The one thing I learned from Taskmaster? Always check under the table... | Liza Tarbuck on doing Champion Of Champions © Channel 4/Avalon

The one thing I learned from Taskmaster? Always check under the table...

Liza Tarbuck on doing Champion Of Champions

Taskmaster gets another step closer to the inevitable Champion Of Champions Of Champions on Thursday when a second Champion Of Champions will be crowned from previous champions Liza Tarbuck, Kerry Goldiman, Richard Herring, Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble. Here Tarbuck talks about returning to the show…

Why did you want to do Champion of Champions?

If I want to laugh, there are two programmes that do it for me: Gogglebox and Taskmaster because, with both of those shows, you feel like part of the gang.

That’s a difficult thing to do on TV and I think everybody chases that inclusivity.

And not even Gogglebox has the level of creativity that Taskmaster has.

It’s always so surprising how differently – or how exactly the same – everybody approaches their tasks because when you do the tasks you’re obviously on your own and you've got no idea what anybody else is doing.

All the crew are really straight-faced. No hints given. So when you’re at the house you’re like a detective and you try to ask, ‘Has anybody else done this?’ but they won’t tell you and that’s just so unique.

What sort of reaction did you have from your series; do people still talk to you about it?

You know, what I think is funny is that because of my persona people don't necessarily approach me!

But when people do, nobody has been anything other than excited by it. I talk about it, still, because it really pulls things out of you.

It's just lovely to be able to do a job where you’re genuinely free and supported in that.  A lot of programming is about sort of controlling you, which sounds negative but that's just the way it usually works.

And if you’re a person who doesn't particularly enjoy that, which I don’t, Taskmaster is a unique, positive experience.

It’s not for everybody because you are putting yourself out there, you’re very vulnerable. There's no acting, there's no preparation. So it’s testimony to people that do say ‘yes’.

Where do you keep your Greg head?

Mine’s in bed, in the spare room, ready for the next guest. Under the duvet is a plumped up body to make it look like he’s in the bed.

How did you get on with the other contestants?

It was just such a pleasure to meet them. I’d never met Ed or Lou but I really liked both of them.

I know Kerry from bits and pieces of work but we’re none of us big pals. We just had a lot of professional respect for each other before meeting, I guess, and it was really nice to meet them all.

I loved Ed’s suit. And bloody hell, his first prize task. I just don’t even know how he did it. It was really beautiful.

It did feel like everybody made a massive effort.

I think it's respect to the programme. I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ if I wasn’t going to put in the effort.

It was just really nice to be back. You have no idea what’s going to happen.

Waking up and knowing you’re going into Taskmaster is the best feeling. I think I had one day during my series where I woke up slightly the wrong way and thought, ‘Oh, I don’t know about this’, and then I was suddenly like, ‘Yeah, I do’.

It’s magnificently creative. It’s the best fun.

How competitive was it?

I sat next to Ed, and watching him arguing was just marvellous. I think this show has done brilliant things for Ed Gamble. It’s his medium entirely.

And you need someone arguing. When somebody is judging my work, I go quiet. I just appreciate it. I just think, ‘I was only given 20 minutes to do that, that’s bloody brilliant’, or ‘Okay, what the hell was going on in my mind when I did that?’ but I don’t argue about it. I just had a lovely time. So it’s good that Ed took on that role.

I have been competitive in my life, when I’ve played sports, but as you get older that just passes and you think, ‘It’s just lovely to be here.’

Did you approach anything differently for Champions compared to your series?

Well mine was a few years ago and since then and with lockdown, the programme really has got a life of its own.

You do want to contribute in the best way that you can because it’s, like I say, one of the shows that really makes me laugh.

What I learned from both doing my series and from watching subsequent series is that you never go into a room and don't check under the table.

If you're being asked something that's slightly veiled, you have to stop and think, ‘What does this mean? It could mean anything’ and go through the possibilities.

But also, you just don't know what mood Greg's in. The thing that you can't forget is that you are ultimately looking to please him and he’s an arbitrator.

If there’s something up in one of the tasks he’s on it like a blooming Rottweiler. There’s a moment in Champions that people are never going to forget, to do with Richard’s feet and Greg’s response to his task.

I think Greg takes the role very seriously. I think he understands that everyone's laid themselves out a little bit bare but he’s very quick to pick up on stuff that happens. He's really astute.

Did you use Alex a lot during the tasks?

I think it's a shame if you don't. I think it makes his day better.

What’s the secret to Taskmaster’s popularity, do you think?

When you watch the repeats, you very often see something new that you didn’t notice the first time, or you know that your favourite bit’s coming up. You can re-watch and think, ‘Actually, that was great.’

It’s a rare thing that you can slide through that time and time again.

And it does really capture the imagination and it encourages creativity.

During lockdown when Alex was doing weekly tasks on YouTube, that was absolute genius because they were so much fun and with everyone stuck at home, Greg was only too happy to judge them.

Alex is just brilliant at devising tasks. He knows what works. And what I really love about it is that it’s all coming from a place of pleasantness.

Greg recently said he could never do a task, even for a charity sketch, because he’d be too good. Do you think that’s true?

Do you know what? The joy is, we will never know.

 • Taskmaster: Champion Of Champions airs on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday

Published: 19 Jun 2022

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