Arts Muse

From Top Gear to Taskmaster: The Rise of Dave

Jonathan Wellington tracks the development of Dave and its recent contributions to the UK's comedy scene

Article Thumbnail

Image Credit: Avalon Management UK

Twelve years ago Dave was a waste ground of reruns, showing Top Gear half the time and a BBC comedy repeats for the rest. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but it became the butt of jokes on panel shows, a punchline of a TV channel. Ironically the jabs only ended up being funnier when they inevitably ended up on Dave five years later. Inevitably the topical nature of shows such as Mock the Week would fade but the shows retained their humour fairly well. The showing of good, if old,shows aside meant Dave was most certainly not “the home of witty banter”. It appeared that this self designated title was at best ambitious, at worst a complete lie.

Despite this clear lie,something about Dave worked. What the channel did with this mediocre success is what is of such note.Turning their attention to the original programming,the channel managed to go from “the home of repeated or outdated witty banter” to“the home of new and original witty banter”.

In 2019 Dave has become a more powerful force in comedy, not only has the word “banter” come into popular language but Dave’s original content has really changed the channel’s image. “Witty banter” still might not necessarily be the best description of Dave (it is still showing episodes of ‘Would I Lie To You?’ From the early 00’s) but it’s a lot closer to earning the title it awarded itself over a decade ago.

Dave, however, serves comedy more than just being producing original shows, it’s key contribution is providing a low risk platform for ideas to be tried and tested. Shows like Taskmaster ultimately would never have been made without Dave and what a bleak world that is to imagine.

Taskmaster itself certainly played a key role in getting top comedians to Dave. Now on its ninth series in four years,the show sees Greg Davies put five comedians through different challenges which vary in difficulty and weirdness. One of very few shows I can think of that’s had nine series and still retained its quality and creativity, Taskmaster shows no sign of slowing as its ongoing success means the pool of contestants is ever broadening.

Despite being unique in the fact it was an original show at the time when it first aired in 2015, it’s now one of many on Dave, a testament to how far comedy on the channel has come. James Acaster and Josh Widdicombe’s Hypothetical also proved to be a great show,sharing with Taskmaster the fact it never would’ve been made by anyone else, it’s such a weird premise and would likely have been laughed out of a BBC pitch meeting. Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier is another example of a show that feels at home on the channel and improves every series.

The latest in this line of original content is Comedians Giving Lectures, which perfectly illustrates Dave’s double-edged sword. The show sees comedians taking to the lectern to recycle and re-imagine real academic lecture titles, and performing their stand-up inspired lectures to a studio audience and a cohort of genuine experts.

These experts are called in to watch the“lecture”, take notes,and then give the comedian feedback on the accuracy of the lecture. Not only this but they then give the lecture a score out of 100.The score isn’t as irrelevant as you might think; each comic’s score is then added to an audience vote at the end where a bar chart of sorts clearly shows the winner.

The “experts” are hit and miss when trying to be funny themselves, and you get the distinct impression they had more to say than the editors allowed in the final cut. As a result they’re cut short by host Pascoe or by the comic themselves who always seems less than pleased to receive any feedback. The result is that all it adds is awkwardness.

The point remains, however, Comedians Giving Lectures is a good show which is making an impact on the comedy scene, giving a platform to lesser known comedians alongside those we’ve grown to know and love with in the way Dave has perfected.

Long live Dave, and let us feel lucky that it’s fifth regeneration as a channel worked, not just for the endless reruns but for its long lasting impact on the UK comedy scene in general. It’s a platform to trial new ideas and while some of them might need work, it’s a hell of a lot better than comedy graveyard it once was.

You Might Also Like...

Leave a comment

Your name from your Google account will be published alongside the comment, and your name, email address and IP address will be stored in our database to help us combat spam. Comments from outside the university require moderator approval to reduce spam, but Nouse accepts no responsibility for reviewing content comments on our site

Disclaimer: this page is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.