Sitting atop his golden throne, Tom Gleeson kicks off the very first season of Taskmaster Australia. Next to him, on a smaller, slightly sh*tter chair is Tom Cashman, his loyal assistant.
The pair have set a series of ridiculous, baffling and at times infuriating challenges for five comedians, all competing for the glory and adoration of the stern Taskmaster.
This year, Julia Morris, Nina Oyama, Jimmy Rees, Danielle Walker and Luke McGregor have all taken up the task, putting their minds and bodies through the wringer in order to win a golden trophy of Gleeson’s visage.
Speaking to 10 Play, Gleeson admitted that he hadn’t seen much of the global smash-hit that began in the UK and has since spawned over 10 international versions.
“I had years and years of people telling me I should host an Australian version so I thought there was something to it,” Gleeson added. “When I got asked to do it, I sat down and watched it properly and loved it straight away.”
Watching the OG Taskmaster, Greg Davies, Gleeson said he didn’t want to start to copy the original version, but wanted to approach it in his own way.
“I watched it with my children, they’re 11 and eight, and they found it really funny so that was an appeal. The show is just so popular and it’s just a joy and so silly and easy to watch and so much fun. I just wanted to get in on that fun.”
In the first episode, the comedians had to try and complete seemingly simple tasks like trying to remove a balloon from a caravan… without ever touching the caravan.
“The fun part of the show is watching the comedians see themselves do the tasks for the first time,” Gleeson said. “They don’t know how their competitors have done because they’ve done them often in isolation.
“When they’re sitting on the set in front of a live studio audience, they’re watching themselves either succeed or fail for the first time which I think is the joy of the show, and I think that’s the spark that makes it spontaneous and exciting,” he added.
It’s then up to the Taskmaster to oversee the rankings, and hand out points — or disqualifications — accordingly.
“I particularly enjoyed the grovelling,” Gleeson said with a laugh, “I feel like I don’t want to point anyone out… but Nina Oyama in particular found it very hard to accept some of my judgements and would try to get me over the line.
“She was very optimistic about changing my mind and I’m not sure that she ever did.”
The five comedians approach each task in a completely different way, some unravelling immediately and others coming up with creative workarounds that are completely within the rules of the game.
“You’re essentially watching a comedian panic in real-time,” Gleeson explained, “that’s the fun. In some respects, I love seeing new acts like Danielle Walker who might be a bit new for people because it’s good to see a fresh comic brain at work.
“At the same time, there’s a joy in seeing Julia Morris, who is more established, she’s been on a million different TV shows but she’s still at points way out of her depths. I think it’s fun watching someone who normally is completely on top of what they’re doing struggle.”
While safe on his Throne, overseeing the comedians succeed or (more often) fail at the tasks, Gleeson said if he were on the other side of the stage and was competing, he’d have no trouble acing every single one.
“If I was in competition with these five I would have beaten them. I’m a lateral thinker, I’m a good problem solver and I reckon I would have wiped the floor with those five.”
Watch the first episode of Taskmaster Australia on 10 Play on demand now, and tune in when Taskmaster returns 7.30 Thursdays on Network 10 and 10 Play