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TV panel shows play a huge role in the UK’s comedy landscape. Considered by some to be the holy grail of humour, they contain the perfect mix of low-brow antics and high-brow wit.
We’ve rounded up seven of our favourites here to help you get your comedy fix while you’re at home. Trust us, whether you watch new episodes or their huge back catalogues, these masterpieces of silliness never get old.
Where to watch it: The series will return with new episodes on Channel 4 in autumn. In the meantime past episodes air on Dave and you can view series 1 – 9 on UKTV Play.
What could be better than seeing a group of comedians do wacky tasks and tease each other about them? Giant-sized funny guy Greg Davies is the “taskmaster”, and you just never know what absurd challenges he’ll dish out from his comfy throne. Accompanied by Alex Horne, his ever-loyal little assistant, anything can happen from throwing potatoes and destroying cakes to bringing computer games to life.
Since the quintet of competitors on Taskmaster are also among the country’s top stand-ups (like the hilarious Tim Key, who will crack you up in his headband and red track suit), you’re guaranteed loads of laughter while awaiting Davies’ unpredictable rulings and flippant scoring.
What’s more, you can now also take part in Hometasking, a new home-based version of Taskmaster. Every Monday and Wednesday at 09:00, Horne reveals a bizarre task on Twitter and gives you 30 hours to complete it. Simply post a video of your attempt to be reviewed by Horne and his panel. A top ten compilation goes to Davies, who will judge and give the final verdict from his living room.
When it comes to satire, this comedy quiz show is an institution. Featuring Ian Hislop and Paul Merton as team captains, celebrity contestants are grilled about the week’s top news along with films, tabloid headlines and more. Even though Have I Got News For You has been around for 30 years, you’ll never tire of its mix of wit and political insight. Originally presented by Angus Deayton, the series has relied on guest hosts since 2002.
Last Friday Have I Got News For You returned to the airwaves with a new elaborate video-conferencing format. Awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 British Comedy Awards, the show has always managed to stay fresh and smart. So don’t just expect to hear about the coronavirus outbreak, as there’ll be plenty of comic absurdity ranging from Brexit to Megexit and more.
Nothing is better at combining informative facts with humour than this quiz show. Originally hosted by Stephen Fry, the “quite interesting” world of QI now stars Sandi Toksvig. Each episode features four panellists and resident player Alan Davies answering impossible questions.
Not only is the banter hilarious, but you’ll learn a wide range of astonishing things every time you watch QI. For example, do you know why Louis XIV’s courtiers each grew one long pinky fingernail? (Hint: It’s not gross, if that’s what you’re thinking.) We bet you also didn’t know which body part babies are born without or that the famous James Bond theme music originally came from a song with the lyrics “I was born with this unlucky sneeze”.
Where to watch it: Having wrapped up its 22nd series in February, you can catch recent episodes airing Tuesdays on E4 or view all episodes online here.
Launched in 2005, this is another pinnacle of panel shows. Not only do you get to catch up with the news, but 8 Out Of 10 Cats is really funny – as you’d expect with dapper deadpan comedian Jimmy Carr presenting it. Also fantastic are the two team captains, Rob Beckett and recent addition Katherine Ryan, who lead the celebrity guests in answering questions related to opinion polls and statistics.
There are many iconic moments to love from the latest season, such as hearing Joe Wilkinson read another outrageous poem – this time on naming people’s private parts, while seasons past are full of gems like when Lock demonstrates just how ridiculous Carr’s stage entrance is. Plus even though the festive season is a long way off, it’s never a bad time to immerse yourself in one of 8 Out Of 10 Cats’ Christmas specials. From the ugly jumpers to seeing Beckett stuff an unimaginable amount of Brussels sprouts in his mouth, you’re sure to bust a gut.
Where to watch it: Having also wrapped up its 19th series in February, you can catch reruns on Channel 4, E4 and More4 throughout the week or head here to view all episodes.
Can’t get enough of the 8 Out Of 10 Cats cast? Then see some of the regulars play Channel 4’s famous words and numbers quiz. Hosted as well by master of the one-liner, Jimmy Carr, this successful spin-off has become a comedy classic in its own right since debuting in 2012.
8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown also includes lexicographer Susie Dent who presides over Dictionary Corner and mathematician Rachel Riley, aka the “Queen of the Numbers”. The most recent series also featured hilarious guests Kevin Bridges, Nick Helm, Richard Ayoade, Rose Matafeo, Alex Horne, David O’Doherty and many more, alongside regular panellists Jon Richardson and Sean Lock. Enjoy some of Lock’s moments of complete madness in the video above.
Where to watch it: Having wrapped up series 13 on BBC1 early this year, you can view those and past episodes on BBC iPlayer.
First broadcast in 2007, Rob Brydon has been hosting this award-winning comedy panel show since 2009. Would I Lie To You? also boasts quick-witted team captains Lee Mack and David Mitchell, who weave their one-liners into 30 minutes of absolute nonsense.
More hysterical than ever, the teams have to deliberate over whether a tall tale they’re told is true. Did Clare Balding purposely spill wine on her dress to pass it off as a pattern? Does Tom Allen keep flattering photos of himself in the event he disappears? Did Jennifer Saunders break into a convent and steal from nuns? Was tall Stephen Merchant used as a living landmark by a group of strangers? The best part is finding out which of these unbelievable stories are true, and which are just expertly crafted lies.
Where to watch it: Having wrapped up series 18 on BBC2 at the end of last year, you can view those and past episodes on BBC iPlayer.
One of the UK and Ireland’s favourite stand-ups, Dara Ó Briain – who got a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics – has been presenting this comedy current affairs quiz since 2005. With regular fixture Hugh Dennis appearing as a team captain, Mock The Week offers a winning combination of a panel show, stand-up gig and improvised game.
The series always features a wide mix of comedians and other personalities ready to mock the day’s headlines (as well as each other). From surreal one-liners from oddball Milton Jones and clever quips from Romesh Ranganathan to the now traditional Christmas special filled with festive irreverence and inappropriateness, you’ll have trouble keeping it together while Mock The Week takes a satirical swipe at just about everything.
Find out when these comedians and more will be touring the UK by visiting our Comedy Guide.