9. Amsterdam with Joe Lycett
Here’s the point at which Travel Man’s producers must have scribbled down the note ‘Joe Lycett – new host if Richard leaves?’ The two have more in common than you may think – they’re both sardonic clothes horses who run on irony – but while Ayoade’s persona leaves little room to express genuine delight, Lycett is a joy machine. We see it here when he’s confronted by a Dutch street organ that plays Wham. Immediately, he starts to jig, hands held aloft screaming “I feel so alive!”, while Ayoade nods along barely perceptibly. A strong audition for the main part.
8. Moscow with Greg Davies
Worthy of celebration solely for the local outfit Greg Davies wears at the traditional steam bath: a kind of toga worn with – as the Taskmaster describes it – a hat that makes him look like a sinister children’s character. Add to the outfit the ‘being whipped by two men using birch branches’ treatment that Davies volunteers to undergo, and we are entertained. See also: space food.
7. Split with Aisling Bea
This is Aisling Bea’s second time as a guest on the show and both are good fun, but this pips the other because it features what is officially the most adorable Travel Man sequence of all time: Bea and Joe Lycett walking extremely sweet rescue dogs from a local animal shelter along a dedicated dog beach. As Lycett puts it, “it’s the cutest day I’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot.” If a tiny puppy stand-up paddle-boarding doesn’t do it for you, then there’s also strudel-rolling, a fish cookery class, and a museum of frog taxidermy that genuinely makes you worry for humanity. Clearly mates who get on, these two are great company.
6. Copenhagen with Noel Fielding
The happiest Goth on Earth in the happiest place on Earth? That’s what you get with Noel Fielding in the Danish capital. The Mighty Boosh star giggles his way through open sandwiches, bakery windows, a beer museum and a tiny rollercoaster. They both love the fairground, and both appear to provoke genuine antipathy from their cycling tour leader Mike the Bike (he doesn’t like trouble), who makes every effort to ditch them mid-tour. The chemistry is good, the mood is… as relaxed as Richard Ayoade appears to get (key quote from Fielding: “I thought this was going to be a holiday, not one of your weird, anally retentive fright-fests.”) And they’ll always have Galoppen.
5. Berlin with Roisin Conaty
In which: they travel in a jazz lift, very much almost die on the road in what was voted the World’s Worst Car of 1975, improvise a blues jam session, and go to a bowling alley. Not a bowling alley but a kegelbahen, where Richard Ayoade appears to reveal genuine anger and a surprisingly intense competitive streak (plus a serviceable Daniel Day Lewis impersonation) when he refuses to leave until he gets a strike.
Comedian, writer and actor Roisin Conaty makes an excellent audience for Ayoade’s patter, awkward Kula Shaker jokes, and the break’s Cold War theme in general. He’s great, she’s great, and it just works.