Taskmaster: Why UK Audiences Love The Zany Panel Show

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Eleven seasons in, and with a few specials thrown in for good measure, Taskmaster has rapidly become the show that the nation looks forward to. After its migration from Dave to Channel 4, the comedy panel show has used its quirky charm to draw in increasingly higher audiences each season—with its New Year’s special hitting an all-time high with 3 million viewers. Greg Davies and Alex Horne’s creative masterpiece is a hit in the UK, but with its US remake flopping after the pilot episode, it begs the question—what makes Taskmaster so popular with British audiences?

British humour has always been niche, rarely appreciated by those overseas due to its unconventional nature and links to the nation’s cultural contexts. Even Greg Davies calling Alex Horne ‘little’ is a joke adored by Taskmaster fans (there’d be an outcry if he didn’t say it) but is probably lost on those who think it is a serious statement. The show boasts an ability to bring comedy stars from different walks of life together, offering a range of individuals the chance to test their ability to complete peculiar tasks in the most incredible ways. Take the latest season as an example: it’s not likely you’d catch Not Going Out star Lee Mack in the same room as Vice-partnered stand-up comedian Jamali Maddix—yet that’s exactly what Taskmaster offers you. There’s nothing better than watching your favourite comedians make a fool out of themselves, as well as learning some new faces along the way. Before watching Season 10 I’d never heard of Mawaan Rizwan; now he is one of my favourite up-and-coming comedians. 

It’s not only the show’s ability to create a diverse landscape of stars that proves its draw for audiences—Taskmaster also encourages audiences to engage with the content on screen by drawing upon tasks that the people at home think they could do better. You’d be surprised how many times you can find yourself shouting at the television thinking you know the perfect way to not break an egg when it’s dropped from a balcony, or how you believe you’d do a better impression of a trumpet than This Country’s Daisy May-Cooper. 

Taskmaster blends sarcastic wit and bizarre challenges to create an extension on British culture as we know it, so maybe it’s not so surprising that the show’s attempt to fly in the States fell flat after only one episode. Comedy holds so much weight in its surrounding culture, and Taskmaster is one of the best examples of this. 

Words by Katie Evans

This article was published as part of The Indiependent‘s May 2021 magazine edition.


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