‘It makes the comedians have to be authentic’: Australia gets its own taste of ‘Taskmaster’

The cast of 'Taskmaster' with Tom Gleeson (centre, left) and Tom Cashman (centre, right)

In the UK original of panel game program Taskmaster, creator Alex Horne serves as the assistant, umpiring the tasks set for the five comedians while enjoying a healthy level of banter with Taskmaster Greg Davies.

In the Australian adaptation, set to air on Network 10, Tom Cashman performs the role to Tom Gleeson’s Taskmaster. According to the comedian, it’s a position he was born to fill.

“I think my role in my whole life has been poking the alpha male until they snap, and the running away, only to getting bored and go over and do it again,” Cashman told IF.

“That summarises how I feel about the dynamic; I think I enjoy being a bit cheeky and seeing what more powerful people will do.

“But I had a lot of fun sitting next to him and learning from him in places, but also being cheeky in others.”

Performing tasks for the Toms throughout the series are comedians Julia Morris, Luke McGregor, Jimmy Rees, Nina Oyama, and Danielle Walker.

Challenges include making a thong fly the furthest and producing the most convincing cricket appeal. They were filmed at the Taskmaster villa in New Zealand, with the results shown in front of a live studio audience at the end of last year.

The Australian iteration, which is produced by Avalon and Kevin & Co, comes more than seven years after the premiere of the original UK version, which ran for 14 seasons and 128 episodes.

Despite having a wealth of material to draw from, Network 10 executive producer Sarah Thornton said the local version doesn’t repeat any of the tasks from other territories, with the production instead using what has already been done to learn “what works and what doesn’t”.

“What you do have is a framework for the different types of tasks,” she told IF.

“There are creative tasks, where the comedians creativity is tested and there are measurable tasks, where there is a risk of failure or a time limit.

“There are also ones that have secret clues or a trick or hack to them, and I think that’s part of the brilliance of the format in that there really isn’t a blueprint for how the comedians perform the tasks, and it really plays into their interpretation. We know how to create tasks that have enough of an opening but also feel fair and measurable.”

For Cashman, who has previously appeared on Question Everything and The Project, it is within these parameters that comedians are given the opportunity to be more genuine.

“[The format] puts these comedians in situations that are often quite stressful, which makes them have to be authentic because they are just thinking about it too much,” he said.

“If they are funny, and we are lucky that our five contestants are, then it’s very fun to watch.

“It’s almost like a cheat code to go forward ten years in someone’s career and get to the heart of who they really are and what makes them hilarious.”

Taskmaster premieres Thursday, February 2 at 7.30pm on 10 And 10 Play.