Alex Horne on the secret to his cult show Taskmaster: ‘It must be offbeat but not wacky, off-kilter but not bonkers’

How does the comedian and creative genius come up with the show’s endless stream of inventive challenges?

Alex Horne is sweltering. Taskmaster, the British panel show in which five comedians complete tasks set by Horne across 10 episodes, is filming its 15th season. It’s an apocalyptically warm summer’s day in Chiswick, west London, at the former groundskeeper’s cottage where many of Horne’s meticulously planned tasks are filmed. Situated beside a busy golf course, under the Heathrow flight path and mere metres from the noisy A316, the location is a soundperson’s nightmare (it was chosen not only for its character, but also because it is close to the Taskmaster director’s house). The furious revving of car engines and the rumble of jets attack the low frequencies; wailing sirens and tinkling golf balls assault the high end. So as not to add to the ambient cacophony, Horne wears a vest which he says helps reduce the rustle picked up by the mic he wears on the black suit that has been his Taskmaster battledress since the series’ debut in 2015. It’s hot work.

Greg Davies – the titular taskmaster, who views the edited footage of contestants’ efforts along with a studio audience, ranking each comic’s performance out of five – refers to his sidekick as “little Alex Horne”. Horne, who is 44, stands at 6ft 2in. But it seems like an apt moniker today, as his trousers bunch schoolboyishly on the grass. When ordering his Marks & Spencer’s machine-washable suit – he owns four identical ones, worn on weekly rotation – he accidentally went for a 37in leg (“How? I don’t think anybody has a 37in leg,” he says). He didn’t bother to return it.

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