Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Once I impetuously slapped duct tape on my talkative daughter. It never occurred to me this could be an award-winning act.
Tape Face, the 38-year-old New Zealand mime who has captivated audiences on America’s Got Talent, has proven a roll of tape, expressive eyebrows and a toilet seat can mesmerize grown adults. He was on a track to win $1 million for his quirky, but irresistible comedy act. He should have won.
Sam Wills, aka Tape Face, is an amalgam of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin with a touch of the Minions. He speaks volumes without uttering a word. And everything he doesn’t say is hilarious.
In a world of noisy gasbags, Tape Face and his prop comedy is a tonic for the ears and dopamine for the funny bone. He pulls humor from nondescript bags, entertains with inane puppets and turns everyday objects into gag lines.
Some of us have tried all of our lives to be funny. This guy slaps tape over his lips, applies thick eye makeup, messes up his hair and becomes a natural crack-up.
His background as a mime is an asset. But lots of us have spent hours in front of a bathroom mirror making faces and nobody laughs at us on national television. They only laugh at us behind our backs.
Tape Face has a special gift of making people laugh before he does anything. A guy in a mask is scary. A guy with tape over his mouth is funny.
What’s really funny is that anybody could have thought of this. Who hasn’t slapped tape on your coffeemaker, luggage, tail light or kid? Now it’s too late. Sam Wills owns Tape Face.
For me, he was the light of America’s Got Talent, lorded over by Simon Cowell. Wills faced off in the finals against a man in elaborate makeup who juggles, a female contortionist, an NFL player who does card tricks, a pizza deliveryman who channels Frank Siantra, a couple that is somewhere between psychic and creepy and a 12-year-old girl who sings while strumming a ukulele. In this crowd, a guy who mugs with tape over his mouth sticks out. And he didn’t need a microphone.
Wills has been coy about he developed his Tape Face act. He won’t say anything, literally. The tape over his mouth, you know. But in an interview with Parade magazine, Wills scribbled his answers. It seemed like he had tape on his pen, too.
Q. Were you inspired by Buster Keaton?
Wills: No. He is good though. The inspirations come from… well, that would be telling wouldn’t it? Get your own inspiration!
Q. Do you practice your expressions in front of a mirror?
Wills: Don’t tell anyone, but I actually order all of my expressions from eBay. They take a bit to get used to but once they settle on, they feel very natural. The new one I have coming soon is blind rage with a hint of sarcasm.
In the show’s finale, Tape Face appeared with four other contestants and, to the tune of “Lean on Me,” turned his competitors into a human coffee table. That’s talent – to think of a stunt like that and somehow convince four grown men to go along with it.
Not surprisingly, Wills started out as a clown and graduated from a clown college. Somewhere along the line he trade grease paint for tape.
He already is a big star in New Zealand and now is a thing in London, where he lives. Wills has “expressed” an interest in taping America by storm. I have little doubt he will definitely stick around.
Wills is married and his wife is also a performer. Felicity Redman does a burlesque act under the stage name of Lili La Scala, which explains her appeal to Tape Face, but offers no clue as to how he popped the question. Or how they had a child and named him Rafferty Basil Danger Wills.
Grace Vanderwaal, the 12-year-old with an offbeat voice compared to a young Stevie Nicks, won the competition. She gets $1 million and a 3-day show in Las Vegas. Heaven help her. She is cute, writes her own songs and is strangely appealing, but might not be assured to win a talent show at her own school.
The pizza delivery man and the creepy psychics would have been better fits as Vegas stage acts (and probably will land contracts).
Tape Face would flourish in Vegas, too. He would be the perfect reflection of the Vegas tagline, “What happens here, stays here.” Tape Face would never tell. His audience would never forget.