Three Great Things: Alex Horne

The creator and presenter of Taskmaster, whose tenth season is now streaming, on The Blues Brothers, skateboarding and his BFF.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the U.S. release on Taskmaster Supermax+ and YouTube of Season 10 of Taskmaster, the British comedy series where comedians are set a series of quirky challenges, the show’s creator/host Alex Horne shared some of the things he loves most in life. — N.D.

The Blues Brothers
It’s quite difficult to think of three things that I love. I’ve got three children, but I’m not going to choose any of them for this. Instead, I’ve gone for The Blues Brothers, which I watched about a month ago for about the umpteenth time. I love it; it’s comforting, it still makes me laugh and it reminds me a lot of happy times in my life. It’s the movie I would have loved to have made if I were a filmmaker.

I remember I saw it with Ben Reynolds and Joe Auckland, who are my best friends, when we were 14. I’ve known Ben and Joe for my whole life, and now they play in my band, the Horne Section. I’m the singer, but I can’t really sing, which feels quite appropriate. We watched The Blues Brothers together at Joe’s house, and then we watched it again, and again, and again.

The movie is one big car chase; I’d forgotten that until I watched it again recently with my kids. It made them laugh too, which was a huge relief. I also tried Monty Python on them, which was too slow or too weird for them, whereas they really got into The Blues Brothers. Showing it to them felt like coming full circle, as I was about their age the first time I saw it. Back then, it felt naughty and stupid to me, but not in a scary way. I watched The Terminator when I was too young and I hated it; I was too scared. The Blues Brothers felt grown-up, but had all the things I liked, rather than all the things I didn’t like. I also had the Blues Brothers computer game on the Amiga, which was great. The music got stuck in my head more from the computer game than the movie, I think. When I got older, I realized the music was incredible and the musicians in it were amazing.

Before university, I went to China for three months as part of my gap year. It was a strange and lonely time, and The Blues Brothers was the only movie my flatmates and I had on VHS, so we watched it every weekend. It got me through the isolation, and I also showed it to the Chinese kids we were teaching. It was a fun way to teach them English through the movie.

After that, I had a 15-year hiatus from The Blues Brothers until my friends and I started the Horne Section, and it did feel similar to the movie: getting great musicians together, going on road trips, being naughty, wearing suits and sunglasses.

I need to say right at the start, I can’t skateboard. But I love the idea of skateboarding and of being a skateboarder. I tried it when I was 10, and again at 20. Both times, I just couldn’t do it. A few years ago, I was given a skateboard by my wife and kids for my 40th birthday, and then I got two pairs of Vans and all the pads. During lockdown, I built a skate ramp in my garden. But after all that, I still couldn’t skate.

I am still trying, though. I recently had a skateboarding lesson where a 5’6” man caught me again and again for an hour. (I’m 6’2”.) It was so embarrassing. But I still cling onto the idea of being able to skateboard, because I just think skateboarding is so cool. I watch skateboarding videos on YouTube and I’m on a WhatsApp group called the Old Gits Skateboarding Group.

I still dream I’ll be able to skateboard one day. The problem is, I always find excuses why I can’t practice, like, “If I break my leg now, we won’t be able to go on holiday tomorrow,” or, “I’m in the studio this week.” I’m afraid I’m kidding myself, though, and don’t think I’ll ever really get good at it. I’m too tall. I’m not very coordinated. But often when I go to sleep at night, it’s the last thing I think about: I imagine myself skateboarding down the high street where I live. It’s definitely a fantasy, but it’s something I cling onto.

Tim Key
My third thing is my best friend, Tim Key. He’s a comedian and I think everyone should discover him if they don’t know about him already. He’s brilliant and I love spending time with him. He’s really fun. I could never tell him that I love him, but this is my way of telling him. We don’t even hug goodbye, we just walk away. At the end of phone calls, we don’t say goodbye. We know each other well enough, we don’t have to. I’m big into hugging, but I think we’ve only hugged twice: at the end of the Edinburgh Festival the first year we did it, which was 20 years ago, and then more recently when he was dealing with some medical issues that have now been resolved. Around the same time, he was in the hospital and I had to pull up his underpants underneath his gown, because he couldn’t bend down. That’s as close as I got to him. I looked away.

We first met when I was 20 and he was 22. He’s two years and eight days older than me, which is a huge gulf. When he turns 50, I will be so happy. I went to Cambridge University, and while I was there, Tim auditioned to be in a pantomime I had written, and he pretended he was studying at Cambridge University too, at Sidney Sussex College. That was actually the college I was at, so I immediately saw through the lie. But he was the funniest person we auditioned by miles, so he got a part in the show. We started living together as soon as we left university, and he was the one who told me to propose to my wife, and how to do it, with some Love Hearts. We have very different lives, but we spend a lot of time with each other. He’s the one person I call up for no reason, and we just carry on the conversation we had the previous time we talked. I suppose we’re kindred spirits. We know what the other person is thinking all the time.

Tim’s a unique performer and the funniest person I know. I’m quite shy at dinner parties, but he instantly turns it into the best dinner party ever and makes it memorable for everyone. I become more fun when I’m with him, and maybe he thinks the same about me. I hope so. I think we bring out the best in each other.

Alex Horne is an award-winning comedian, author and podcaster, and the creator and host of the award-winning comedy game show Taskmaster, whose tenth season is now streaming on Taskmaster Supermax+ and YouTube. Alex is also the creator and frontman of The Horne Section, a six-piece band of multitalented musicians, which will have its own sitcom later in 2022. This follows the band’s establishment as a staple at the Edinburgh Fringe, appearances on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and the release of the iTunes chart-topping The Horne Section Podcast.