Meet the contestants on Taskmaster Series 9 | Interview with David Baddiel, Jo Brand, Ed Gamble, Rose Matafeo and Katy Wix

Meet the contestants on Taskmaster Series 9

Interview with David Baddiel, Jo Brand, Ed Gamble, Rose Matafeo and Katy Wix

Taskmaster soon returns to Dave for a ninth series. Here the new batch of contestants talk about how they approached the show, how they found Taskmaster Greg Davies and sidekick Alex Horne, and who they’d like to see on future series of the show…

TaskmasterRose Matafeo

Why did you sign up to Taskmaster?

Oh my God. When my friends found out I was doing it, they freaked out. We love it. And I’ve had the craziest reaction from my friends in New Zealand. It’s almost as if I’m representing my country at an Olympic sport. The prestige around it is very high.

Lots of my comedian friends have done it and I’ve always been so jealous. It appeals to the nerdy side of me so much. Ed [Gamble] and me do Escape Rooms together. When we found out not only we were doing it, but we were doing it together, it blew our minds.

The first time I went to the Taskmaster house, it was so embarrassing because I’m an adult and since being an adult I’ve never had that feeling of it being Christmas the next day. I could never sleep the night before filming. I was so excited. It was the best experience of my life.

Did you learn anything about yourself?

It’s funny because when you do any other show, stand-up or TV, you’re kind of curating yourself, in a way. But on this, it’s the truest form of yourself. It’s so interesting to see that revealed.

You see very different sides of comedians coming out. I love it, but it’s deeply scary because comedians are very competitive. I found out I’m a total nerd. And I behave like a children’s presenter. The whole experience has been like, ‘Why am I like this? I need to re-brand my entire personality’.

Did you have a strategy?

I would get home and go, ‘I should have done that’, and it would haunt me. I had so many sleepless nights. But as soon as you open the card, you just have to go with your first instinct. A lot of the time all I had to do was read the tasks properly. I’ve realised I can’t actually read.

It happened to all of us. It’s quite vulnerable to have your ego shattered like that. It’s like that girl from S Club 7, after she watched all the racist things she said on Big Brother. That’s what it feels like to watch yourself on Taskmaster. You’re just like, ‘Wow - that’s what I’m like?’

What was your best task?

I made my Legs look remarkably long. It still makes me laugh.

I wrote a song. That song has haunted my dreams in quite a scary way.

I was quite proud of my egg timer. I’m good at the creative ones. I do quite well on the physical ones. Never, ever the logical ones. I thought I was quite a logical person but it turns out I’m quite alarmingly bad. Like, I shouldn’t be allowed to drive, or leave the house. I’m a crafty person, not a thinky person. Yes, ‘thinky’ is a word.

Did you try hard to impress Greg?

Oh at one point he decided he didn’t want to give me points because I’m too young. I was furious. I told him that’s ageism. He said I didn’t deserve more points because of my youthful skin, and he can’t be friends with anybody born after 1990. But I’m determined to break that. I think I can bring a light into his life that he’s probably been missing for a while. I’m going to crack that dark, icy heart of his. I like a challenge.

How do you describe the relationship between Greg and Alex?
Abusive? I constantly feel sorry for Alex. He’s the sweetest boy in all the world and he has the sweetest little face, and Greg is all mean to him. But weirdly I’m into both their energy. I respect both in deeply different ways. I don’t really know whose team I’d be on if they were to ever fight.

Greg’s frustration is totally genuine. I thought it was put on for camera but he actually does get that fed up with Alex.

Who do you think should be on a future series of Taskmaster?

What a great question! Elis James would be either very good or very bad. Either way, he’d commit. Felicity Ward would be fantastic. A lot of Taskmaster fans often say Richard Ayoade. I think he might be a bit of a Baddiel - an incredibly talented person who shocks you when he’s on it. Jessie Cave would be very good. She’s an illustrator so she’d be really crafty. Jonathan Ross would have crazy energy. Joel Dommett is one of the weirdest guys I’ve ever met so I think he’d be fantastic.
And maybe a Love Island contestant for fun.

TaskmasterEd Gamble

What did you think of the other comedians in this line-up?

Everyone’s lovely. It’s a dream group, I think. It was brilliant to discover Rose was in the same series because we’re friends and we do a lot of Escape Rooms together. She’s extremely competitive. She wants to win so much. I do too but I’m trying to conceal it. She doesn’t conceal it. She gets angry when she doesn’t do well.

Are the others competitive or is it just you and Rose?

I don’t think Katy Wix is competitive, although I think she’s a dark horse because she just gets on with it and often ends up with an amazing result.
Jo Brand couldn’t give a shit, but in such a fun way. Which is what Taskmaster needs: a mixture.

And David Baddiel is just mad. I had no idea. Every episode, there’s always one task where his is shown last and he just leans over and goes, ‘Great - I’m last again’. It’s always a sign if they leave you to last, isn’t it?

There was another where he said to me, ‘Strap in, because I’ve a feeling this is going to be extraordinary’. I had no idea he was so weird. I thought he’d be the super-intelligent one playing it with a completely straight bat, nailing it.

But that’s why it’s such a great show. There’s no hiding from who you really are.

Did you have a strategy?

I tried. I went in thinking, ‘Well, I watch it a lot, so I’ll be able to find some sneaky ways around it’. But then I opened the task and I was just like a baby gorilla, romping through the house, smashing things up. God knows how much damage I’ve caused. No thought, just straight in. Don’t even finish reading the task. Break everything.

I didn’t think that’s what I was like. But when my fiancee asked how it had gone, and I said I’d smashed everything up, she just shrugged and went ‘yeah’. Apparently that was not a surprise to her.

Did you use Alex much during the tasks?

Yeah. Mainly because I know Greg, and I know he really enjoys seeing Alex being tortured. So that was my tactic. I used him in the water feature task. I turned him into a mermaid fountain. I finished that and went, ‘I’ve nailed that’. That’s the closest I’ve seen him to being genuinely pissed off, because I took his top off, I taped two funnels to his bare skin for boobs, then put a hose inside them. It was mid-February so he didn’t like that.

I also turned him into an egg-timer by making him eat one snack every second for six minutes.

So yes, I’ve used him in a way that would upset him and make Greg happy, in a desperate bid for points.

How would you describe the relationship between Greg and Alex?

I didn’t realise it was quite so real. That thing of Greg bullying Alex, i thought Alex was fully on board with those. But then, being here, you see that he’s not totally okay with it.

Greg texted me one night before a studio show and said, ‘Wait til you see the introduction I’ve done for Alex tomorrow - he’s going to hate me’.
It’s so electric in the studio. The audience don’t know who to side with because they love them both to bits.

Did you have a tactic when it came to bringing gifts for Greg for the first round?

Actually the most successful ones have been the ones where I haven’t thought about it too much. So one was ‘Something to celebrate with’, and my first thought was a pair of pants with a confetti cannon as an exploding penis. That was genuinely my first thought, so I went with that. I thought other people would do the same thing, to be honest.

That’s the thing about this show: you think you’re normal and then when you see a task back along with everyone else’s, you think, ‘No, I am insane’.
My best one was ‘Something you’ve stolen from someone else’s house’. I was round Greg’s flat so I nicked three of his ornaments. He won’t have noticed they were gone, because he’s got the brain of a 90-year-old.

Who would you like to see doing future series?

Adam Buxton would be amazing. David Mitchell. Richard Ayoade. Suzi Ruffell. Rosie Jones would be amazing because she’s got cerebral palsy and she deliberately uses it to behave like an absolute prick and get away with it. She might be the only person who would be even more horrible to Alex than Greg is.

TaskmasterJo Brand

Are you in this to win it?

No. My motto for life is ‘lower your expectations’ because then you’re really pleased if you do well. I never expect to win anything. I’m just enjoying doing it. If something nice happens, like I get the most points for a round, that makes me really happy.

What was your strategy?

I think a general strategy is ‘Don’t forget you’re a comedian’. You do see comedians on telly going, ‘I’m on Question Time now’ and they sort of forget to be funny.

So my strategy was to try and be funny. I don’t care if I get humiliated as long as it’s funny. There’s nothing worse than being humiliated in a really boring way, is there?

Did you know any of your fellow contestants before filming?

I’ve known Dave since 1986 and we are good friends, actually, so I was so pleased when we were put together, even though we’ve been re-framed as the ‘old codgers’. We just wander around looking for a cup of tea and going, ‘Ooh, where are my glasses?’. We did the team tasks together as well which was really good fun.

Was there any difference between the way you and the younger ones approached the tasks?

Isuppose there’s a truth that the young ones are all springy and keen, and we’re all jaded and farty and smelly. Greg tried to make out there was a difference but it’s interesting because I’m 62, Dave’s 55, and Greg is 51. So he doesn’t really have a leg to stand on when he starts going on about us being ‘oldies’.

But to be fair, Dave and I were much more likely to go, ‘Oh, f*** it’, and sit down for a cup of tea.

How would you describe the relationship between Alex and Greg?

I think it could quite easily trip over into some kind of court case.
Greg does really tease Alex but he has a really fondness for him so there’s nothing sinister going on, shall we say. I’ve probably got that wrong and in a year’s time Greg will be in prison.

What was your best task?

I did a rap using language that my daughters have taught me, and I thought it would be so embarrassing, like a grandma. But it was actually quite good. I was quite pleased with that one.

Who would you like to see in future series of Taskmaster?

Obviously Donald Trump, and our lovely new prime minister, Bozza. They could go against Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy.

I actually think it would be quite nice if some lofty figures would come down from their pedestals and do it. So Micky Flanagan, Sarah Millican, and John Bishop, could be in the arena-filling series. You have to fill a 12,000 seater arena to be eligible. And what’s Russell Brand doing now?

TaskmasterKaty Wix

How did you get on with the other contestants?

It was such a nice group of people. I know it’s not a panel show but it does make me feel like those shows are changing because they can be a bit like a bear pit with people talking over each other.

This felt like the opposite of that: really supportive and grown-up. I hadn’t met Jo before and I was in love with her by the end. She has a comic persona of being spiky, but she’s so friendly and so nice. She was very creative and left-field about everything. And she was quite anarchic in her attitude towards it.

David had a bit of a crisis. I think he went in relying on his brain, but this show is so arbitrary in what it’s testing. He was sitting there going, ‘Why did I do that? Why didn’t I think of that?’, and i think he went home every night berating himself.

I think it’s so brave of anybody to put themselves through that.
Ed was very impressive. He just got on with it in a very confident way.
Rose was so full of energy and cavalier in it, she was brilliant.

This is the first series with more women than men. Was there any difference between the sexes?

Having Jo as the matriarch set a tone of strong women getting on with it in a no-nonsense way. I think at first, David and Ed were more competitive and outrageous at arguing for a point. But halfway through I thought, ‘Oh well if they’re going to argue, so am I’. I didn’t want it to seem like the women were passive. And in the end I think it was very equal.

The girls did better at some of the building tasks, which went against gender stereotypes.

Did you learn anything about yourself?

I always did quite well in the art projects, anything to do with drawing or painting, and I was really pleased with that. It’s made me want to go away and do an art course!

People kept saying I was calm but what they didn’t understand is that it was just fear, and being overly-cautious, and being self-conscious. People mistook that for being relaxed but I really wasn’t.

It turns out that I mutter to myself a lot, and I didn’t know I did that.
And as soon as I found out I’d been bad in a task, I had a really childlike reaction: ‘I don’t want to do it anyway, stupid task, mutter mutter’. That’s quite terrifying to know, that the child in you is never that far away.

How do you describe the relationship between Greg and Alex?

Well, it’s mum and dad, isn’t it? Light bickering. What’s really sweet is that Alex will gain confidence and run with something, then Greg will squash him with one look or one comment. It makes me sad how quickly he loses his confidence.

He genuinely is very easy to embarrass. He doesn’t like anything dirty. I think there was one task where I wanted to use my bra for a task, and he was very uncomfortable with that.

I guess it’s bullying, but it’s kind of fine…

Who else would be good on future series of Taskmaster?

Holly Walsh. Tash or Jamie Demetriou. Ellie White. I’m just naming my friends! Dawn French would be great. Julia Davis would be incredible. Matt Baynton would be great. I wish Harry Enfield would do! He’d be so funny but I don’t know if he would.

TaskmasterDavid Baddiel

Why did you sign up for Taskmaster?

I’ve watched it mainly in clips online, but I’m a fan of Greg Davies and Alex Horne, both of whom I’ve known for a long time.

I also think of it as the only show of this type - crazy novelty shows done by ‘people off the telly’ - that’s done really well, that proper comedians do. I’ve been offered Strictly a couple of times and I’ve said ‘no’ because it would be awful and I’m a terrible dancer, but also because I just don’t do shows where I’m taken out of my comfort zone and have to do things that I don’t do for my day job.

But with Taskmaster, I’m always confident the tasks will be funny - properly funny, not local-news funny. Mainly because of the genius of Alex Horne. I have a lot of faith in Alex.

Was that faith misplaced?

Well interestingly I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis on the show. This sounds a bit self- aggrandising but I think people have an idea that I’m quite bookish and clever and intellectual, and I am, but the show reveals me to be a total idiot.

My cleverness is to do with writing and saying clever things, but I’m a very stupid person when it comes to doing things and making things and practical things.

When we were in the studio I’d watch the tasks back and go, ‘Why on earth did I do that?’ The others are there doing some really smart and inventive things and I’m there doing something that even Homer Simpson would say was stupid. That happened a lot.

Did you try to win over Greg in any way, or is his point-scoring too arbitrary?

It’s not that arbitrary! That’s what you would think. Sometimes I thought, ‘This is so bad, it’s funny, so I might actually get a lot of points’. The audiences are wetting themselves at what an idiot and what a clown I am, and I thought that would translate into doing quite well. But no.

Alex does actually have a points system. And I didn’t necessarily always understand what that was.

A lot of the time we’d be watching it back in the studio and I realised I hadn’t actually understood what the task was. I’d realise, ‘Ah - it was a timed task. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped and sat around for two hours drinking tea’.
I wasn’t expecting to win, but it has been complicated for me to see exactly how shit I am.

It is more important to be funny or do the tasks well? 
It’s more important to be funny but I’ll be honest with you: some of the time I’m actually not trying to be funny. I’m just that stupid and I genuinely think I’m doing the task to the best of my ability.

What’s the relationship between Greg and Alex?

It’s a very classic ‘big and little man’, a low status playing against a high status, like Ray Allen and Lord Charles. Alex is basically the ventriloquist’s dummy.
It’s really funny. I love Alex’s commitment to the rules, and Greg just

Did you get any advice from Frank Skinner beforehand?

No, but I should have done! I know Frank really loved doing Taskmaster.

Here’s a little secret for you: Frank loved it so much, he organised a little holiday for him and the other Taskmaster contestants from his series, but only Tim Key turned up. They were supposed to be going to Amsterdam or Brussels or something, but only Tim was at the train station. They had a lovely time, though.

Do you care about winning?

Thankfully not. I don’t think anyone really does. Actually, I think Ed does. He gets quite angry if he feels he’s not got the points he deserves.

Who else would you like to see on Taskmaster?

I like the fact that it’s just comedians, but having said that, I do think Jeremy Paxman and Trevor McDonald and super serious people would be brilliant. Elton John would be great.

Or you could have one with all those brilliant comics who don’t do TV much. Like Daniel Kitson, Stewart Lee. Those comedians who don’t like to be undignified on TV. And Theresa May. She’s got a lot of time on her hands now.

• Taskmaster series 9 starts on Dave at 9pm on September 4

Published: 20 Aug 2019

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