Interview: The Boy With Tape On His Face
The Boy With Tape On His Face returns to Edinburgh tonight with a re-run of his sell-out 2010 show. Andrew Dipper interrupted a prop-building exercise to find out more from The Boy a.k.a Sam Wills.
AD: I caught your show in December but found it quite difficult to describe to people what you actually do – how would you summarise your act?
SW: I know exactly you mean. A lot of reviewers just say, ‘the less you know about it the more you enjoy it’, which is quite good. But as far as how I’d describe it goes there’s two ways. I’d call it stand-up with no talking – because it follows exactly the same technique as a stand-up comedian – but I also try and avoid pigeon-holing it by saying it’s a mime or clown show. Because when you do that you offer an expectation that I don’t think my act complements. I think stand-up with no talking is probably the best way because it’s intriguing for people.
That’s also the fun thing about my work – especially in line-up shows with a bunch of other comedians- when I walk out on stage and people just go, ‘How the hell does this work? What’s going to happen?’
AD: Your background’s in street performance though, isn’t it?
SW: Yeah, it is, but I started out early on as a juggler. I met a clown and he taught me how to juggle and so I became fascinated with juggling. I ended up quitting school to juggle more…which was a great conversation with my parents. They told me that if I was going to quit my school education I had to have a juggling education, so they made me learn every aspect of juggling. Then I discovered there was a circuit school in New Zealand, learnt a good technique and eventually got interested in circus sideshow – and that’s where the street performing really kicked in.
From that I accidently found myself in a comedy club after a comic dropped out of a gig and another stand-up rang me asking if I could come down to fill in for twenty minutes. So I packed up a suitcase of odd props, did a show and ended up doing that style of prop comedy. I did that for about eight years in New Zealand – and won quite a few awards and stuff like that – so I decided I would totally change my angle and do a silent character who became The Boy With Tape On His Face.
AD: You’re doing really well in Britain now with your act and your first Fringe run got plenty of five star reviews. Did you expect it to be so successful here?
SW: The Tape Face stuff was just a novelty thing – a hobby – and it turned into this show. And even when I came over to the UK in 2007 I came here to be a street performer. I’m very happy with how the show’s transferred and that’s maybe down to having an act that’s universal. The silent thing will work anywhere – it’s about remembering your inner child. You see a lot of shows where a lot of comedians just say similar things – there are trends in comedy that I don’t think Tape Face bows to. I think comedians make the mistake of pushing through a message in their shows, but why can’t your message just be ‘funny’?
In my shows I want everyone to forget who they are for just an hour and remember what it’s like to have innocent fun.
AD: You did a bit of TV work with Comedy Rocks – were you worried about how it would translate?
SW: I’m always a bit scared of TV just because it’s such a different thing [to live stand-up]. I was shitting myself before Comedy Rocks – it was great! I think you’ve just got to be aware that everything becomes a lot more military, like checking camera angles and all that. It becomes a bit more of a process but it’s nice to know that Tape Face does translate to TV. It was quite nice for people to watch online but it’s always more important to see it live.
AD: Speaking of which, you’re back in Edinburgh again until the 29th – what can we expect?
SW: Yeah, I am. We had so many people who couldn’t get in last year because it was sold out so we thought we’d offer a return season of that show for two weeks. Hopefully some of the people who caught it last year will see it again, too, as it’s still totally relevant. It’ll be the last time I do it because in 2012 I’m returning to Edinburgh with a second Tape Face show – and that will be completely new material.
The Boy With Tape On His Face is at the Pleasance Courtyard from 15th to 28th August at 9:10pm. Further information can be found here.