Alex Horne has never told a good joke in his life. That seems to be the opinion of main Taskmaster host Greg Davies, at least judging by his exasperated reactions that he acts as part of his character on the BAFTA-winning comedy game show Taskmaster.
Season 14 of Taskmaster aims to debut this year, meaning there are 13 seasons of banter to see the best of Horne’s dry, self-deprecating British humor, prove Davies wrong and show what to expect for this upcoming season.
10 Assistant Little Ian
Season 6, Episode 4
Ian made his one and only appearance as Horne’s assistant. Of all the jokes across the series’ history, this is the only one to feature an entirely new cast member that isn’t a contestant.
Horne’s character in the show is to be a formal, meek assistant to juxtapose the authoritative, more charismatic Davies. Ian is an even more formal counterpart to Horne, who takes intern-like ridicule from even him. It’s also one of the first jokes that returns throughout the episode, with Ian coming back for the final task and then replacing Horne during the credits. It’s a great gag that plays on the dynamic the two hosts have with each other, with a fun camera reveal of Ian as well, which is unusually scripted for the show but effective.
Season 11, Episodes 3 & 4
In episode 3, Horne attempts to impress Davies with his mathematics, but the prepared calculator to double-check him doesn’t work and they move on. In episode four it comes back, and Horne almost tricks the contestants by having answers fed through an earpiece.
The only joke to continue over onto another episode. Like with many others, Davies’ exasperated voice sells the intro, but what ultimately works is seeing Davies and the rest of the contestants surprised for the briefest moment, not realizing he has a second earpiece. Charlotte Ritchie, from one of the British comedy series Fresh Meat, has the best reaction, calling him a dirty rat. Horne’s gambits of trickery rarely work, and they’re brilliant when they do.
8 My Children Call Me Little Alex Horne
Season 6, Episode 1
One of the many gags made much funnier by the unscripted nature of Horne’s segments, and the reactions from Davies that salvage the more basic banter set-ups. “Little Alex Horne” began as a nickname in series three episode three, then became a regular part of his introduction in series four.
Horne is actually the true taskmaster of the show, as he is the leader of the challenge creation team — he is The Riddler of British comedy, but not as terrifying — and Davies’ actual role in the show is as the decider of who wins, rather than the actual overseer of task creation. Circumventing that is the show’s effective source of regular comedy.
7 Thigh High Boots
Season 13, Episode 8
Only one of many gags involving Horne with some specific piece of clothing, this one being a pair of boots, with flaps on his trousers to reveal they’re actually just regular thigh-high boots.
Horne centers many of his introductions on complicated items of clothing, much like the knee pads in series one. The gradual, deceiving lead up to a very normal pair of thigh-high boots is great, and especially as a surprise to the usually elaborate pieces of clothing he does bring in.
6 Just A Man
Season 12, Episode 4
Horne shares his personal meditation music, which consists of him repeatedly singing to himself “He’s just a man. He’s just a man called Gregg,” and then finally at a much faster speed “You will be the Taskmaster soon.”
Musical humor is rare for Horne, with the only other pre-prepared tune being in season 9, episode 8 for ‘The Alex Horne Show.” This one brilliantly plays into the in-character feud between the intern-like Horne and his boss Davies, sounding as if he plans to usurp him.
5 A Bad Dad
Season 5, Episode 4
Davies starts this banter off by asking “Have you genuinely got children?” and Horne doubles down on having the appearance of a bad father, implying he’s only seen them once all year then stammering out “I’m a good father! I’ve got two boys… Um, a a boy- I’ve got three boys.”
Many of the best jokes on the show come from or after season 6 once Horne steps his game up and brings more props or foreshadowing to something that will appear later in the show. However, this dry moment coupled with the awkward silence and audience laughter from his mistake makes this a memorable gag, especially once Davies chimes in again to say he’s happy to keep him from them because he’s a bad father.
4 A Friendship Of Fifty Episodes
Season 7, Episode 6
After providing general statistics for the show, Horne ends with “and one everlasting friendship”, to which Davies intervenes saying how awkward the relationship is, and that Horne knows nothing about him. Davies asks “what car do I have?” to which Horne responds incorrectly with “A car. A Honda!”
Horne’s genuine expression of panic as well as the malignant smile creeping onto Davies’ face knowing Horne is about to squirm is brilliant. In the outtake, the scene goes on for even longer, with James Acaster and Rhod Gilbert chiming into the awkward chaos, with Horne revealing he doesn’t even know how many children he has after fifty episodes together.
3 Belly Sudoku
Season 6, Episode 6
Horne innocently asks “Do you wanna do a sudoku?” after a series of remarks about how he knows Davies likes Japan and puzzles. Of course, nothing in Horne’s jokes can be simple, and after handing Davies a marker, he lifts his shirt to reveal a Sudoku tattooed on his belly.
The puzzle-printed co-host can’t even keep a straight face while Davies tells him “Increasingly, these little sections are just a cry for attention aren’t they?” before his happiness sinks once Davies draws circles all over and ruins it. The devastation in Horne’s face sells the end of the joke, with contestants the likes of the great British comedy actor Asim Chaudhry having laughs all around.
2 Two Gold Stars
Season 4, Episode 7
As the season comes to an end, Davies asks Horne if he has another job lined up. Forced on the spot, Horne says he likes sightseeing, then plucks his name badge out of his pocket with two golden stars. However, Davies is insulted by the idea that Horne gave himself golden stars on his behalf.
The quick transition from “I like it when you let me go to the park,” to then talking about his name lapel even makes Davis break character and laugh – Horne is brilliant at moving on without skipping a beat. The growing disdain in Davies’s voice is a great source of laughter as well, clearly angry that Horne would consider him “competent.”
1 Rehydration Coat
Season 8, Episode 7
Horne’s bizarre coat contraption is the best of the best, named as such by Davies himself. “I mean, y’know,” said the show host, trying to compose himself after swearing, “eight series and that’s the first funny thing you’ve done.”
In the most bizarre invention to date, Horne set up two tubes running along his coat sleeves that connected to his inner breast pocket, one with squash (or ‘cordial’) and the other with water to dilute it. The punchline came after he urged Davies to drink the squash, then surprised him by suddenly offering water right after. Season 8 features the most elaborate inventions for Horne’s gags, and the result of this one was strangely wholesome. It’s sweet to see the boys finally getting along, with Horne’s proud cheek-to-cheek smile and saying, “He liked a thing that I did!”