Mike Wozniak

Category: Press Pack Article

You’ve got a very long history with Taskmaster, haven’t you?

I did the prototype, the Edinburgh Fringe version. It was a lot of fun and we didn’t know what we were doing. It was an era when most of us were stand-ups or doing sketch shows, scrounging around trying to get whatever live work we could and Edinburgh was a standard part of the calendar.

Alex [Horne] just said to us, ‘Since you’re going to Edinburgh anyway, I’m going to send you something once a month to do’ and then we started getting all these peculiar tasks to do at the Fringe.

It was a lot of fun, I loved it but I had no idea it would lead to all of this.


Did you have no inkling it would make a great TV show?

All of us knew it could, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will let you make it into one. Obviously, Alex is very talented at devising games and frameworks for people to be funny and ridiculous in.


And you won the Edinburgh one, didn’t you?

I did indeed. It’s not necessarily going that way with the TV version.


Why has it taken so long for you to do the TV version?

It’s a show people are queuing around the block to be a part of. They do a great job of curating a mixed bag of contestants each time.

Since it went up and away I’ve been an avid watcher and fan of the show and I’ve been quietly crossing my fingers behind my back that one day I could get on. I’m just happy to be here.


Did having that relationship with Alex and the show give you any kind of advantage?

I don’t think it did. When you’re a viewer you imagine how you might do these tasks and sometimes there are moments of pure joy when you see someone doing something really interesting, like Rhod Gilbert lashing Alex to a chair, and other moments where you’re screaming at the telly because they can’t see the thing that is dangling above their head.

You imagine when you do it you might be incredibly thoughtful or careful or considering options, but then all of a sudden there is a clock ticking in the background and you’re just like ‘go!’


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

I think trying to be funny is a bum steer because on the day you’re just thinking about the task and you’re not necessarily second guessing, ‘How is this going to come across?’

Also they’re old hands at this now so you have to trust Alex, Greg and the Andys who direct and produce. They know how to make a funny show and half the time things are funny because they’ll show what one person has done in direct contrast to what another has done: it’s not necessarily funny because someone has come up with a line or done something hilariously.

So I think trying to force it in that way is probably never going to work. You just have to plough on with the task and have a lovely time.


Did you learn anything about yourself?

There’s a propensity for me to bumble about as if I’ve just jumped out of a PG Woodhouse novel, like a provincial vicar who’s just been hit across the side of the head with a cricket ball at some speed.

My family will occasionally take the mick out of the way I move and I always think ‘That’s nonsense, I move like a gazelle: smoothly and swiftly and there is strength and glamour in the way I move’. Then you see it on TV and they repeatedly show you bobbing off to do some task and you just look like a marionette.


Did you try to argue any points with Greg?  

If you’ve seen the show before you know there’s absolutely no point. People do, though: people are more competitive than they realise and they will try to stand their ground sometimes. People’s blood comes up but that makes Greg even more entrenched. You can’t argue the tasks with a despotic autocrat. It doesn’t work.


Tell me about Alex on the tasks: is he useful to you at all?

Oh, he doesn’t help. The phrase ‘All the information is in the task’ is the thing he says more often than anything else. You may ask him 50 questions but that will always be the answer. He’s inscrutable and you can’t bribe or blackmail the man; he sticks to his guns no matter what.


How do you describe Greg and Alex’s relationship?

It’s the most unique pairing in television. I can’t think of any other show where one member of the team repeatedly makes an offer for the other and is chastised mercilessly for it and everything stops while that person receives their bollocking for what they’ve done. But I absolutely love it.


Tell me about your fellow contestants.

Sarah, I knew a bit, our paths have crossed a few times at Fringe and thereabouts. Jamali, I had met a long time ago at a gig or two. I didn’t know Charlotte or Lee. I got paired with Lee for the team tasks and we didn’t know each other.


How was that?

Great. He is so quick and great fun.


Lee told me to ask you about the moment you had an almost career-ending moment on the show… does that mean anything to you?

It does but I would suggest two things: one, I’ll let people see that for themselves and two, hopefully they’ll just cut it out of the edit. Let’s hope for two but prepare for one.


Tell me a little about your prize tasks.

I’ve made a fair bit of effort. I even tried doing some sort of handicraft for a couple of them which is not normally my thing, I’m not very good at illustrating or potting or knitting. Name any skill you would use your hands for to make a thing, and I can’t do it, but I have tried.

Sometimes I poured many hours into these things and what I found was that those ones in particular went down the worst. Sometimes you bring in something and you think ‘Yeah, this is a good one, I’m looking at four or five points here’ and the Taskmaster will have some reason from his past that he hates it. It’s just so mercurial.


How competitive did it get between you all?

I don’t think I’m especially competitive but you certainly have moments. You can’t be living in this show for this long without having the occasional moment of ‘maybe this is my task.’ I think I found a competitive streak somewhere that I didn’t think was there, it’s not big but it has been unearthed.

There weren’t any arguments between the contestants themselves but the most competitive two – Lee and Jamali – gave Greg a run for the money if they didn’t like the score. That’s where the conflict comes up.


Was there any divide between the women and men, or the different generations?

Something I like about this show is that each little gang has its own particular feel. There was a difference in ages and backgrounds in our group, but I don’t think that’s anything but a positive thing.

Somehow with the five of us, as a unit, there was a fairly immediate cohesion, even though loads of us didn’t know each other well. I think we all just found each other funny and got along with each other.

We had an absolutely bloody lovely time. Humiliation and ridicule aside, we had a great old time.


If anyone hasn’t seen the show before how would you describe it?

I would describe it as absolutely, spectacularly the best waste of time available on the planet.