60. John Hannah
Season: ‘New Year Treat’
Best moment: After quietly enduring the New Year special without endangering his acclaimed acting career by doing much of note, Hannah finally lost his cool during the final onstage task, when the balls he was trying to hit into a bath with a cabbage inevitably kept hitting the Taskmaster, sitting directly in his ball-path, losing him a point per time. “That’s because I’m the only one firing in that fucking direction!” he ranted, before kicking over his bucket in disgust.
59. David Baddiel
Best moment: Crap at virtually everything, Baddiel’s highlights were his most watch-through-your-fingers moments. Creating a religious cult to worship a chickpea to pitying looks from his own followers, for instance, broke the show’s cringe-o-meter.
58. Paul Sinha
Best moment: Paul’s Taskmaster performance might have been hampered by undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease – although he claimed “the illness was only a tiny aspect of why I floundered” – but jeez louise, could that guy remember almost all of a pack of weird playing cards in order.
57. Russell Howard
Best moment: The half-arsed, get-my-agent-to-sort-it approach taken by the male half of ‘Team Funk’ made it look like Russell was phoning it in for most of the series, at least when he wasn’t concocting an unnecessarily elaborate snooker trick shot for himself. But it paid off in a moment of lightning bolt genius when he realised he could keep Alex completely dry by simply unplugging the hose to his showerhead.
56. Krishnan Guru-Murthy
Season: ‘New Year Treat’
Best moment: Watching himself gingerly sticking an arm through a wall to feel a lollipop man, Channel 4’s news anchor shook his head and muttered “I have been to some of the world’s most dangerous places…”
55. Katherine Parkinson
Best moment: Despite maintaining an expression that said ‘If it wasn’t for COVID, I’d be somewhere winning an Emmy for something right now’ throughout season ten, Katherine came into her own with her grossly under-rated upside-down arthouse film of chatting chin people.
54. Paul Chowdhry
Best moment: A grandmaster of misunderstanding tasks – who could forget him walking across a flattened hurdle thinking he wasn’t taking any steps? – Chowdhry was a consistently bottom-of-the-table presence, until he was asked to sweat profusely into an egg cup. The resultant spattering of which was of such dark and creamy hue that it prompted one of the show’s best ever lines from the Taskmaster: “are you blacking up?”
53. Hugh Dennis
Best moment: The worst of the show’s ‘lateral thinkers’, Hugh’s attempts to twist the rules of tasks to his benefit often came a cropper (looking at someone behind a curtain in a mirror? Tick! Still drawing a shit picture of them? Bzzzz!) But when it came to keeping a basketball on a running machine, one Russell Howard-esque pull of the plug and Hugh was a hero, just for one task.
52. Iain Sterling
Best moment: Finding a full-sized goal to try to score into from the furthest distance. Genius. Still missing but leading the crew in a conga celebration. Comedy gold.
51. Johnny Vegas
Best moment: The place where Taskmaster met Last Of The Summer Wine, Vegas was the king of the season ten pratfall, his slapstick skills reaching a peak of tragic pathos when his towering beermat Vegas Villas collapsed around him in the closing seconds.
50. Sian Gibson
Best moment: Sian’s butter-wouldn’t-melt exterior disintegrated the moment she had to apologise to Alex for sending the Taskmaster a photoshopped image of himself naked with the message: “Come to mama”.
49. Sarah Kendall
Best moment: Being the only contestant able to tell the difference between sugar and salt made Sarah look like the Einstein of the most recent series, and her babbling, maniacal in-flight announcement was certainly memorable, but it’s her chilling recreation of The Shining with herself as both terror twins that has kept us awake at night.
48. Mawaan Rizwan
Best moment: Since sneaky pasta snake Mawaan so brilliantly made that cow disappear in a blink of the eye, we’d be surprised if he hasn’t already bagged a Vegas residency.
47. Nicola Coughlan
Season: ‘New Year Treat’
Best moment: Convincing herself that resting a doughnut on a large cactus was putting the whole thing ‘through’ the hole, then dressing said cactus as The Great Gatsby for no reason.
46. Shirley Ballas
Season: ‘New Year Treat’
Best moment: Widening her doughnut to get an entire drainpipe through it, without missing a single one of the 12,000 potential innuendos.
45. Jo Brand
Best moment: Despite taking a very laid-back approach to Taskmaster 9, Jo stole the series by being so astonishingly good at ‘Horse Or Laminator’ that witchcraft became indisputable.
44. Jessica Knappett
Best moment: Hyeerrnk! Hyeeernk-hyeeernk HYEEEEERNK!
43. Tim Vine
Best moment: A toss up between his uncannily accurate impression of the Taskmaster’s mum, right down to the dress made of flooring, trapping a bee in a chocolate egg or correctly calculating that a piece of string was exactly 308 lobsters long.
42. Kerry Godliman
Best moment: Dribbling a little bit of sick out at the gripping climax of the cliffhanger to ‘Cul-De-Sac’. Bosh.
41. Lee Mack
Best moment: Masterminding the tragic and cataclysmic stunt cycling accident of Beevil Knievil.
40. Roisin Conaty
Best moment: Using backwards slow-motion techniques to make spitting water over a book look like a vision of Fellini.
Standout quote: “I expected it to be like a melon buffet!”
39. Rylan Clark-Neal
Season: ‘New Year Treat’
Best moment: Trying to smash a wall down with a sledgehammer to get a look at the lollipop man and shouting: “What colour’s your fucking hat?!”
Standout quote: [sarcastically, when John Hannah questions him winning the doughnut round] “Oooh, I was in a film…”
38. Sara Pascoe
Best moment: Instinctively knowing that you could anchor balloons to bread by the knot and making all her rivals’ (crafting balloon sandwiches) look like fools.
Standout quote: “It’s so pooey, Alex.”
37. Mel Gedroic
Best moment: While her Taskmaster trailer in the style of a Scandinavian crime drama was inspired, Mel’s finest moment involved taking a toy camel through south London’s smallest Gap. Brrrilliant.
Standout quote: [mid-handshake] “Give, receive.”
36. Jon Richardson
Best moment: Although he clearly enjoyed screwing up the nation’s past-their-bedtime toddlers with his ‘Three Blind Mice’ video, Jon’s evident discomfort and embarrassment at doing most of the tasks reached a peak when, through sheer desperation, he resorted to impressing the Mayor of Chesham with a rendition of The Eagles’ ‘Desperado’ which even he couldn’t stay in the room to watch.
Standout quote: “We fought for you, mate.” [to Joe Wilkinson after voting for his potato-gate attempt to be disqualified]
35. Richard Herring
Best moment: Memorising all the lines of all the parts in Alex’s murder mystery play for a one-man performance worthy of a BAFTA on its own.
Standout quote: [Watching Daisy May Cooper guzzle feverishly at a watermelon] “It’s like The Walking Dead.”
34. Lolly Adefope
Best moment: Hiding so well from Alex during the Hide And Seek task that she had time to taunt him with beach selfies.
Standout quote: [sat in a bin] “Schnell, schnell!”
33. Frank Skinner
Best moment: On-screen: somehow convincing the Taskmaster that ‘high-five a 55-year-old’ could involve high-fiving two 27-year-olds and, using ice-cream menaces, a one-year-old. Off-screen: apparently using the blank cheque he won in show five to withdraw £19,000 from Josh Widdicombe’s account and then give it straight back to him.
Standout quote: “How much for first? £12,500? I’ve probably got that on me.”
32. Rose Matafeo
Best moment: Turning the theme tune into a hoedown epic tracing the entire history of the show.
Standout quote: “What’s funny about a shid?”
31. Asim Choudhry
Best moment: The nail-biting drama and peril of sending a small plastic man on a penny farthing on a death-defying adventure through a drain full of fire and lizard monsters.
Standout quote: [writing down ‘unusual animals’] “Eight-bollock cat.”
30. Katy Wix
Best moment: Serenading herself inaudibly due to the rose in her teeth.
Standout quote: [pulping a sodden slice of bread back into shape] “This feels quite erotic.”
29. Liza Tarbuck
Best moment: In the finest metaphor for the injustices of the patriarchy ever televised, Liza was completely ignored by her teammates while she told them repeatedly that the link to all the clues in a room was ‘hops’, so she hopped 100 times on her own (“ten on each foot, hold the girls down”) and completed the task while her male teammates were still wondering if the puzzle had anything to do with HP Sauce. She got her own back in the final episode though, when she expressed genuine love by making Alex sit on a cake while “open”.
Standout quote: “He shat himself inside out.”
28. Jamali Maddix
Best moment: It takes a lot to one-up the Taskmaster himself, but Jamali managed it on his very first filmed task, simply by spinning a cushion. Looks so easy, right?
Standout quote: [asked how much string he wanted for the haunted house task] “You see the amount of string that you was gonna get? More string” [to the Taskmaster]. “You sit on your chair that’s been custom made and you look down on the little people. But y’know what? We’re not having it anymore!”
27. Charlotte Ritchie
Best moment: Almost making us believe, through the power of Photoshop, that she has attended every presidential inauguration in her lifetime.
Standout quote: “Hands are amazing, but this one doesn’t really do anything.”
26. Richard Osman
Best moment: King of the lateral thinkers (even though, frankly, he just necked that egg), Richard blew the entire concept of Taskmaster wide open the moment he strolled up to the top of a hill and brought the goddamn yoga mat down to the exercise balls.
Standout quote: “Put on food-handling gloves, eat a banana correctly [pause], put on a tie and clap as many times as possible.” [defusing a misogynistic shit storm by moving one comma]
25. Doc Brown
Best moment: His psych-rap version of ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught A Fish Alive’. Why did he let it go? “Motherfucker bit my finger, bro.”
Standout quote: [Having voted for Joe Wilkinson to be disqualified in the potato-throwing task and Joe being given the bad news] “That’s harsh.”
24. Joe Thomas
Best moment: Joe’s polite awkwardness was a major highlight of season eight, whether greeting Sian like a new girlfriend’s mum, fumbling for what to do once he’d reached Alex on the railway bridge or reluctantly eating crisps in a boxing gown. Which made it all the more fantastic when he finally blew over the defining characteristics of an eraser, yelling at his fellow contestants to “put some fucking effort in!”
Standout quote: [asked what BMX stands for] “It stands for Bicycle, My X-ellent bicycle.”
23. Dave Gorman
Best moment: Of all the Taskmaster cheats, Dave Gorman was the most cunning, asking for a replacement for the pea he’d wanged into the long grass only to stick it into the strings of his tennis racket and claim it was the original.
Standout quote: “I did not cheat.”
22. Joe Lycett
Best moment: Destroying a cake in a phantasmagorical firework display akin to a Pink Floyd gig at an Olympic opening ceremony on New Year’s Eve. In a bucket.
Standout quote: [quietly, mid-handshake with Alex] “I love you.”
21. Rob Beckett
Best moment: Cackling like a maniac while spraying Alex with a hose rifle, dressed as a nana, or putting his career on the line by doing the sweat task in a range of accents which risked offending around 96 per cent of the world’s population.
Standout quote: [after rolling to a microwave with a stomach full of coffee] “I thought I was gonna be sick out me eyes.”
20. Phil Wang
Many contestants performed their tasks in a regular, characteristic outfit – Noel’s yellow skeleton, Mel’s overall full of wax seals, Katy Wix’s construction uniform. Only Phil Wang, however, chose to do the whole series in a, ahem, ‘figure-hugging’ Bruce Lee jumpsuit which had the nation attacking its eyeballs with scour pads on a weekly basis.
Best moment: His frankly unwatchable slo-mo hula hooping.
Standout quote: “I haggled for it…”
19. Rhod Gilbert
Refusing to accede to the established power dynamic of Taskmaster, Rhod went in intending to torture, insult and humiliate Greg and Alex like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, with the prize task his Colosseum and a picture of Greg in his pants his longsword. He missed no opportunity to make Alex get his arse out (even turning it into a water feature at one point), dropped dogshit from a height onto the Taskmaster’s face and even went so far as to waterboard Alex with lukewarm coffee.
Best moment: For the ‘creepiest thing’ prize task, Rhod hid in the Taskmaster’s wardrobe to film him sleeping.
Standout quote: “Rub-a-dub-dub!”
18. Noel Fielding
Noel had a distinct and unfair advantage over all other Taskmaster contestants across all 11 series – he can draw. His surrealist edge stood him in good stead too, whether doing “the shrew move” to a ringtone in a virtual Covent Garden or ‘washing’ a cake to death.
Best moment: Having meticulously gutted a ‘drug fox’ to fill it full of flour and cleverly pass it down some fishing wire to a target, Noel lost his shit and hoofed a gas cannister off a bandstand.
Standout quote: [Having disguised himself as a banana in the caravan] “I’m like Predator”; [listening to the ‘censure’ ringtone] “I like this, it’s cheeky innit, like baby dinosaurs.”
17. Josh Widdicombe
Dedication is what makes a legendary contestant, and Josh virtually had ‘dedication to Taskmaster’ tattooed on his foot. When he wasn’t almost blinding himself with onion to fill an eggcup with tears he was drinking tea from a wheelbarrow or counting all the grains in a bag of rice for points.
Best moment: Getting himself inked forever with the word ‘GREG’.
Standout quote: “I’m probably what makes Britain great.”
16. Nish Kumar
Shit and piss! Nish’s constant mood-swings between triumph and agonised frustration kept season five on edge. One minute he’s having a full-on meltdown when his Weetabix disintegrates, the next he’s cheerily eating a cat or creating a human graph about how much fun he is.
Best moment: When, finally leading in an episode, he just filled in a sudoku incorrectly in the ‘Most Incredible Headcam Footage’ task, the Taskmaster took him aside for a quiet pep talk about self-sabotage: “You’re not a bad guy Nish…”
Standout quote: “You bubbly fuck!”
15. Tim Key
A task consultant on the show, Tim threw himself into season one with a frenzied desperation for points rarely seen outside of competitive eye-gouging. Rocking the classic tracksuit and tie combo throughout, he attacked a watermelon like a ravenous watermelon wolf, emptied a bath of water like his life depended on it and clawed raw egg yolk from the ground in the hope he might still be able to hold it above his head.
Best moment: Stalking nervously around a shopping centre terrified to ask anyone their age, bagging a 55-year-old first go and then, when challenged on pretending to be making a film for Comic Relief, shrugging: “It’s great to get their name out, isn’t it.”
Standout quote: “What I’m going to cook is rabbit in red wine, tequila and Um Bongo.”
14. Alice Levine
Always ready with a gentle term of endearment for Alex and a biting patriarchy metaphor whenever presented with a cardboard box, Alice lit up season six with her unflappable charm and methodical creativity. For her ‘best invention’ prize task she literally invented tethering for battery – and watching her pelt a bunch of balloons with darts and a staple gun was both a graceful display of the beauty of physics and a bit like Up-gone-psycho.
Best moment: Making a nation on tenterhooks believe she was actually going to get dragged along behind a car in a wheelbarrow for a mile or so.
Standout quote: “Erection fanny gobshite.”
13. Ed Gamble
Bawling the theme tune like a baby, stabbing at balloons with a hypodermic needle, glueing a bunch of grapes back together or transforming himself into a human buckaroo, Ed ‘by the rules’ Gamble attacked Taskmaster with the intensity of a champion. If anyone was going to find that dodo, it was this guy.
Best moment: Either his dramatic entrance as a sacrificial procession, or being dubbed “the Jeffrey Dahmer of the chickpea world” for filming himself copping off with a tub of hummus.
Standout quote: [On aubergines:] “It’s amazing how much it compacts down into a baby’s head”; [on Jo Brand being let off breaking the rules of the seven-task task] “What? That was the worst day of my fucking life!”
12. Mark Watson
Mark “fiddly” Watson’s obsessive nature really played to the strengths of Taskmaster. Irritating Alex with copious sneeze films for days after he failed to summon one up with his usual nostril-pinch method, getting his coconut registered as an actual business, carrying an entire bathroom into the studio and sending cheeky texts to the Taskmaster every day for five months are exactly the sort of lengths we want to see these grovelling minions sink to for a glimmer of Greg’s approval.
Best moment: Arranging for the Taskmaster’s trousers to be stolen as his ‘most hi-octane item’.
Standout quote: “I’m devastated to get no points out of something which, genuinely, if I look back on this calendar year, was one of the major things I’ve done with it.”
11. Al Murray
“Moneybags” Murray opened both wallet and trouser for the show – when he wasn’t spunking hundreds of quid on Rolos and taxis to spread his clothes across vast areas or take a pea to Slough, he was hiring gongs in order to surprise Alex in his pants.
Best moment: Pissing in an egg cup and then trying to argue that urine is the same as sweat.
Standout quote: “What price glory?”
10. Daisy May Cooper
Pregnant and brimful of disdain, “Achievement Woman” combined the contempt of Rhod Gilbert, Tim Key’s bursts of manic desperation and the unpredictable temper of Joe Thomas (her blazing ‘Revolving Pictionary’ row with Richard Herring was the closest we got to a family Christmas in 2020) to become the runaway star of season ten. Then she came into her own in the ‘best collection’ task, when she managed to convince the country of the existence of the supernatural, simply by playing her collection of electronic voice ‘phenomenomenomenoms’.
Best moment: Going at a watermelon like it was the last uncontaminated watermelon on earth.
Standout quote: “DO YOU NOT THINK THAT LOOKS LIKE A HIPPO?!”
9. Joe Wilkinson
Joe shrugged, moaned and bumbled through much of season two with a carrier bag full of Calippos and a strong lager in one hand and shoving pineapple up his arse with the other, his only transferable Taskmaster skill seemingly the ability to ask a pizza delivery receptionist to say the word ‘bubbles’. Nonetheless, he went down in Taskmaster legend by providing the show’s most iconic moment to date. The triumph of getting a spuddy hole-in-one. The drama of the foot-on-mat reveal. The tension of the kangaroo court of fellow contestants. And the heartbreak of having his life’s one and only moment of glory cruelly stripped from him.
Best moment: The agony and the ecstasy of Potato-gate, this generation’s Death Of A Salesman.
Standout quote: [on knees] “Please don’t take this away from me.”
8. Lou Sanders
Ten weeks on the verge of hysterics, Lou Sanders was a sci-fi jumpsuited whirlwind wreaking havoc through the otherwise relatively calm waters of season eight. There was no knowing which Lou you’d get from one task to the next: the crystal-healing earth goddess, the giggling maniac, the stern voice of reason talking Iain Sterling into a hammock, the strutting champion pan flinger or the cruel mistress signing Alex up for calls from a load of scientologists, estate agents and jazzercise classes, saying: “Welcome to your new life.”
Best moment: Making Alex eat burnt porn topped with popping candy.
7. Romesh Ranganathan
Romesh’s cool, insouciant attitude hid a ruthless and formidable Taskmaster contestant prepared to push his mind, body and soul to the very edge of catastrophe for points. If Josh Widdicombe was rubbing onions beneath his eyes to fill his egg cup with tears, Romesh was slapping chilli sauce straight onto his eyeballs. If Tim Key was stuffing watermelon down his neck at a frantic pace, Romesh was on the floor half-choking to death from melon cloggage. And when you come up against a competitor capable of drawing a recognisable self-portrait by GPS, you’d better get a foot tattoo or get off the pot.
Best moment: ‘Tree Wizard’.
Standout quote: “I had to piss on my teabags.”
6. Aisling Bea
Sometimes sheer confidence can see you through. Take Aisling Bea, who raced at some tasks faster than she could stuff a dry Weetabix in her mouth and styled out others even as her water cooler moment fell apart around her. From the chaos came glimpses of genius: trying to balance Alex on a see-saw by utilising the chassis of his own car; getting him to piggyback her across uneven ground while she was blindfolded; turning everything from a lakeside graph to a coconut businessman into a feminist statement; Spoony Neeson.
Best moment: Discovering that, despite naming 61 countries and piling her can tower ten-high in the ‘Name Countries While Stacking A Can Tower’ task, she’d missed the very first handshake with Alex and scored just one point. And freaking the fuck out.
Standout quote: [dancing round in her underpants] “Dignity intact!”
5. James Acaster
Outside of Curb Your Enthusiasm, has a surly man getting annoyed by everything happening to him ever been more hilarious? From the moment James “suck it” Acaster entered each task arena refusing to acknowledge Alex, he was riveting TV. Would he lose his mind cycling in circles while simultaneously trying to hula, or be tipped over the edge by Rhod Gilbert failing to tell him the garage is open? Or would he absolutely smash it, tracking clues through the house in record time, making a fantastic portrait of Greg by destroying just one ukelele or brilliantly recreating Grand Theft Auto on a child’s car, right down to the stunt bonuses and driving music? Plus, on a critical basis, Clump Stump’s ‘Over My Shoulder’ was genuinely better than most of the albums I’ve reviewed this year.
Best moment: Revealing, frustratingly too late, that he was now a championship-level hula-hooper.
Standout quote: “Expect the unexpected, bayba”; “My eyes are circles”; [singing] “Pants on a stick, who’s pants, my pants, your pants, no no”; [on hot air balloons] “I got given one of them, but I didn’t use it”; “Just open the box, you prick!”
4. Katherine Ryan
Like a much-improved Joe Wilkinson – she could get toy cats out of trees, sweep up a red carpet and hide pineapple in her pants like a champ – Katherine also provided one of Taskmaster’s most legendary moments. Having stormed season two by writing nursery rhyme gangster raps and making the Taskmaster an actual Lord, she returned for the ‘Champion Of Champions’ shows, where her ability to turn water into wine made her look like a serious contender, and was requested to ‘make the biggest mess and clear it up’. She chose to rip her own family apart for points.
Best moment: Realising she’d quite possibly destroyed her sister’s marriage by making up adultery allegations, just as Alex blew his whistle.
Standout quote: [Considering where she could hide a full pineapple] “I could do a courgette”; [singing to a mayor] “Three kids, but just one came from his balls, that’s Peter Hudson, you know that you can trust him, yeah”
3. Bob Mortimer
Bob was a one-man Taskmaster highlights reel. Transforming himself into several Wotsit beasts. Singing ‘Have You Seen The Muffin Man?’ while cuddling Alex in the boot of his car. Hoofing a Weetabix straight into a bucket. Explaining how his anus is “too high”. Making a revolving sausage dispenser “to encourage my children to eat the cheaper meats”. Asking a cellist if she’d like to be able to fly. Displaying an in-depth knowledge of urine distribution in the British Isles in graph form: “If you’re thinking of collecting vast amount of piss, go up to Dumfries and Galloway. If you only want small amounts, e.g. for household use, you might like to consider East Sussex.” How did he know? “I was looking into purchasing gallons of piss because I was in dispute with the Woolwich ferryman. I thought: ‘Fuck it, I’ll fill his boat with piss’.”
Best moment: Bawling “Rosalind’s a fucking nightmare!” at Rosalind, in song.
Standout quote: “Someone had done a poo in the sandpit…I remember it was sweet.”
2. Mike Wozniak
From the moment Mike opened his gloriously decorated mouth on the first prize task and, in the voice of a 1940s RAF pilot, sang a song about cannibal prawns, he was an instant Taskmaster hero. Since then he’s braved a hoverboard in a storm clutching a tableful of crockery, played a balalaika one-handed beneath a table, given an in-depth explanation of his symbolic nipple, turned ‘Marshmallow Tong Snatch’ into a martial art and performed the ‘dizzy sand dance’ move at every available opportunity. Hiding an intense mania behind a veneer of British respectability, Mike is a 1970s sitcom dad made flesh, and thereby the perfect Taskmastar.
Best moment: Trying to complete the solo ‘fart’ task and audibly popping out a haemorrhoid.
Standout quote: [about his anus] “It’s an absolute casserole.”
1. Sally Phillips
She might have wandered unassumingly through Taskmaster’s greatest series yet, but nobody gave Taskmaster more must-watch moments than Sally Phillips. Her headcam film of Alex being born was a true work of art. She wanged a full jelly into a bucket from a distance with Olympian panache. Her ‘special cuddle’ involved stuffing chocolate cake into Alex’s armpits. Of Bob’s bodily excretions she was not afeared; her ‘most surprisingly expensive thing’ was one of Bob’s turds set in stone for £15,000, and as the target for the ‘best splat’ she took a balloon of his piss full to the face. All hail the Queen Of Tasks.
Best moment: Banging a water cooler.
Standout quote: “It was either that or get your knacks out.”