Taskmaster's New Year Treat - press pack

Category: Press Pack


As a New Year dawns, the supreme Taskmaster Greg Davies and his doting assistant Little Alex Horne welcome five famous faces from all corners of the entertainment world to step up and face a set of ludicrous challenges in the latest instalment of the one-off special, ‘Taskmaster’s New Year Treat’ on Channel 4. Set to air over the festive season, this unlikely quintet are united by a single aim – to impress the Taskmaster and task like they’ve never tasked before.

The courageous contestants set to compete in the most surreal and cutthroat competition on television are: Entrepreneur and star of Dragon’s Den Deborah Meaden, Mercury Prize and MOBO Award nominated music artist Kojey Radical, BAFTA-winning actor Lenny Rush, TV presenter, adventurer, author and wildlife expert Steve Backshall, and radio and television presenter Zoe Ball. Each one of them are vying for points and scrapping for the Taskmaster’s fleeting praise while avoiding acerbic judgement in a bid to lay claim to Greg’s unique Trophy of Eyebrows.



Why did you sign up for Taskmaster’s New Year Treat?

I’m a fan. I love Taskmaster. I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t watch Taskmaster religiously. It’s a crazy concept, but it’s absolutely brilliant… a fantastic format. Listen, I never thought, I would be invited. I’m a businesswoman for crying out loud. I’d literally just said to [my PA] Charlotte, “I’m too busy, we need to stop saying yes to things because I can’t do anymore”, then the request came in and I was like, “Clear the deck, I want to do Taskmaster!”

It was an immediate “I’m in” rather than “I’m out.”


What, if anything, were you anxious about ahead of filming?

I was excited about doing it. I don’t think I was nervous. Alex and Greg are as lovely as I hoped they would be. I just wanted to get stuck in. I also think it’s one of those places where you can, kind of, not make a fool of yourself. Nobody cares. Everybody appreciates that you’re giving it a go because, honestly, the life skills that I’ve learnt to date are in no way applicable to anything I was asked to do in Taskmaster [laughs].

The beauty of the show is that the tasks range from the silly to the even sillier.

That’s very true. A few times I was thinking, why?! But no, they’re genius.

I’m still giggling at the scenes of you in the task furtively munching poppadoms.

I don’t know what was going through my head. I look a bit like a little fieldmouse or something. I think Alex was looking at me in horror [laughs].

It’s a turning of the tables. On Dragons’ Den, you’re very much in control, whereas this time around you’re at the mercy of the Taskmaster.

It does cross your mind, you know, you’re in quite a vulnerable position, but Taskmaster is all about people just giving it a go, and I like that in life. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted saying yes to something, but I’ve regretted saying no to things. Taskmaster is one of those things that you think, it isn’t about whether you win – well, it was because I get a bit competitive – but it’s more about, are you going to give it your best? Sure enough, I threw myself wholeheartedly into those tasks.

Let’s talk about your pre-existing beef with Greg over a pitch he once made to you about a product called “horizontal glass.”

How can he remember that 16 years later? I mean, he holds a grudge. We absolutely set off on the wrong foot [laughs].

It was like he was out for revenge.

Almost. That’s what I think.

What did you make of the dynamic between Greg and Alex?

I think they’ve got a great relationship. Clearly, they have a huge amount of respect for each other, and they play off each other brilliantly. That casting is perfect. You couldn’t make it better.

How did you get along with the other contestants? I have a soft spot for Lenny.

And he’s funny, isn’t he? He’s lovely and he’s charming. He’s 14 and he’s incredibly self-assured but not in a precocious way. I can’t get over how sharp he is. His delivery is bang-on. And Kojey and I were having a right old laugh.

Had you crossed paths with any of them before?

Zoe did Strictly and I did Strictly… and Steve – because I’m interested in the whole environmental thing, Steve and I’s paths have crossed a few times.

Would you consider yourself to be a competitive person?

I am. I compete with myself. If I’m doing a job, I have to do it to my absolute best.

What would you say you learnt about yourself?

I’ve learnt that I’m a lot more gullible than I thought I was [laughs].

Looking back on this year, what has been your biggest takeaway? Not literal takeaway because that’d probably involve poppadoms!

I’ve had a really busy year, but I say a good busy year… and I just carry through what I’ve learnt in life, which is – that’s what I said about Taskmaster: give it a go, do it, try it, what’s the worst that could happen? You could be made into a meme talking to a toaster, that’s what could happen [laughs].

What’s on the agenda for 2024?

Dragons’ Den. The new series comes out in January, but we then start filming for the series after that in May. I’m also writing a book at the moment about money, teenagers. I’ve written a children’s book [Why Money Matters], had a best-selling children’s book, much to my amazement, and I’m now following up with the next age group, which is 11- to 16-year-olds, to get them ready for going out into everyday life. The one thing I’ve learnt about money is, it can either make your life better, or it can make your life worse. I’m really keen that young people get themselves ready for having a healthy, happy relationship with their money.

Will you be making any new year’s resolutions? Do you believe in them?

I don’t really. I tend to make them when they need to be made… I do my resolutions on the hoof. The thing I’ve learnt about new year’s resolutions is that you don’t keep them.

You mentioned how busy you are. How do you like to unwind?

I ride. I’ve got horses. We’ve got lots of animals. We’ve got five dogs, two cats, 25 rehomed chickens, and 11 rescued sheep.



Why did you sign up for Taskmaster’s New Year Treat?

I would have done a whole season if I could. I’ve been a Taskmaster fan since [the beginning]. I’ve seen every episode. And I randomly met Alex [Horne] at Soccer AM, and I just walked up to him and said, “I’m the biggest fan in the world.” I think he was confused, but yeah months later it materialised into me actually being on the show. I was like, I’ll take anything, if it’s New Year Treat, I’ll take it, but I could have done a season.

Maybe that offer will be extended to you in the future.

I’m going to try to bully the internet to bully them [into making the offer]. We’ll start a hashtag or something.

At the start of the episode, you do say that Taskmaster is your favourite show. Was that strategic, to suck up to Greg?

No, that’s what makes it so funny is that it is my favourite show. And I don’t watch [many] shows… If you come to my house, Taskmaster is on. People in my life know it’s my favourite show, which is why I couldn’t even tell them I was going on, because everybody would have got too excited for me.

And is it still your favourite show?

Do you know what, yeah it is.

What, if anything, were you anxious about ahead of filming?

I’m funny in conversation. If we’re just chatting, I can make you laugh. But on a show based around comedians and comic timing, I was like, what if I’m not funny? What if I’ve just laughed at my own jokes in my head for so long that I’ve convinced myself that I might have a chance, and I don’t? I kept saying to my friends, “If I get a laugh, I’m just going to stop talking. If I say something funny, my immediate response is to say nothing after that.”

You did a cracking job.

I was fighting for my life [laughs].

What skills or talents did you think would potentially help you out?

Trust issues. For example, the poppadom task, I was like, hmm, I should trust the words on this paper, eat poppadoms, cuss this man out, but in fact, no, anyone could eat these poppadoms, it doesn’t have to be me.

There is some real tension between you and Alex I would say.

Yeah, it’s like – again, I’ve watched the show for so long. I’ve grown and learnt to love him over the years, so it’s a bit like, why would you hurt me like this? I love you, and this is how you treat me? You got me in here eating dry poppadoms with no water or sauce?

What did you make of the dynamic between Greg and Alex?

The sexual tension is high [laughs].

In one of the tasks , we see you get quite triggered by a jack-in-the-box – why?

Don’t pop out at me, bro – no. I don’t like jack-in-the-boxes. I don’t like things that pop out. That challenge was a lot.

What other phobias do you have?

Falling. I don’t like falling. I don’t like mushrooms. I also don’t like being super close to people that sweat when they eat.

Well, I promise to never present you with a mushroom because I wouldn’t want the shiit(ake) to hit the fan.

[Laughs] My other phobia is mushroom-related comedy.

How did you get along with the other contestants?

It was amazing. It was so nice that we very quickly got on. Lenny is one of those people where you sit there and you’re in awe, because he’s so young, but his comic timing is so there already that by the time he’s an adult and doing his thing… he’s going to be a megastar. He’s so funny. And Zoe’s funny as hell. Deborah’s funny as hell – I didn’t expect Deborah to be so funny… I almost called her Deb and I saw her face drop, and I was like, “Deb….orah!” [Laughs].

Would you consider yourself to be a competitive person?

Prior to Taskmaster, I would have said no. But once I was there, I was like, I’m involved.

Were you just as determined to get your hands on the Trophy of Eyebrows as you were the Mercury Music Prize?

I wanted the thing [that Deborah brought in], purely so that if people came to my house I could say, “Deborah Meaden gave it to me.” Casual. Big flex.

Was taking part in Taskmaster everything you expected it to be?

It was more. Even seeing the set for the first time was like, “Whoa, it’s a real place.” And the pace of the show. I know the audience at home don’t get to see the behind the scenes, but it’s constant comedy. You’re constantly laughing… it’s what you’d expect it to be times ten.

What would you say you learnt about yourself?

I’m not as pragmatic as I thought I was. I thought I was going to be able to work everything down to a science and complete it in the most efficient, logical, sensible, mind-boggling way possible.

What’s on the agenda for 2024?

I’ve got to write an album. It’s good. I’ve started it. I’m going to try and get it knocked out by spring. And then just going for the backend work. There’s a lot that goes into the creative direction and putting it together in a way that feels substantial, as opposed to just more music. Like, so much music comes out every day, so you’ve got to figure out how to make your music special, the moment special, and how to really communicate in a way that speaks to people’s lives at the time.

Where do you like to write?

Just in the studio. I don’t write things down as well. I go straight to the mic, say s***. I’m just living, just experiencing, and when it’s time to tap back into those memories and experiences, I can just go to the mic, “I’m going to talk about this because it happened.” Especially with rap, you can make a lot of s*** up, it becomes a bragging fest, whereas if you’re rapping about your life, stuff that’s actually happened to you, how you actually feel, all you have to be able to do is remember and let it flow out.

Do you feel a weight of expectation because of your Mercury Prize nomination?

It’s more motivation. In my mind, I always said to myself, I won a Mercury nomination. Now that I’ve had a Mercury nomination, I’ve ticked it off… obviously, my next album is going to be the best album in the f***ing world, but eventually I’m going to make a bad album, I’m going to make the album that not everybody loves, that I thought was amazing, but maybe I’ve got to go back to the drawing board. The journey of that is exciting to me also. I try not to fear it. I can only make what I think is the best thing I can make there and then.

Will you be making any new year’s resolutions?

Don’t fear, just do. Stop fearing it, just do it.

It’s so weird. My new year’s resolution is, always fear, never do.

Let me know how that one works out.



Why did you sign up for Taskmaster’s New Year Treat?

I love the show,  I had to give it a go. It was just the best time. It was such a laugh. Alex and Greg are lovely as well.

What, if anything, were you anxious about ahead of filming?

I think it’s the unknown… it could be anything. You’ve got all the props in front of you and you’re like, “What have I got to do here?!”

I don’t suppose you spoke to Daisy May Cooper, your Am I Being Unreasonable? co-star, beforehand? She was part of the line-up for one of the series.

I didn’t. I remember filming with her, and me and another kid on the show got a book – she’s so funny, she walked in and went, “I’m on that” – and it was the Taskmaster book. When [Channel 4] put the trailer [for New Year’s Treat] on social media, she commented “Ah, brilliant!” So yeah, I’m sort of following in her footsteps.

Am I right in thinking you’re the youngest-ever participant on Taskmaster?

I am! It’s a bit – it’s weird being on there [as the youngest], but they make you feel so comfortable, and it’s so nice. It could be a bit, I guess, daunting if you’re one kid among all these adults, but they are – even Greg, believe it or not – the loveliest people. I wish I had more time on it. That’s the one thing, I wish I had more time.

Who knows, you could be a series regular one day…

Maybe I could be Taskmaster. That would be cool [laughs].

I feel like your youth worked to your advantage when it came to getting the audience on side. Was that strategic?

Yeah, I was like, “I’m only young” and the crowd would go, “Ahhh.” So, I tried, but it didn’t work!

Greg did point out that you were receiving lots of “Oohs” and “Ahhhs” from the crowd.

I did a few times and he caught on every time [laughs].

You also made a few comments about your Mum’s cooking, and they weren’t the most positive.

[Lenny’s mum Lisa pops into view] “I didn’t know that!” I hadn’t told her that yet! “Right, Lenny Rush, you’re not having dinner tonight.”

I’m so sorry. I didn’t know your Mum was there!

“You’re in trouble, Lenny Rush. Were you saying how fabulous it was?” I was saying how you make the Pot Noodle in the microwave. “That’s about all I can cook.” What else did I say? Something about your road rage. Someone swore on there, Greg went, “Sorry about that,” and I said, “I hear worse from my Mum.” “What are you like?! I’m not that bad, honestly.”

I was going to say, were you hoping the comments wouldn’t make the edit, but it doesn’t really matter now, does it!

You know what, it’s happened now [laughs].

What skills or talents did you think would potentially help you out?

As I said, with me being a kid, I sort of tried to use that… [it was to play on the fact that I’m a child. If an adult  did that, it wouldn’t be as impactful or funny, so I think that is the only reason – Mum helped me out with that. So, I’d say being a kid helped me.

What did you make of the dynamic between Greg and Alex?

Off-set, they not like in love with each other, but they’re best friends. They have a laugh. It is funny, behind stage having a chat, and then on stage, Greg is horrific to him.

You also received Greg’s stamp of approval following a task in which you had to insult Alex. That’s a big badge of honour.

I know, I felt awful. With the scrabble [task], I just said “gap” because I was making words up. And then [Alex] said, “In my teeth?” And I went, “Yes.”

How did you get along with the other contestants?

They’re the loveliest bunch, honestly. I was very lucky to get them as part of the cast. I thought my biggest contender would be Steve Backshall. If he can fight of black mambas and get strangled by a boa snake, I thought he could do Taskmaster.

Steve mentioned that the thing he was most nervous about was having to be funny.

Yeah? Well, the New Year’s Treat isn’t comedians, is it? Obviously, I’m not a comedian, I’m an actor, but I’ve done a comedy show, so that’s helped me out. Steve, he was very funny, which is amazing, considering what he does, and he was so lovely, like all of them. I think Kojey was really funny. I think Zoe was really funny. I also thought Deborah was hilarious, because you don’t expect someone like Deborah to be that funny.

You really found your comedy groove on the show. Have you always been funny?

I think I just felt really comfortable. They all make you feel so welcome. You feel like you can have a laugh. You haven’t got to be too serious about it.

Was taking part in Taskmaster everything you expected it to be?

It was better. A lot of times when you watch a TV show and then you appear on it later, sometimes it’s different to how you think it’s going to be. But everything was exactly the same, the Taskmaster house, the set… [Lisa: “And they made it accessible for you, didn’t they?”] It was all accessible for me [“You could use your Segway everywhere”] It was amazing and so surreal being there.

What would you say you learnt about yourself? Aside from not bad-mouthing your Mum’s cooking on the telly.

Not much more [laughs]. The one thing I’d say is… believe in myself a bit more.

Looking back on this year, what has been the biggest highlight for you?

Probably the Bafta night [he won best male performance in a comedy programme for his role as Ollie in Am I Being Unreasonable?] That was incredible. Also, obviously, this, Taskmaster, and [presenting] Children in Need was a massive honour.

Where do you keep your Bafta?

He’s up there. Can you see him? [Turns camera to the top of the TV in his living room]. It’s just above my TV.

A lot of people put awards in their bathrooms.

I think that’s disgusting. A smelly Bafta [laughs]. No, I’ve got mine above my telly. I can watch things and have a glance up at it.

Will you be making any new year’s resolutions?

Cut down on the Pot Noodles [laughs].



Why did you sign up for Taskmaster’s New Year Treat?

Because I was asked, and I can’t imagine it’s an invitation that’s turned down by anyone. Like many people, Taskmaster is my favourite show in the world. You fantasise about the way you would be solving the problems and tasks, and so to actually get the chance to do it for real was just perfection.

What is it that you like about the series?

It’s mental. The genius of Alex’s brain, coming up with these bizarre tasks, and to still be doing that now after whatever [number] it is series is completely beyond me. I think that it appeals to my love of problem solving and figuring out puzzles, but I also love the fact that it’s not really competitive, it’s taken with such a light heart, which is a very nice way of doing things.

What, if anything, were you anxious about ahead of filming?

You don’t get to my age without realising what your weaknesses are, and I am no comedian. There is no getting around it. Funny is not my thing. Feeling pressured to be funny when the cameras are pointing at you is intimidating, you know, I’d far rather stare down a crocodile than I would do a bunch of quick-witted comedians. Greg is just absolute lightning. I was gob-smacked at the recording at quite how funny he really is. So yeah, I found that aspect of things frightening. But when you rock up at the Taskmaster house, it’s so welcoming. Everyone is eager to put you at your ease, you can’t help but feel instantly at home.

I thought you held your own when it came to delivering the funny.

I very much did not, but thank you so much for saying so, that’s very kind of you.

I’m also a compulsive liar, so…

Fair enough [laughs].

You regularly find yourself in hairy situations in your day job, so Taskmaster must have felt like a breeze in comparison – apart from the pressure to be funny.

In my head, I thought this would be something that I’d be a natural at, and I would just cruise through it. We hit the very first task and I got halfway through doing it and I thought, I didn’t read the question properly… I’m doing this all wrong, I’ve made a complete mess of it. When you watch them back and you see the way other people took them on, you think, oh god, of course that’s what you should have done. So, I did think it was going to be a breeze, I found this far more intimidating than I do my day job.

What skills or talents did you think would potentially help you out?

I’m good at problem solving. It’s what I do day in, day out with my job. It’s figuring out solutions to tricky problems. That was the side of things that I thought I would just cruise with.

Greg shared that – quote – his “tits” were once bitten by a horse. What is the most surprising, or scary, encounter you’ve had with an animal?

I have been bitten by a crocodile. And by a shark. And by several snakes. And some scorpions. And spiders, bullet ants, centipedes, most stuff.

Do you try not to take it too personally?

Sometimes I think I should find myself another job, because clearly animals don’t like me very much [laughs].

What did you make of the dynamic between Greg and Alex?

The funny thing is the team of contestants are some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They were all absolutely delightful. And yet, all of us, without exception, the second we turned up there, slipped straight into piling on as much abuse on Alex as Greg does. I’d never done that to anyone in my life, but you instantly find yourself unloading a barrage of insults onto Alex.

How did it feel?

It was quite liberating [laughs]. We all need an Alex in our life, to have a bit of banter with.

How did you get along with the other contestants?

What an interesting bunch of people. Towards the end, Greg said he’d rarely sat in front of a weirder bunch of people, and I think he may well be right. We were all very different, from completely different walks of life, you know, you’ve got a serious businesswoman, a grime artist, a 14-year-old [actor], me, who spends their entire life on expeditions, and the cheery wake-up Radio 2 voice of the nation. It’s an eclectic group of people.

Was taking part in Taskmaster everything you expected it to be?

It was a joy being amongst such quick-witted people who always had a funny response to everything. Lenny was – I mean, I could listen to him all day long. To have comedy timing like that at 14 years of age is, well, a bit intimidating frankly.

What would you say you learnt about yourself?

I learnt that I probably should read things three or four times before I try to action them. That being decisive is good, but you can be too decisive, particularly if it means you just rush headlong into something without properly considering the consequences, something that could be very useful in my line of work.

What’s on the agenda for 2024?

I’ve got a new series of Deadly 60, which I start filming [soon], starting with some exploratory deep-sea diving, heading down into the deepest, darkest parts of our oceans, looking for completely new species of animals.

Will you be making any new year’s resolutions?

I’m very good at setting myself targets and working towards them all the time. In fact, it’s how I motivate myself, you know, the next couple of months I’m not going to drink, I’m going to lose five kilos for my next expedition, I’m going to do a one-armed chin-up, those kinds of things. I doubt there will be anything. My big thing in life at the moment is to try and stop going away so much, because I’ve got three young kids and they don’t like me being away on expeditions, so I’m going to try and shorten my expeditions and spend more time at home with them and embrace being a dad a bit more.



Why did you sign up for Taskmaster’s New Year Treat?

I’m slightly obsessed with Taskmaster. We all are in our household. My daughter Nelly is 14 and it’s her absolute favourite. Also, when you get to my age, I’ve got to the point where when people ask you to do things, you, kind of, think, well, these opportunities won’t come around again. There’s some that she [Nelly] said I’m allowed to say yes to, and there’s some that I’m not allowed to. I did The Masked Dancer – I was awful– I just did it so that my nieces, nephews, and daughter could be like, “Oh my god!” I cannot tell you since [Taskmaster] has been announced, the props, the big ups that I’ve had from people I genuinely love and admire, who don’t give a s*** about anything I normally do, which is fair enough, they were like, “No way!” But also, lots of things like, “Don’t embarrass the family.” I was like, “Well, of course I’m going to embarrass the family.” I think I might’ve just gotten away with it.

You were a right giggle on Taskmaster.

I did laugh. My face still hurts.

What, if anything, were you anxious about ahead of filming?

To be honest with you, I was more just geeking out. I got to the house, and it was the most fun… the other great thing is, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, because it’s ridiculous. The pressure is off, and you can’t possibly train for it. My daughter was pretty good at saying, “Don’t forget, look under things, look over things, look around.”

What did you make of the dynamic between Greg and Alex?

He [Alex] is [Greg’s] b****, really. It’s a relationship that we all have, whether it’s as a sibling, or as a work colleague, or as a friend. We all have a relationship where we are either Greg or Alex… just when you think they couldn’t possibly insult him [Alex] anymore, there is more, there is always more.

You also got to deliver one of Greg’s bespoke insults to Alex.

I did. It was quite delightful. It was thrilling [laughs].

Greg mentioned a couple of times how nice you are – there are certainly worse things to be called. But he also seemed hellbent on making you angry, and you shared that you often find yourself shouting at the telly. What are your TV turn-offs?

I’ve been really shouting at Craig Revel-Horwood at the moment, when he is not giving 10s to people on Strictly Come Dancing. He’s actually a darling, I love him. I shout more at people driving in the wrong lane on a motorway. That is a real bugbear. I shout at people not letting you out in traffic. It’s generally car stuff. I do swear a lot. I always thought it was just men who got grumpy when they got older, but I think it could be a woman thing too. I also think it’s good for people to swear and curse, it’s letting out irrational anger.

How did you get along with the other contestants? Had you crossed paths with many of them before?

I’d met Deborah because she did Strictly, and I adore her. I’d met Steve because I had interviewed him a lot. I hadn’t met Kojey and Lenny.

Was taking part in Taskmaster everything you expected it to be?

It was better. It surpassed all my expectations. I had the most fun I’ve had this year…when you’re in the studio, that audience, the set, it’s so exciting. I’ve worked in telly for 48 years, I shouldn’t be excited about things like that, I really was like, this is just – I love it. I would’ve been happy to be in the audience.

What would you say you learnt about yourself?

That I’m not massively competitive, which I never really have been. The other thing is life is short. I sound like I’m quoting Ferris Bueller now, but you’ve got to do these things because they’re so much fun. Also, I’ve learnt to listen to my kids. They give me great advice.

Will you be making any new year’s resolutions?

I hate new year’s resolutions. I make lists and then I burn them. No, it’s bollocks. I don’t want to set those expectations on myself.