TV: Sarah Millican is the latest comedian to take on the brilliantly absurd Taskmaster

Sarah Millican

Picture: PA Photo/Rob Parfitt/Channel 4
Sarah Millican Picture: PA Photo/Rob Parfitt/Channel 4

Award-winning stand-up Sarah Millican joins 'brave souls' Dara O Briain, Fern Brady, John Kearns and Munya Chawawa on the 14th series of the hit Channel 4 show, which famously requires its contestants to compete in a series of bizarre challenges as presented to them by Greg Davies, the taskmaster, and Alex Horne, his assistant.

The goal: to win back their forfeited possessions - and retain some dignity.

"It's quite a solitary job being a stand-up, so doing this was like having a gang..." quips Millican, 47, who first found fame having won the comedy award for Best Newcomer at the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

"I was never in a gang - of course I wasn't, look at me!" the Geordie star quickly adds. "So just being in a room being with other comics was brilliant. We'd all have a drink afterwards with the crew and all the comics ended up in a little gang together and everybody else was mixing.

"It's just the way we are, we all just hone in on each other. So just working with other people was really nice!"

As ever, Davies will be perched on his regal throne, while Horne (the brains behind the BAafta-winning format) scuttles about his master's feet as they judge the new round of hopefuls in the ultimate quest for victory.

But how will Millican fare in the line up? We put her on the clock to find out more.

ARE YOU A TASKMASTER FAN?

I've watched it from day one. Sometimes when you do programmes, you have to watch it the night before because you think, 'I don't know what I'm doing, and there's going to be really complicated rules that I'm not going to know, and I don't want to look like I'm flailing.' But this was easy, because I'd already watched it, I knew exactly how it worked. Although, even when you know the show well, you still have no idea how you're going to react. It's a bit like when you learn to drive, and you think, 'I'm going to be great at this,' but you don't know, because it's not like anything else you've done. So some people are really smart, but rubbish at driving. And then other people who are thick as s*** somehow nail it. That's what this is like. You have no idea what your brain's going to do when you get in the room.

DID YOU HAVE A STRATEGY?

Well, I wanted to have fun because that feels like an important part of doing this. I also checked under every table. Every single task. And on at least one task that did pay off. Is there anything better than finding something that a man couldn't find? I didn't realise that was so high up on my list of things I love to do, but it was. But there was one where I found something taped under the table and thought, 'A-ha!' and I pulled it down, and there was a note saying, 'Hello, Sarah.' I was like, 'Ah! They've got me.' Smartarses. Also, every day when I did the tasks, I made notes afterwards. One of them was 'concentrate' so I obviously didn't concentrate enough and wanted to remind myself for the next day. Another one said, 'Take the task with you.' I had pockets in my dress, so I put it in my pocket. So my strategy was always trying to improve.

DID YOU USE YOUR COMIC TALENT?

My other strategy was to try and be funny. Sometimes that came very easily, and sometimes it was apparently funny just to see a woman folding a tarpaulin. I said to Dara, 'It's a good job they've got the young ones there, because this task is just a middle-aged person having a lovely time, folding a tarpaulin really carefully, really accurately.' It may be the most boring television you've ever seen. It's a good job there were young ones who don't know about folding. Why don't young people know about folding?

WAS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WAY YOU AND DARA APPROACHED TASKS COMPARED WITH THE YOUNGER THREE?

When I saw Dara folding up a tarpaulin efficiently on his task, I was like, 'That's exactly what I did.' It's interesting. I don't know if it's a gender-based thing, but men often think, 'Of course I'm going to be good at this,' and women are a bit like, 'Well, I'll give it a go but I'm not really sure.' I feel that's how we're built, conditioned.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GREG?

Sort of snidey. I'm much more likely to grass to the teacher than to shout at a kid and that's exactly what it was like. I know he's the Taskmaster and all that, but it's Greg. I used to gig with Greg. But then sometimes he'd be really mean. The prize task was really odd, because you all think you've got a brilliant idea until you're sitting there and you really have no idea until you see what everybody else's is, and then you're like, 'I still don't really know how he's going to grade these.' To be told the thing that is a treasured possession of yours, is just, 'No, terrible.' And then occasionally, you'd get one that he liked, and you'd feel a bit better.

AND HOW DID YOU GET ON WITH ALEX?

Oh, he's adorable. He's obviously the brains behind the whole thing, so you know that he's incredibly smart. I gigged with him a few times back in the day, and he was always a joy to be around. It was really nice seeing him at the tasks but every now and again, he'd really mess you up. There was a balloon one I'm still a little bit annoyed about because he was supposed to be helping me count and he said, 'Oh, it all happened so fast.' No, no. You promised you were helping me! I should have known not to trust him, but he has such a trustworthy face. Greg's right, he's a p****. There were some tasks where I threw things at him, purely because I knew Greg would really enjoy that and give me extra points.

CONTESTANTS HAVE SAID TASKMASTER IS A BIT LIKE HAVING THERAPY BECAUSE YOU FIND THINGS OUT ABOUT YOURSELF. DO YOU AGREE?

I already know myself pretty well. I know the flaws; I've worked them all out. I've mined them for comedy for years! I am annoyed at how passive I was in some of the tasks.

Taskmaster returns to Channel 4 on Thursday, September 29.