'It’s really good to see bullying making a comeback' | Jamali Maddix on doing Taskmaster © Andy Devonshire/C4

'It’s really good to see bullying making a comeback'

Jamali Maddix on doing Taskmaster

Were you a fan of the show before you signed up?

I knew the show. It’s been around for ages, it’s well known in the comedy community. It feels like jury service, you’re going to get the call sooner or later …

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I would be someone they would consider but when they offered it to me I was definitely interested immediately.

Tell me about your fellow contestants: did you know any of them?

I’d obviously heard of Lee Mack on the grapevine but I never met him, I think he stopped doing stand-up when I started doing it. I’d done a week of shows in with Sarah [Kendall] once. I knew of both Mike [Wozniak] and Charlotte [Ritchie], but I didn’t know them personally. I know a million people who know Mike. Comedy’s weird because everyone knows someone through someone else, so it didn’t take long to get to know each other.

Everyone got along. Because everyone does comedy we all have that shorthand: we all have our own language and a bond before we even meet. Everyone was cool, no one was an asshole. It’s like any job, you don’t want to work with people you don’t like.

That’s another thing: because of the dumb shit you have to do which makes you look silly, you have to have a sense of humour about yourself. If you don’t then you’ll struggle. So everyone can take a joke, there are no real issues.  I may say a joke about someone and they may say one about me but everyone takes it as fun, that’s the nature of the show and we all know that.

Who was the most competitive?

Lee, 100 per cent. Me and him had a bit of a run-in. Buckets were thrown. It got a bit aggressive but we remain good colleagues.

Was it more important to be funny or to do the tasks well?

You kind of have to be yourself. When you’re confronted with having to think on the spot, you don’t have any time to think, ‘What’s the most comical way I can do that?’ or ‘How can I hold this orange in a funny way?’, you’re just trying to complete this impossible task of something mad.

I’m surprised by how much ingenuity I used, to be honest. I found parts of myself I didn’t realise I had. I tried to play it down the line, work out what was the most logical way of doing it, but it’s hard to put logic onto madness. I think if you try to logically look at madness, it makes you mad.

Tell me about your relationship with Greg.

It was kind of like a bad student / teacher relationship. I found with Greg, any type of effort I put in he gave me high points.

Did you try to butter him up in the studio?

There’s no logic on this show. It could be anything. There were times when I said ‘Just give me free points’ and he was like ‘Okay, cool’ and he did. There were other times when I obviously won the tasks but he said I didn’t. None of it made sense.

How would you describe the relationship between Greg and Alex?

Bullying, and I’m not against it. Just good, old-fashioned schoolyard bullying.

It’s really good to see bullying making a comeback. It’s not been around since the 1980s and I wasn’t born then so it’s good to see it first-hand.

Did you lose anything precious during the first round?

No because I put in no effort at all with the things I brought in. I said to Greg, ‘This show’s not a bad gig but it’s a lot of work and I just don’t think I should have to do homework as well.’ So I just grabbed whatever I could from my house and that was it.

You’ve got a lot of strings to your bow in your day job: did that help with this?

Not really. That’s nice of you to say but I think I do a lot of things averagely. I don’t think I have multiple strings to any bow, just an assortment of bows and strings that don’t really work well.

To be honest with you, I only really see myself as a comedian. All the other stuff is me doing it for personal or fun reasons. It’s nice to get back to purely being funny.

That’s what I like about this show: there’s no conceit to it, it is what it is. It’s just funny and it’s nice to let go. It’s freeing to be like, ‘I look stupid but we all look stupid and that’s okay.’

Will you not be doing any more documentaries, then?

Yeah, I don’t know if I want to be in the realms of reality as much. Documentaries are very real and serious and even though I try to put a comedic tone on it, it’s still real people’s lives so you have to be respectful of that.

So I don’t know about the documentaries in the future, I don’t think so. I might do some entertainment factual maybe, I really want to do a travel show. They take so long to make, a year and a half. ‘I don’t know’, is the answer.

On your podcast with Mo Gilligan you talked about growing up watching Live at the Apollo, not seeing many BAME people on there and wondering whether you’d ever be asked. Do you think things are getting better in the TV world?

I think on the face of it, things are getting better, people are being more diverse with their booking. I think the internet has made it where minorities have ownership of their stories more.

But I think we have class issues in the entertainment business. Something we don’t like to admit is that a lot of the tastemakers are from certain schools and certain backgrounds. When the tastemakers start to be diversified, then we’re going to see a real change.

Right now on the surface change is good but I don’t think booking me for 8 Out Of 10 Cats changes anything really. I think when they diversify the people in power, where the decisions are made, then we will see real change. Until then, it’s a step forward but we haven’t finished the race.

Is it true you’re an ordained minister?

Yeah, technically. I paid for it online though.

Have you ordained anything?

Nah, never. I just did it for a laugh. I did it when I used to smoke weed, which I stopped years ago. Technically I could do a wedding in Oklahoma.

What do you do to keep that beard so good?

I use a certain moisturiser from a mainstream shop but I ain’t going to give you the big scoop. I might bring a beard moisturiser out. People ask for merch all the time.

How would you describe Taskmaster to someone who has never seen it before?

It’s a show where they’ve given free rein to a mental man, and we’re all spectacles in his human zoo.

• Taskmaster returns to Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday with contestants Charlotte Ritchie, Jamali Maddix, Lee Mack, Mike Wozniak and Sarah Kendall.

Published: 15 Mar 2021

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