockstar quality… everybody shone. Taskmaster shone. – LM
Taskmaster series 16 starts on Thursday September 21 at 9 p.m. on Channel 4.