A Man of Few Words

The Viking Saga sits down with “America’s Got Talent” Season 11 finalist Tape Face

HANNAH GELLAR & JOYCE LIN

On Feb. 15, The Viking Saga chiefs had the opportunity to interview Season 11 finalist on “America’s Got Talent”, Tape Face. Tape Face performed at The Garde Arts Center to start off his tour as he is traveling across the United States, making audiences laugh into tears at his silent  comedy.
The Garde Arts Center is a non-profit performing arts organization that allows New London community and surrounding towns to have the chance to see popular shows in the comfort of their town. It was such an incredible experience to interview and watch a worldwide sensation from a theater just 20 minutes away from ELHS. Tape Face is just one of many stars who have performed for this organization, as the theater has the goal to educate, enrich, and entertain the New London county with family-friendly  entertainment.
VikingSaga: Everyone knows you as “Tape Face” but what is your actual name?
TapeFace: My real name is Sam Wills. A lot of people actually call me Sam Willis or Wells or Sam Williams or something else.
VS: Where are you originally from?
TF: I’m originally from New Zealand.
VS: Did you come to America for “America’s Got Talent?”
TF: I was living in New Zealand but then I moved to the U.K. in 2007 and I worked there for 10 years and developing the character. Originally, the show was called “The Boy with Tape on His Face.” I wanted to start touring in America and I saw “America’s Got Talent” as an opportunity to get really good exposure and experiences in from of different  audiences.
VS: How would you describe your act?
TF: I describe it as stand-up comedy without talking. Essentially I use the same format as other stand-up comedians do. I have a stand-up comedy background so before doing Tape Face, I had another show where I talked a lot, and also I am circus-trained so I did circus sideshow stunts, like hammering nails up my nose, pushing my pocket through a tennis racket and I accidentally discovered that through this sideshow thing, I would talk a lot during the routine. So I developed the Tape Face character and “The Boy with Tape on His Face” as a rebellious act to prove I could do a show without talking. I’m still using the same comedy format. Except, for me, I use props and people and music to make my punch lines work.
VS: Could you describe the brainstorming process? Is it just you?
TF: There’s a small little family of us that sort of work on the show. Holly, technical director, Christina makes sure I move to one location to the next. Michelle does everything else. Mike, does a lot of transportation and technical support. I run the ideas past these guys as well and they’ve helped sort of evolve the vague ideas of the show. I run a lot of routines with music. I’ve got a big playlist on Spotify and iTunes, and I just keep music there that will one day be funny and go buy props at the dollar stores, Target, Walmart, and then just sit around the house, like “okay, I’m going to write two jokes today,” see if they’re funny and then hopefully put it all together.
VS: With the character, Taep Face, how long have you envisioned all this?
TF: Originally it was just a five-minute joke so it wasn’t as in-depth as a character, but then it kind of took over my career. It was part of my old show. But then even though it started as a joke, I started investing more into the character and coming up with more reasons and rules for what I will do and won’t do. I went further into the character to develop more, give it some more substance.
VS: Before “America’s Got Talent,” you mentioned you performed this act. Can you take us through before Tape Face?
TF: Yeah, before Tape Face, I was starting out at the age of 12, as an apprentice for a clown. Then , I went to a circus school in New Zealand, where I majored in juggling and minored in acrobatics, trapeze, clowning. Then I became a street performer and accidentally found myself doing comedy and stand-up stuff. And after that, I started developing the Tape Face show and took that to the U.K., where I started building shows and standing in front of audiences.
VS: As a kid, did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
TF: I remember at school they would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I would get in trouble because I wrote that I wanted to be a con artist or a comedian. And now I’m both.
VS: We’ve always watched “America’s Got Talent.” You are a very different act compared to everyone on there. There’s no swears, no age group. It’s simple comedy and funny for everyone. What was your confidence level going into “AGT?” Did you think you would make it as far as you did?
TF: I had my goals of what I wanted to get out of the show. I think you’ve got to have them. I’m also a very technical person when it comes to my career so I planned out what I wanted to do, strategy-wise. For me, I wanted to get something out of the show. I wanted to provide good television and make sure I would get the right exposure to the right audiences. I don’t think going into any show with any sort of confidences is a great thing to do because you never know how they can twist anything. I went into the show, hoping to make it in the first round and after that, I was just hoping for the best time. And also, the show is real. That is the one thing that I learned. I’m such a skeptic. I thought it was all BS. I was convinced that they all planned it out, but it’s all legit, everything is real.
VS: And how was your experience with that?
TF: It was good. Also, I never wanted to win. To go into it knowing you don’t want to win is certainly helpful because sometimes it’s better not to win.
VS: When you first started, did you know you wanted to be on something like America’s Got Talent?
TF: For years I was actually avoiding these shows. I thought that they actually destroyed a lot of the original variety. But now, they have slowly rebranded themselves to be better. For a few years these shows were actually incredibly damaging; I’ve got some good friends whose careers were just ruined by these shows and how they shaped the show. But now we have a much better deal.

VS: How has your life changed since the show?
TP: It’s different, a lot busier. Also, I think the season that I was on, it really sparked over social media. For me, my clip went out and got nearly 50 million views and not only was I seen in America but my audience was all around the world. And also with my show being completely silent, it means I can work anywhere as well.

VS: What inspired the dark makeup, costume?
TP: There was originally a Tim Burton influence. When I first drew up the character, it was way darker and way weirder. But then I got rid of all of them. Originally, there was not makeup, it was all tidy and clean and then when I worked with the director, he sort of encouraged me to go with my first instincts and go back to what I thought it should be. So we took it to an extreme and then stripped it back a couple of layers.

VS: What’s next for you?
TF: We do this tour for the next three and a half weeks. Then we pop to Vegas, where I just signed a residency for three years. They’re currently building a theater for me out there, it’s gonna be called “The House of Tape.” We have our first show there March 16, with more shows around the world new ideas.

VS: What is the importance of what you do?
TF: For this show, there’s no political references, no topical references, so it’s this sort of escapism. People can come along to the show and forget things and just enjoy a safe bubble where things are funny. And for a certain number of adults to remember what it’s like to play again. A lot of people forget to use their imagination when they grow up. It just reminds people to have fun and be silly. It keeps me going.

VS: How do you like America?
TF: It’s good. People are funny and nice. The audiences are great.

VS: How long do you see yourself doing this for?
TF: WEll I’ve been doing this since 2005, so it’s been 13 years of Tape Face. I’ve just written a new show which has been debuted in New Zealand. Some of the jokes tonight are from 2005, which adds to the longevity of the show. I’m happy to keep doing this for as long as I can.

VS: Are there any favorite acts or bits from your shows that you’ve always kept with you?
TF: No, because when we write a new show, it has to be completely different material. There’s certain materials that I follow for a show, it’s sort of like a blueprint. Same structure, same format, but just different surprises. The gloves bit is very popular, the funniest. Also the John Lennon puppet.

VS: As a high school paper, we write for the voice of the student body. In high school, people are very known for sticking to common trends and conforming. You are a very unique act. What would you want to say to someone who is different?
TF: I think everyone is a unique individual just like everyone else. One of the catchphrases we put with the show is”stay weird.” The sooner that you realize nobody is normal, the sooner you can just get on with it. There’s is no such thing as a permanent record. Think for yourself.

VS: When you’re not Tape Face, what are you doing in your personal life?
TF: Playing Nintendo switch, Playstation, virtual reality. My job is my hobby. I use a lot of social media, interacting with people.

VS:Where do you think you see yourself 10, 20 years from now?
TF: Older. Owning a bookshop. My long-term plan is to own a bookshop. If I can make enough money out of this I can own a small bookshop where I won’t make any money.

 

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