6th Nov ’19 to 5th Jan ’20
Sam Wills (born 28 August 1978) is a New Zealand prop comic, busker, clown, and mime residing in Las Vegas. He performs under the name The Boy With Tape On His Face and, more recently, as Tape Face. He was also half of the two-person act Spitroast and sometimes performed under his own name, Sam Wills. He has been featured in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, the World Buskers Festival, and was a finalist on Season 11 of America’s Got Talent.
Wills began his performing career in Timaru at the age of thirteen while he trained as a clown. He uses a diverse range of performance styles and skills. He holds a diploma in New Circus from Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology‘s Circus School where he has taught juggling for two years. His interest in the phenomenon of traditional circus freak shows and influences such as the Jim Rose Circus and the Tokyo Shock Boys led to experiments with shock comedy, earning him his first Pulp Comedy appearance, the Best New Face award for the 2001 season, and he was called ‘Prince of Cringe’ from Truth and TV Extra magazine.
Until 2001, Wills was active in the Christchurch entertainment scene, appearing at balls, private functions and corporate events; running weekly comedy nights and appearing on local television. In 2002, he moved to Auckland to become a resident comedian at the casino in SkyCity Auckland, where he had a weekly show, the NCB Comedy Hour, blending circus and vaudeville styles. In 2008, Wills took his show The Boy With Tape On His Face to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, where it received critical acclaim. After Melbourne, he moved to London, appearing as a modern mime and wearing the traditional striped shirt.
Wills met his future wife, English burlesque performer Felicity Redman (also known as Lili La Scala), in 2007. They had a “symbolic wedding” on 9 January 2009, in Christchurch as a start to that year’s World Buskers Festival in the same spot on the banks of the Avon River where they got engaged a year earlier. This was followed by a legal wedding later that year in England. Their first son, Rafferty Basil Danger Wills, was born in January 2013.
Wills rarely gives interviews to maintain the impression of not speaking, which was created by taping his mouth for performances. His media strategy is modelled on Kate Moss, who is also not available for interviews.
Wills performed as the MC of the Late Club at the Auckland Festival in 2005 (AK05) and for First Night at the Aotea Centre. He also performed at the World Buskers’ Festival in 2004, 2005 and 2008. He was a regular performer on Pulp Comedy, during its three seasons on TV2. He performed on the red carpet for the World Premier of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in Wellington. He was the support act for David Strassman‘s 2003 tour of New Zealand. He has also performed at private functions for the former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and the King of Tonga George Tupou V. In the UK he made an ITV appearance on Comedy Rocks hosted by Jason Manford (2011), and also appeared at the first BBC Comedy Prom at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 13 August 2011 (broadcast on BBC 2 on 27 August 2011). On 5 December 2011 he performed at the 83rd annual Royal Variety Performance, alongside Tim Minchin and others.
In the Season 11 premiere of America’s Got Talent (AGT) on 31 May 2016, shortening his stage name to Tape Face, Wills auditioned and got through to the next round. In Week 8 of AGT, during the Judges’ cuts round, Wills successfully auditioned through to the live shows. In Week 1 of the AGT quarterfinals, he advanced to the semifinals. He advanced to the finals on 31 August 2016 by getting the most audience votes in the Dunkin’ save, but was later eliminated on 14 September when he did not reach a top five spot. Maria Karvouni of Forbes magazine wrote that Tape Face revives silent film acting, using his facial expressions and body movements to captivate his audience: “His simplicity creates a complexity which results in a lot of laughter.” He appeared in a show with America’s Got Talent Season 11 winner Grace VanderWaal and runner-up The Clairvoyants in a three-night concert series at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, in October 2016. He also appeared in 2019 on Week 4 of America’s Got Talent: Champions, on Monday, 28 January, where he placed in the top 4 of that night’s acts.
- In 2001, Wills received Pulp Comedy’s Best New Face Award.
- In 2002, he received the Best Marketing award from the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
- In 2005, he received New Zealand’s highest comedy honours, the Billy T Award for his show Dance Monkey Dance: The Evolution of Sam Wills and the “Best Show” award from the New Zealand Comedy Guild.
- In 2006, he received the “Best Show” and “Best Show Concept” awards from the New Zealand Comedy Guild.
- In 2007, he received the “Best Show” and “Best Show Concept” awards from the New Zealand Comedy Guild as well as the “Best Poster” and “Best Show Auckland” awards at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
- In 2008, he received the “Peoples Choice” award at the World Buskers Festival and the Groggy Squirrel Readers Award at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. He was also nominated for the ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
- In 2011, he won best breakthrough act at chortle live comedy awards 2011 as ‘The Boy With Tape On His Face’
- He was also on the Royal Variety Performance 2011.
- In 2012, he was nominated for the prestigious Fred Award in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival as ‘The Boy With Tape On His Face’.
- In 2016, he was an America’s Got Talent finalist.
- In 2016, he was presented with the International Achievement Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand.
- “Welcome”. Theboywithtapeonhisface.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- “Creepy ‘Tape Face’ mime stuns America’s Got Talent audience in viral clip”. ew.com. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- “The Sam Wills”. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012.
- “Welcome to the NZ International Comedy Festival producers website”. Laugh.co.nz. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009. Retrieved 3 June2015.
- “21 – 31 January”. Worldbuskersfestival.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Angermiller, Michele Amabile. “‘America’s Got Talent’ Finale: Watch Tape Face put a Toilet Seat on Mel B”, Billboard, 14 September 2016
- Gates, Charlie (24 January 2013). “The boy with danger as a name”. The Press. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- “Funnyman to marry light of his life”. The Press. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- Gates, Charlie (26 December 2016). “Oven gloves the path to fame”. The Press. p. A19. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- “Pulp Comedy”. IMDb.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- “Tape Face [Sam Wills] Comedian – Things to Know About the Funnyman”. 27 July 2016.
- “Publicity – Tape Face”.
- “Prom 40: Comedy Prom”. BBC Music Events.
- “Tape Face”. www.facebook.com.
- “TAPE FACE – Pleasance Theatre Trust”. www.pleasance.co.uk.
- “The Boy With Tape On His Face met Simon Cowell, and Simon loved it”. NZ Herald. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Weatherby, Taylor (20 July 2016). “‘America’s Got Talent’ Recap: Did Tape Face Make It Through Judge Cuts?”. Hollywood Life. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
- Weatherby, Taylor (27 July 2016). “‘America’s Got Talent’ Results Recap: Which Acts Were Voted Through By America?”. Hollywood Life. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- Karvouni, Maria. “The Curious Case of Silent Tape Face”, Forbes, 6 October 2016
- Miller, Ken. “Grace VanderWaal highlights ‘America’s Got Talent Live!'”, Las Vegas Magazine, 21 October 2016
- “Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc, 2016 Awards”.
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