People said, ‘you’re going to be shocked by how fanciable Greg Davies is.' They weren’t lying. | Mae Martin on doing Taskmaster © Channel 4/Avalon

People said, ‘you’re going to be shocked by how fanciable Greg Davies is.' They weren’t lying.

Mae Martin on doing Taskmaster

Mae Martin talks about taking part in series 15 of Taskmaster, which starts on Channel 4 next week.

 Why did you sign up?

I’ve seen every episode, and I’m a big fan of tasks in general. I like problem solving; I spend most of my time in escape rooms.

I wish that my life was just people giving me specific tasks to do. I like having choice and free will taken out of my life so I’ve been trying to get on Taskmaster for years. Every year, I literally begged them.

Why has it taken them so long to get you on?

Oh, there’s a long list of people desperate to do it, because everyone I know who’s done it has said the same thing: that it’s the most fun, and the best job, and the crew is so nice. So everyone’s desperate to do it.

The format is bulletproof so in a way it doesn’t matter who’s on it, it’s always amazing because Greg and Alex are brilliant.

What did you think of your fellow contestants?

We’re super different but we did genuinely get on, even though we were at each other’s throats. There was a mutual respect!

I loved sitting next to Kiell [Smith-Bynoe] the whole time in the studio, he is hilarious. And I loved getting to know Jenny [Eclair]. Her laugh is so contagious and joyous, she made me laugh a lot.

Ivo [Graham] I’ve known for years, and Taskmaster is just the perfect format for his brain. He’s so verbose that he could take a mad task about an egg and distil it into some beautifully constructed aphorism about life. I don’t have that skill.

It threw me into a bit of an existential crisis actually. Like, what is my comedic persona? I don’t have an angle. I was basically just trying really hard and really really cared about the tasks and forgot to be funny. I guess that’s my angle.

I’d never met Frankie [Boyle] before. I knew all about him and didn’t know what to expect, but I was really pleasantly surprised. He was so lovely. I loved his dry, acerbic wit. There were these moments of real warmth and sweetness that were really nice when he got giggly.

Did you learn anything about yourself?

I learned that in that navy tracksuit I look like Judi Dench if she was eight years old. I wish I hadn’t worn that tracksuit. That’s my main thing. I could have worn literally anything else and that's what I chose? I thought I would look like some kind of cool American boy, but no.

It’s really, really intense having to watch yourself. I’ve never watched myself doing stand-up – I can’t handle it. On Feel Good [the comedy series Martin wrote], I was in the edit, so I had to get over myself but at least with that I had some kind of control over it. With Taskmaster, I had none. That was probably a good thing because I’d have just picked shots where my hair looks good.

You seemed quite calm.

Really?! That’s so crazy – I did not feel calm. I felt deeply panicked.

Greg said I had poise, which was nice. I find Greg unbelievably magnetic. I don’t know what it is. I’ve met so many people in my life doing comedy, and I’ve never been more starstruck. For some reason, it’s like he’s the most famous man on earth in my heart.

I think I just fancy him. People warned me about that. They said, ‘You’re going to be shocked by how fanciable Greg is.’ And they weren’t lying. It’s because he’s so lovely. And it’s how quick they both are. And they’re so in tune with each other, it’s joyful. And so British.

Greg Davies and Alex Horne are both very observant, aren’t they?

They're good at cutting right to your core with an off-hand remark. I think we’re all probably low-level narcissists, so when someone really incisively sums you up – I mean, any attention is always attractive – you’re like, ‘You’ve really seen me.’ That’s very intoxicating. You’re like, ‘What else? Tell me more about me.’

Did you have a tactic when it came to dealing with Greg in the studio and trying to win him over?

I didn’t try as hard as Kiell or Ivo. I was happy to accept a loss. There were a few prize tasks where I got really shocked at the points given out, but it’s subjective, isn’t it?

I knew going into it that you had to defer to his personal taste, and I knew arguing wasn’t going to get me anywhere, but maybe I thought, ‘If I don’t push it, then maybe he’ll remember that he shafted me and he’ll pay me back. He’ll be more magnanimous.’ That never happened.

How useful or not did you find Alex on the tasks?

When he says, ‘All the information’s on the task,’ you want to chop his limbs off. Aside from that, I found him extremely charming.

As a North American, I felt like I was in a Roald Dahl book. It’s so quintessentially English that I was just automatically charmed by it.

Why do you think it’s so English?

It’s the whimsy. It’s his wordplay, and the surrealness of it. And just the total silliness. It’s so nice for me.

I’d just come off doing Feel Good, which was a hyper-personal comedy drama, you know, trauma parade. This experience was absolutely the antithesis to that, in the best way.

We should talk about Feel Good. What do people say to you about it?

Because it’s so personal, it opens the door to really deep personal conversations with strangers so there are a lot of people telling me about their addictions and their families and their relationships and sexuality and gender.

There’s no smalltalk, people get right to the deep stuff, which I love. I hate small talk, so I’m happy to delve right in. And people really feel like they know me. And annoyingly, they do.

No regrets about that, though?

Nah! I also get a lot of, ‘What does Charlotte Ritchie smell like? What’s Charlotte Ritchie like?"’She’s England’s rose.

She came to watch the Taskmaster filming too, which was really nice. Kiell and I felt like we had our parents coming in to visit us.

Do you get competitive with each other over Charlotte though?

Over her attention? Sure. Alex asked her in front of us which of us was her favourite, and time froze. We all went silent. She said, ‘I can’t answer that.’ She was very diplomatic.

Were you surprised by the levels of competitiveness on Taskmaster?

Oh, yes. I went into it thinking, ‘Don’t worry about anyone else, just focus on yourself.’ But when you feel like someone has transgressed some rule it’s so hard not to call them out. Then you feel like you’re ten years old.

I know the worst thing in the world to be is a snitch, but you’ve GOT to get those points.

 You have to leave your dignity and your vanity at home for this show.

I definitely had an out-of-body thing, thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ because I am generally quite an inhibited person. I am quite shy and self-conscious about my hair and my appearance and stuff.

So that was like exposure therapy, having to sit and watch yourself on the big screen as you try to peel an egg with your disgusting, pale, bare feet. People will take freeze frames of my fucking feet and mock me.

No regrets?

No, not at all. It’s also my dad’s favourite show. He was obsessed with Charlotte’s season. He watches it all from Canada, so I know that he’s gonna really enjoy it. It’s totally his type of thing. One of my prize tasks was something that my dad made. He spent months on it, to be honest. I can't wait for people to see it.

• Taskmaster series 15 starts on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday March 30.

All the Taskmaster series 15 interviews

» Greg Davies and Alex Horne
» Frankie Boyle
» Ivo Graham
» Jenny Eclair
» Kiell Smith-Bynoe
» Mae Martin

Published: 20 Mar 2023

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