Part stand-up comedian, part juggler, part mime, a mix of old-time vaudeville, and even some circus revelry, plus a whole lot of fun add up to Tape Face. What? Is it a who? After appearing as a top 10 finalist on season 11 of America’s Got Talent, the New Zealand native, also known as Sam Wills, made it to the top 10 and instantly became a viral sensation. Using no words, just eye movement, a huge slab of black tape across his mouth, and an assortment of props along with his quirky personality, Tape Face has taken the world by storm. He will make a return appearance at the Ridgefield Playhouse on March 14.
No stranger to comedy, Tape Face trained as a clown, mastered the art of magic, and received a diploma in New Circus from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology’s Circus School where he taught juggling for two years. With black spiky hair, black gothic make-up, and huge slab of black tape, Tape Face made a powerful impression at various U.K. comedy clubs and hosted his own comedy show in Auckland and London. He also appeared at various world Buskers festivals and performed on the red carpet for the premiere of Hollywood’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. His work has received numerous awards, including the International Achievement Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand in 2016.
Tape Face recently competed in the spinoff series, America’s Got Talent: The Champions, reaching the top four, and is in the midst of a three year residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas, performing in a custom theater called House of Tape.
To give you a little taste of his act, Tape Face spoke with Pamela Brown while in character.
Pamela Brown: How do you define yourself?
Tape Face: I define myself with a fine brush. I find that when I use this type of brush it takes away the majority of the fine and the defining process is pretty simple and painless.
PB: As a youngster, what got you interested in juggling and magic tricks?
TF: A small hamster wearing a top hat approached me one day at a bus stop. I was immediately captivated and obviously missed my bus.
PB: How do you describe your show? What can audiences expect at the Ridgefield Playhouse?
TF: I call it stand-up comedy without words. Audiences can expect to see everyday objects used in different ways and some classic tracks of music to haul the evening truck along.
PB: How did you come up with the character Tape Face?
TF: I don’t understand this question.
PB: Do you feel comedy can be more effective without using words?
TF: I feel as though a lot of things and people could be more effective without words.
PB: When was the first time you realized you could connect with people without speaking?
TF: Ever since I was very small, like a baby. Yeah, I think it was when I was a baby and didn’t have a grasp on the basic English language.
PB: Do you feel your type of comedy is an art form?
TF: No. It’s just comedy. Stop overthinking it.
PB: What has been the response from others in the comic industry?
TF: Mostly support, as comedians are typically described as lazy people, so to take away one of the few aspects of the job — being the words — I am considered a hero.
PB: How do you come up with the comedy skits?
TF: Mostly, I order them from eBay or Amazon. They tend to ship in several days and get delivered by the same delivery guy called Joey Delaware who spends half of his time not handing over my package and ranting about wolves.
PB: Is there a message behind the tape?
TF: Yes. It’s very deep and meaningful and loaded with art, then again I might be overthinking it.
PB: How does it feel staying silent for the entire show?
TF: It feels just like every other show.
PB: On America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel commented, “That guy’s brilliant?” How did that make you feel?
TF: It felt great and then I wondered who this Mandel guy is.
PB: How did the custom theater in Vegas come about?
TF: Turns out it was there all along and Vegas just didn’t have a silent comedian who used tape so when people discovered my act they made the obvious connection and let me in.
PB: Did you ever imagine you’d be where you are today?
TF: But what if I did? Then none of this is real. Did you hear that? Susan don’t eat the ham.
PB: What do you like about performing?
TF: The small bits in-between — finding the gaps and taking a moment to pause and look out into the world and laugh.
PB: Who, what has been your greatest influence?
TF: I don’t drink so I am not under any influences.
PB: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: how does it feel after you pull off the tape? What’s your favorite lip balm?
TF: I don’t know what you are talking about.
PB: Any final words?
TF: You’re not out of Norway yet.