43. Consensual nonsense
January 31st, 2021
When I attempt to sell people on Taskmaster, I share this clip with them, which neatly condenses its appeal into twelve minutes: Silliness executed with an unlikely seriousness.
The premise of the show is that five comedians compete to complete simple tasks such as ‘Fill an egg cup with tears’, or ‘Eat as much watermelon as possible in one minute’. Their attempts are filmed individually on location, then scored live in front of a studio audience. It’s low-concept, low-stakes, and low-budget, but not necessarily low-brow. There’s a deadpan meticulousness to even the most absurd moments, which elevates those like the end of the above clip to a giddy, impossible height.
Alex Horne (the show’s creator) was a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe festival around the time that I still lived in the city, and his shows were always full of the same wilful, studied silliness. Taskmaster has been a welcome reminder of sitting elbow-to-elbow in those dark rooms at midnight, breathless at nonsense.
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