Over the last few months you might well have scrolled past a clip of a wide-eyed, spikey-haired young man with a piece of tape over his mouth playing with some oven gloves in front of Simon Cowell. Or, if you missed that one, perhaps you’ve chuckled at the same man playing with a dress. Or two toy horses. Or a mop. If any of that sounds familiar, then you’re not alone; millions upon millions of people have laughed with the viral phenomenon that is The Boy With Tape On His Face.
Tape Face (real name Sam Wills) took America’s Got Talent by storm this year, soaring into the finals with his mind-bendingly imaginative comedy but just missing out on the top spots. Since then, he’s been on tour, stopping off at the Bristol Redgrave Theatre on his way across the globe.
Tape Face isn’t a stand-up; his mouth is covered by a piece of tape so he doesn’t tell any jokes. In fact, he doesn’t say a word, but his eyes and his gestures make his every thought entirely clear (and often utterly hilarious) for the audience. The show is set backstage at one of his own shows (bear with me here) as Tape Face nods off and dreams the show that we see. This dreamland premise allows for the absurdity and apparent randomness of his act as he slides around the stage, playing with an eclectic assortment of props and audience members to hilarious effect. His not-quite-volunteers become like puppets, bending to his every will. Hip thrust to Michael Jackson? Sure. Bullfight, as the bull? Absolutely. Form part of a human snow globe? Why not! Audience participation forms a huge part of the show, and is handled in such a way that, although laughed at as well as with, no one feels victimised.
Lighting and sound are used with expert comic timing to the point where the technical elements almost serve as another character. Frequently there are sudden bursts of dramatic lighting and music which finish as suddenly and inexplicably as they start, only to be shrugged off by Tape Face with a look that says, “that was weird wasn’t it?”
This show is impressive. The creativity, the inclusivity and the sheer joy that took over the room was wonderful to be a part of, and will make you forget everything you thought you knew about clowning. Not all clowns wear red noses on their faces; some settle with a piece of tape.