Taskmaster’s Biggest Controversies: Potatoes, Hula-Hoops and Was it a Throw?
WARNING: This contains spoilers for all series of Taskmaster, including Series 15
Series 15 of Taskmaster has been delightfully ruthless already. So far we’ve had Ivor Graham sabotaging Kiell Smith-Bynoe in the first Live task and Greg Davies letting all the contestants get away with touching things in a task that said “you must not touch anything at any point”.
Then, in episode 4, the show joyously almost descended into full anarchy both over the definition of “throwing” and what a banana is (more on this later).
We suspect Taskmaster fans will be arguing over #throwgate for a while, but it’s not the first controversial decision to go down in the show’s history. In fact, for many, the mere mention of the words “potato”, “hula hoop” and “Mark Watson” are enough to trigger an epic Taskmaster rant to this day. Let’s take a look back at some of the show’s most questionable rulings.
Mae Martin’s ‘Single Throw’
The task was simple: “strike the most drum skins and cymbals with a single throw of a bouncy ball.” Everyone was rubbish at it, but then Mae Martin came along and changed the game, interpreting a “single throw” as tying the ball to a piece of string, releasing it with a “throw” and then using the string to make the ball give an impressive drum solo.
But was that a single throw? Alex Horne even employed Taskmaster VAR to show Mae’s initial throw, which Greg deemed to have some “definite wrist” action, prompting Ivor to produce arguably the line of the series: “There was ‘definite wrist’ Greg, but I don’t ‘throw’ my penis across the room every morning, do I?”
The other contestants’ arguments got sillier and sillier, to the point that Alex Horne described the controversy as “my favourite thing ever”, and we’re minded to agree.
Result: Greg allows the attempt, Mae wins the task
Frankie Boyle: What Is A Banana?
In the same episode, when the Bingo task included the instruction “Get the banana down from the tree” Frankie Boyle and Jenny Eclair both opted to retrieve the sign saying “banana” instead of the fruit itself.
Greg wasn’t buying that a sign for something was the same as the thing it pointed to, which led to this wonderful exchange moments later when he was going to use the bathroom in the next ad break:
Frankie: Just remember, just because something’s got the word toilet on it doesn’t mean it’s a toilet.
Greg: I won’t be p***ing against the door.
Frankie: I wasn’t going to eat the sign!
Result: Greg remains unconvinced, and Frankie and Jenny get a point docked from their scores.
Joe Wilkinson’s Potato Tragedy
Taskmaster fans will have the moment Joe Wilkinson heartbreakingly pleads “Please don’t take this away from me” living rent-free in their heads until their dying day.
In one of Taskmaster’s defining moments, we see Joe Wilkinson going from absolute glory – successfully throwing a potato into a hole on his first try – to utter despair, when Taskmaster VAR reveals his toe was touching the forbidden red throwing area.
What makes it worse is that Greg allows Joe’s fellow teammates to decide if he should get the points anyway, and they shaft him.
Result: Joe is disqualified, and the nation’s hearts collectively shatter.
Mark Watson Forgets To Flirt With Greg
Every so often in earlier Taskmaster series, it’s revealed that one contestant has been set a pointless task, not realising that no one else is being made to do it. Who can forget Josh Widdecombe realising he was made to count every bean in a tin of beans for nothing?
In series five, Mark Watson was asked to send the Taskmaster an anonymous cheeky text message every day for FIVE WHOLE MONTHS. He dedicates his life to this task, with some truly excellent messages ranging from “I have a big d***” to “Can you lend me £50”, only to find out he actually sent 148 texts, not the required 150.
Result: No points, just lots of disappointment
Al Murray’s Bucket Bribe
One of the funniest recurring themes of Taskmaster Series 3 was Al Murray constantly trying to buy his way out of things, so it was no surprise to see him – during a task where contestants had to move water from one bucket to another without touching the buckets – paying Alex Horne to move the two buckets closer together for him.
It was an easy, if unscrupulous, win, but caused outrage when it was revealed his fellow contestant Sara Pascoe had also asked Alex to move the buckets, without offering to pay him, and he’d refused. It’s always the quiet ones, Alex…
Result: Al Murray still won, but Sara got a bonus point, and Alex Horne had to donate the money he’d received to charity.
Jamali Maddix Shows Off His Pillow Spinning
Controversy visited Taskmaster series 11 in its very first episode, when the contestants were asked to “Do the most impressive thing under the table with one hand.” Among Lee Mack’s disastrous attempt to make a sandwich and Charlotte Ritchie’s genuinely impressive demonstration of the ‘coin walk’ trick, Jamali Maddix spun a pillow. Greg was less than impressed, and awarded him a measly two points.
That is, until Jamali convinced Greg to attempt the trick himself, leading to the glorious vindication in the clip above.
Result: Jamali gets a bonus point, but it’s still not enough. He should have got four points minimum.
Rhod’s Sock and James’ Hula Hoop
This is not only the most controversial episode of series seven, but arguably the most controversial Taskmaster episode ever.
First, we had Greg Davies’ cruellest moment: when James Acaster and Phil Wang had to prove how much they’d improved at hula-hooping, it’s revealed James has been practising for months for his big moment – but sadly, he biffs it. What follows is a both joyous and torturous TWO AND A HALF MINUTES as James shows just how good he is.
Result: The audience goes wild, but Greg insists they have to take the first attempt.
Then we had #sockgate. Rhod Gilbert is easily one of Taskmaster’s most wily contestants, finding frequent loopholes, from using a leaf blower to keep his paper aeroplane flying the longest to moving an entire golf hole to make it easier to score.
So when contestants are asked to “find the sock with a satsuma inside” from a line of socks containing mystery items, it’s no surprise that Rhod just goes and finds a random sock and satsuma from elsewhere to present to Alex.
His fellow contestants argue that he simply found “a” sock, not “the” sock, but Greg somewhat unbelievably sides with Rhod.
Result: Rhod wins the task, and James has a mini breakdown.
Bonus: James’ outburst is even funnier when you watch this outtake showing the extended argument between him and Rhod:
It’s okay, James, we’re still not over it either.
Taskmaster is on Channel 4 on Thursdays at 9pm
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