Alan Davies is one of the latest comedians to willingly put himself at the mercy of Greg Davies' and Alex Horne's eccentric challenges on Taskmaster, alongside Desiree Burch, Guz Khan, Morgana Robinson and Victoria Coren Mitchell.
To give you a flavour of the tasks he'll face this series, they include painting the most flattering portrait of the Taskmaster on a canvas that's either six inches or six feet above him, and popping a balloon from a distance using ammo including rubber ducks, forks and darts.
Will he emerge triumphantly clutching a golden rendering of Greg's head, or will his efforts go unappreciated by the Taskmaster? We chatted to Alan about how it went...
Alan Davies on signing up for Taskmaster
"I was very aware of it, friends of mine have done it, so I've watched episodes — but once I was approached about it, I started watching more! Then you have some trepidation, because you might make a fool of yourself — which, of course, is very much the idea! But you don't feel like you're being victimised, or set up to fail. It would be boring if everybody failed at everything, and it would be boring if everybody succeeded at everything, so that's why I think it's so clever. You never quite know who's going to do well at what, or who's just going to have a bad idea and try to follow it through!"
Was it reassuring knowing that there were four other people all going through the same experience?
"Perhaps this always happens, I don't know, but I certainly felt like the five of us had a good bond after the studio sessions. I laughed so much in the studio recordings that at one point someone came and asked me if I was okay! I really did just find it hysterically funny. We'd all kind of forgotten what we'd done, and then they'd show the task and you'd go 'oh, this one! I can't remember — if I've made a fool of myself, I've blotted it out'!"
Did you know any of your castmates beforehand?
"I knew Desiree a bit because we'd done gigs together. I've known Victoria for years now — her daughter is the same age as my youngest, so we've met up in some very odd toddler group situations, either with art materials or tiny footballs! And of course I know David [Mitchell, Victoria's husband] as well. In fact, she and I consulted one another, in a kind of "are you going to do this? Oh well, if you are..." kind of way — we both had such a terrible fear of humiliation! But I'd never met Guz or Morgana before, and I thought they were both wonderful."
Did you go in aiming to win?
"I didn't have any hope of winning! In fact, at one point I was doing a task and I thought I was setting about it with some gusto, and it turned out that I was considerably slower than everybody else, and Greg said, 'here's a man who clearly doesn't give a toss!'. I thought, 'I'm sad that it comes across that way, because I really was doing my best'! But even when it's cut together and everybody's being compared with one another, you don't think 'oh, I wonder how so-and-so would get on with this'. I was just trying to make the crew laugh, really — after a lifetime of being a comedian, my instinct was just to try and make the nearest person laugh."
Were there any tasks that felt like a good fit for you?
"There were one or two sort of sporty ones — I don't mind when there's football involved, and there was one where we had to do some sort of goalkeeping. In common with a lot of people, I don't think I can sing or draw, but the truth is everyone can sing and draw, but they just convince themselves otherwise or haven't had lessons or whatever. Just because you feel like you're going to do well, it doesn't really mean that you will!"
On that note, were there any tasks that you thought you'd excelled at, only to be proven wrong in the studio?
"There was one that we did where we had to make a film using a camera attached to a wellington boot [laughs], and I thought I'd made a brilliant film, I was delighted with mine. And when it was all cut together, it looked terrible — and what's more, I looked an absolute fool making it! I won't describe it, you'll just have to see it, but this was one where Greg absolutely went to town — three or four good square hits! But he does it in such a way that he makes you laugh while he's taking the mickey out of you."
Taskmaster returns on Thursday September 23 on Channel 4 at 9pm.
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