Season 10 of Taskmaster starts tonight, and to celebrate here’s a post all about the previous nine seasons! If you’re not familiar, Taskmaster is a light entertainment comedy show in which comedian Greg Davies judges the task-completing efforts of five celebrities (usually, and preferably, comedians) as they attempt to complete the bizarre tasks set to them by Davies’ assistant, Alex Horne. These tasks are rarely straightforward (eg: paint the best picture of a horse whilst riding a horse, blow out a candle from the furthest possible distance, determine the circumference of a caravan in baked beans, that sort of thing). Each season has five new contestants, and the winners of each season go on to compete in a tournament of champions, of which there so far has been only one. Presumably after twenty-five seasons the five tournament winners will compete in some form of grand tournament, and I for one cannot wait.
So, there’s been nine seasons, with five competitors each season, and I’d say the success of each season is partly down to the entertainment value of the competitors, so I’m going to rank all 45! I re-watched all nine seasons recently on UKTV Play, so let’s go!
45. Dave Gorman (Season 3)
Before we go any further, I want to say there have been no bad competitors, but some are more suited to Taskmaster’s particular brand of lunacy than others, and someone has to be at the bottom. Gorman’s approach to tasks sometimes lacked imagination (best seen in the “Get to the microwave in the fewest number of steps” task, where he literally took the biggest steps possible, whereas everyone else rolled or crawled their way), and also he cheated. Other potential cheaters will appear on the list, but Gorman did it twice and, after the first time he was caught, he was given the opportunity to fess up and admit his mistake, at which he declined and was then proven to have cheated. He was then suspected a second time, and was once again offered the opportunity to confess, declined, and was proven dishonest again.
44. Sian Lloyd (Season 8)
Season 8 is my least favourite season, by quite some margin, for three reasons. One: it’s the meanest season so far, to both the contestants and Alex (one challenge was literally “Do something mean to Alex”, and some tasks were particularly cruel or difficult (the ball-catching team task was borderline impossible). Two: it also featured some of the most boring tasks (“Completely erase this eraser” has no entertaining-to-watch solutions). Three: I wasn’t a big fan of any of the guests. Prior to watching I was only aware of Joe Thomas, and even then I don’t like The Inbetweeners. We’ll get to the rest as they come up, but Sian Gibson was almost too nice, which is an odd thing to complain about when I said this season was too mean. Regardless, she was a pleasant presence but I don’t remember any particularly novel approaches to tasks. Also she cheated at the aforementioned ball-catching task, and didn’t even make any attempts to hide it.
43. Richard Osman (Season 2)
Another guy whose approach to tasks was maybe too straightforward. Quiz show producer/co-host Osman is an incredibly smart guy, he’s just never come off as overly funny. Yes, there’s some entertainment value to seeing him realise you can go and retrieve the yoga mat from the top of the hill and put the exercise balls on it at the bottom, but it’s way more fun watching all the other contestants lose their damn minds as the balls roll down the hill.
42. Paul Sinha (Season 8)
Speaking of incredibly smart guys, it’s fair to say that The Chase’s Paul Sinha, whose job is answering quiz questions, might be the smartest contestant in Taskmaster history, but he also lacked an energy and drive, which saw him coming last in almost everything. There’s always someone who trails off from the rest of the pack, and the jokes about it are often funny, but with Sinha it also felt a little tragic.
41. Rob Beckett (Season 3)
The problem with seasons 2 and 3 was they both only had five episodes. Later seasons would have eight, then eventually ten, shows per season, allowing us to get to know the contestants more and for their personalities to develop and shine through. The contestants from those seasons who are higher ranked had more defined personas, at least within the show’s editing, but others fell by the wayside a little. Beckett, despite eventually winning the season, was someone who I find funny elsewhere (especially when paired with Tom Allen, a potential Taskmaster contestant I think would be fun) but here just didn’t get the chance, beyond freezing his hands and almost throwing up whilst rolling around a running track.
40. Sara Pascoe (Season 3)
As with Beckett, Sara Pascoe didn’t get enough chance to shine, and I’d have liked more tasks with the two of them together, if only for more Twin-based humour.
39. Roisin Conaty (Season 1)
Filling the role of “one of Greg’s mates” in the first season (others would include Joe Thomas, Jessica Knappett, Ed Gamble and of course Rhod Gilbert, whereas Alex brought along the likes of Tim Key and Mark Watson), Roisin was a fun, if ultimately pretty useless competitor who wasn’t good at most of the tasks.
38. Lolly Adefope (Season 4)
Season four might be my favourite season, it’s definitely in contention, but despite that I can barely remember Lolly’s contribution to the show. There were some big personalities to contend with (see later in the list, much later), so this could well be she was just outshined by the rest of the cast.
37. Russell Howard (Season 6)
One of the bigger names of current comedians to grace Taskmaster, Howard brought a lot of energy to the show, at least early on, but I felt it waned as the show progressed. Season 6 was the first 10-episode season so maybe he was expecting to maintain the energy for so long, but there were definitely tasks where he seemed far wearier than the other contestants who took things at a more relaxed pace. Still an entertaining presence though.
36. Joe Thomas (Season 8)
Maybe the most awkward person in the world? Ever? He comes off as timid and shy, especially when having to interact with literally anyone else, and in other seasons this might have been alright, but with the relatively lacklustre season 8 cast it often fell flat. His train station run is the stuff of legend, though, but his ability to propel a beach ball with water (whilst continually ducking under the start line he could easily walk around) cancels it out.
35. Jo Brand (Season 9)
It’s pretty much always a winner it comes to bringing in more seasoned comedians to the show, as they’re big names who draw in the viewers, and they’re generally less competitive than their younger, up-and-coming rivals, but none have been less competitive or showed more disdain for the entire Taskmaster concept than Jo Brand. She’s still the only competitor to, midway through a timed task (and a team time task at that), pop to the loo, and she admitted to making a conscious effort to move as little as possible during every task. When she put some effort in though, it paid off.
34. Katherine Ryan (Season 2)
Oh boy, that “make a mess and clean it up” phone call brings me out in a cold sweat, Jesus Christ. Another season 2 casualty, Ryan’s personality did come through, it just wasn’t one I gelled with too well, but she was driven, extremely competitive and willing to embarrass herself for the sake of the show, I just wanted Jon Richardson to win.
33. Asim Chaudhry (Season 6)
He’s young, he’s keen, he’s able to practically inhale squirty cream in far more tasks than it should have been possible, it’s no wonder Greg took a shine to him.
32. Lou Sanders (Season 8)
The meanest contestant in the meanest season, but entertainingly so. Signing Alex up to all those subscriptions was a stroke of genius. I’m very much looking forward to the next tournament of champions given how competitive at least three of the participants are going to be.
31. Jessica Knappett (Season 7)
The first entry from the great season 7 line-up of bitterness and arguments doesn’t mean Knappett was a bad contestant, it’s just everyone else that season was hard to beat and she got involved in the fewest stand-out moments. Does a decent impression of a honking bird.
30. Alice Levine (Season 6)
One of the more level-headed contestants, Alice Levine was also one of the nicest, giving Alex cute nicknames at the start of each task. Is that what Taskmaster is about? Not at all, but it was different, and welcome.
29. Iain Sterling (Season 8)
And that’s season eight done. Sterling was incredibly competitive and perhaps thought he was going to do a lot better than he actually did, given his chant of “See you in the tournament of champions!” a few times, which inevitably didn’t happen as he didn’t win. It was fun watching him try, often very hard, and even more fun watching his utter frustration at being denied points or simply being beaten. Occasionally he came off a manic child, but as a children’s TV presenter, that makes a lot of sense.
28. Doc Brown (Season 2)
It’s all about the nursery rhyme. It was beautiful.
27. Frank Skinner (Season 1)
It’s still a wonder how Frank Skinner was recruited for the first season, but what a result that was. The elder statesmen of comedy brought a gravitas to the proceedings that all the other contestants tried to fritter away, but he remained entertaining throughout.
26. Joe Wilkinson (Season 2)
That devastating potato throw is one of the greatest TV moments of the last decade. Wilkinson’s sad sack comedy persona isn’t one I’ve been drawn to in the past, but it was good to see beyond that and put him in unlikely situations, like dashing to a shop to buy all their Calippos for the mayor. This is a weird show.
25. Joe Lycett (Season 4)
I’d no idea he was so creepy, but that handshake was so uncomfortable to watch. He’s crap at sliding and lost his mind knocking down ducks, but he’ll destroy a cake with fireworks better than anyone else I’ve seen.
24. David Baddiel (Season 9)
It took eight seasons to recruit Frank Skinner’s old partner after the former signed on, and it’s clear during that time David Baddiel did not put in any time to prepare for the show (he’s never seen an episode). He was utterly terrible at so many tasks but, unlike his occasional team-mate Jo Brand, you could tell Baddiel was actually trying, he was just genuinely shit. Ed Gamble’s frustration during their team live task remains glorious to this day.
23. Hugh Dennis (Season 4)
A favourite of mine from Mock The Week and My Hero, I was delighted to see Dennis in Taskmaster. I feel like Greg wanted him to do worse than he actually did (there was a lot of mockery directed Hugh’s way) but he remained a decent competitor who approached tasks with ever-present gusto and occasional intelligence. Teaming him up with Mel Giedroyc was a stroke of genius too.
22. Phil Wang (Season 7)
More memorable for his revealing outfit than his actual performance, Wang’s experience on the show – as with Osman ad Sinha – proved that intellect and degrees don’t necessarily equate to Taskmaster points. Where Wang differs from the other two though was in being very, very funny, even with repeated jokes.
21. Liza Tarbuck (Season 6)
Season six’s eventual winner, Tarbuck toed the line between anarchic destruction and level-headed, task-based apathy, a combination that led to massacred toys and a giant dot-to-dot penis.
20. Rose Matafeo (Season 9)
I think we can all agree that accents are funny, especially when someone can’t pronounce “shed”, right? Matafeo was a solid competitor, and her Taskmaster theme song sung in a country style was glorious.
19. Kerri Godliman (Season 7)
The most straightforward, no nonsense and argumentative contestant, and the one whose catchphrase (“Bosh!”) has been the most persistent. Seeing her take on the equally competitive Ed Gamble and Lou Sanders in the championship should be terrifying.
18. Katy Wix (Season 9)
I didn’t expect Katy Wix to be ranked this highly, but she was delightfully odd (the cult from episode one is just bizarre) and that tickled me. She sadly missed two live shows due to illness, but when she was there she truly proved that sometimes the quiet ones are the ones to watch out for.
17. Paul Chowdhry (Season 3)
The sad clown that is Paul Chowdhry rarely seemed interested in winning the show, but doggedly pursued each task despite often not fully grasping the concept or extremes he could go. And he got to play on a bouncy castle for an hour, during which he decided to take a nap.
16. Tim Vine (Season 6)
The king of Dad jokes didn’t fail to use them at every possible eventuality (“track suit”, wonderful), plus there was the hook-based debacle resulting from his safari suit. And the fact that he’s wearing a safari suit. He came very close to winning the whole season, which would have been unexpected given the whole time he just seemed pleased to be out of the house.
15. Josh Widdecombe (Season 1)
I feel like Widdecombe should be higher given the kindred spirit I find in him – he actually did the maths in the briefcase task, that’s exactly what I would’ve done too – but, and this is no fault of his own, but he only won season 1 because of a bonus point he was granted at a bonus task no-one else was privy too. Perhaps there was a pre-recorded tie-breaker between him and Romesh that Josh would’ve won, we’ll never know, but it’s always bothered me. Regardless of that, I loved Josh as an unlikely victor.
14. Bob Mortimer (Season 5)
A perfect choice for a competitor, Mortimer has such an off-kilter perspective on the world around us that he barely approached any task in a “normal” way. His only downsides were on the team tasks, when he didn’t do too well trying to adapt his Picasso-esque outlook with his team-mates. Ah, the coconut businessman.
13. Aisling Bea (Season 5)
Often angry, very Irish and not afraid to strip down to her underwear to paddle Alex to shore. It helps that I was already a fan.
12. Al Murray (Season 3)
Most notable for his approach at throwing money at the tasks, Al was a self-confessed fan of the show who lived round the corner and returned for a cameo in season 4. His competitors weren’t keen on his tactics which led to arguments, which were always gold.
11. Jon Richardson (Season 2)
Like Doc, Jon earns a high spot based on his nursery rhyme video, which was genuinely unsettling, but unlike Doc, Jon was surprisingly good at concealing pineapple about his person, which is a very important skill that I apparently hold in high regard.
10. Ed Gamble (Season 9)
The most competitive contestant, ever, and it paid off with a comfortable lead at the end. If I were to be on Taskmaster I think my approach would be exactly halfway between Gamble and Josh Widdecombe, tackling a task in the nerdiest way possible, but with furious dedication and an unprecedented amount of denim.
9. Mark Watson (Season 5)
He just seems like a nice chap for whom things often go wrong but he bumbles on regardless. His gate story is a YouTube clip I’ve returned to many times, and his endearing friendship with Nish Kumar was one of the loveliest things from the whole show.
8. Nish Kumar (Season 5)
So it only seems fair to put Nish next. Their song to Rosalind is incredible, and Nish is only one above Mark because of his ordeal with the Weetabix, and by extinguishing a candle by screaming “Bubbly fuck!”.
7. Tim Key (Season 1)
Yes, I know, Key was a bit of a cheater too, but in more of a cheeky way. He was like a big kid throughout the whole show, and the awkwardness with which he tried approaching people to find a 55-year old garners a top 10 spot alone.
6. Romesh Ranganathan (Season 1)
Tree Wizard! I feel that’s the only justification I really need, but there’s also the sheer hunger with which he attacked that watermelon.
5. Rhod Gilbert (Season 7)
Teaming Rhod up with anyone would have caused issues, but the fact that he was on a team with the coiled ginger spring that is James Acaster led to utter delight on numerous occasions. The repeated bit with the photo of Greg got a little old, until it got better again (along with the photo of Greg’s mum, and the video from Greg’s cupboard). Basically, Rhod never wanted to win, he just wanted to have fun at his friend’s expense, which he absolutely did.
4. Noel Fielding (Season 4)
Never has a mind been better suited to Taskmaster than Noel Fielding’s. I’m certain he’s never approached any task in life like anyone else alive. I mean honestly, would anyone else have come up with that banana disguise?
3. Mel Giedroyc (Season 4)
Another just lovely person, Mel was perpetually unflappable, so much so that she was given personal, impossible tasks just to try and break her, and none of them worked. The fact that she even tried to eat that sandwich was nothing short of heroic.
2. James Acaster (Season 7)
I love James Acaster. He’s often furious, but just as often incites fury in others, but was also a big fan of the show genuinely wanted to do well, had fun whilst he was doing it and brought tremendous amount of personality with him. Perfect contestant. Plus he never said hello to Alex because it “wasn’t part of the task”.
1. Sally Phillips (Season 5)
Sally Phillips came in as a wild card. Primarily known for acting (although admittedly, comedic acting), she could’ve gone in any direction and potentially been a bit of a dud, but instead she was brilliantly odd, game for anything (she mocked sex with a water cooler and filmed Alex’s birth with a camera strapped to her head), and was remarkably nice throughout. Delightful.
Who is your favourite past contestant? Do you vehemently disagree with any of my choices? Let me know in the comments!