In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, New Zealand-born comedian Sam Wills aka Tape Face talks about the ‘frustration’ of being silent on stage, how Indian puppetry has always fascinated him and why he thinks award shows are stupid. Read for more...
Last Updated: 06.16 AM, Feb 04, 2023
In India, most of you probably know him from many of his viral videos on YouTube. Footage courtesy: America’s Got Talent Season 11, and of course, his mammoth fan following on the platform who share and re-share his reality show clips even to this day. Among others.
But it is worth noting that Sam Wills, who goes by the stage name Tape Face, has this peculiar quality about him—he can make you laugh without mouthing a single word. His comedy lies in seeking humour in the mundanity of life and his co-acts on stage, everymen.
In an exclusive video interview with OTTplay, the comedian shared his thoughts on Bollywood films and how he had accidentally interrupted a film shoot once; joked about talking too much and flat-out called Oscars and the overall award culture ‘stupid’.
Edited excerpts from our conversation with the ‘award-winning’ comedian:
OTTplay: My first question to you is, obviously, about your India tour as this is your first time performing in this country. And you're doing a multi-city tour. Right? So what prompted you to say ‘yes’ to this gig.
Tape Face: I think because the show is a sign show and so that means it's very international and I can go anywhere around the world. My goal is to try and take my act to every country. And when the chance to come to India popped up. I was like, ‘Yups, I will go to India’ and I was happy and had no problems. But, yeah, I'm very happy to be here.
OTTplay: Traditionally, as part of our entertainment culture, we have been using props on stage, with puppets being a huge part of our comedy scene. Did you manage to read up on the Indian culture? What did you find out about India before coming here?
Tape Face: I didn't really do a lot of research, I'm sorry (laughs!) Because I've done my show, I tend to keep everything in my own sort of (way)... I try not to see too much of other stuff. Because I don't want to be influenced too much by other people. I want to have my own set of ideas and let creativity come out. So, I haven't done that. I understand that Indian comedians do a lot of puppetry and it’s beautiful, and I have seen some of it previously and thought it was beautiful really. But, no, I have seen (both) very silly and normal sort of proper puppetry.
OTTplay: Coming back to your act, you seem to say it all without saying anything. What is the biggest drawback of staying silent on stage?
Tape Face: The frustration! And that can happen sometimes when I've got a volunteer on stage, and they've got no idea what I want them to do. And I'm trying to desperately get them to do some very simple, simple thing. And they just get confused by what's going on. There's the occasional time I feel like I want to rip the tape off and tell them what to do. But I don't do that (laughs!).
OTTplay: I was going to one of your older interviews. And there you mentioned that the whole tape bet. It was not like something that you had planned, but it was born out of necessity. If you could tell us more about that.
Tape Face: I used to do another show where I talked too much. So that's where the tape sort of came in. So, my old show was very much of a stand-up comedy, and I still use props, but I use them in a more circus sideshow sort of fashion. Then, I was lucky enough to win a big comedy award in New Zealand in 2016. And, since then, I decided to challenge myself and do a show that had no talking and no sort of skill of sorts, except for, you know, interacting with people and playing and that sort of thing. So, again, it was originally just a five-minute routine that I wrote just to prove a point that I could shut up for five minutes. And then it sort of grew out of hands and wrote another 10 minutes material. And it was slowly but surely, the freak show stuff started going down, and the tape face stuff kind of going up and then I just ended up being more tape faced and less of that other stuff.
OTTplay: Bollywood is a huge part of our Indian culture. Like are you friends with any of the Bollywood artists do you know of anyone's body of work or do you follow?
Tape Face: I don't, I'm really sorry. I'm pretty antisocial and in my own head.
In New Zealand, there was a lot of Bollywood films made out there because it was cheap to film. So, I remember walking down one of the old streets by the Avon and they were filming a Bollywood film, and I was with a friend. She was, she was six foot and 11 inches, she was really tall. And they stopped filming and asked her if they could quickly put her in one of the dance scenes. And so, they throw her in. And we were like we have got to watch this Bollywood film and replay (it). It was really cool, and really crazy. Bollywood films are very long though (laughs!).
OTTplay: In India, we are living through sensitive times, especially when it comes to comedians as they get in trouble for, you know, not saying the right thing or not cracking the right kind of jokes and whatnot. So, how do you plan on winning the Indian crowd over when some may call us hypersensitive.
Tape Face: Lucky, I think, because I don't talk that's in my favour. And I don't do anything that's offensive. So, it's pretty safe. I've got a pretty safe show. And—in that sense—which is one of the reasons why I wrote it. I wrote a show that can entertain different people on different levels, works under any circumstances and at various places.
OTTplay: So you have a huge fan following on YouTube. In fact, you went viral on YouTube first and then everything else started to sort of happen for you. Why do you still do live shows when you have a wider reach on YouTube?
Tape Face: Because live shows are more important. I think when you do something on TV or something on YouTube, it sucks the material away straightaway; everyone's seen it and it has gone through to everyone and is now disposable and junk. We spend most of our time scrolling through Facebook, just watching a little video and then you scroll to the next video and the previous one doesn't matter. Whereas in live shows, it's been like when you see a band, you can listen to music on your iPod that way or however long. But, when you see a band live, that's a whole different experience. So, I love that experience. That's the best part that when you see a live comedy show with audience and that sort of thing. (When) I'm doing a live physical silent-comedy show, every time becomes more of an experience that I want to make. Make them pure as far as I can take it and it’s always a lot nicer (than before).
OTTplay: These days, almost all the global awards are all about diversification and inclusive. So, what do you say to, for example, an Oscar for live artists? Wouldn't that be cool? Your thoughts?
Tape Face: (Laughs!) That'd be hilarious if I did that. Because I don't think it would ever happen.
OTTplay: Why do you say that?
Tape Face: The Oscars are too much caught up in their own self. And these awards don't matter as well. The awards are stupid. Because everybody’s got one.
OTTplay: Last question to you is about your final Indian performance (in Kolkata) and what should your Indian crowd expect from you?
Tape Face: They can expect me to fight Darth Vader (from the Star Wars franchise). I'm gonna bring John Lennon back to life. And then we're going to have a big fight at the end of the show...
I will show you your watch a lot of stuff but I won't say a single word.-