Thursday, March 15, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Tape Face is back on the Strip this week.
New Zealand comic artist Sam Wills, who you may have seen on the finals of “America’s Got Talent” in 2016, has been performing his distinct Tape Face act for 13 years, including last year at the Flamingo. His months-long run there was enough to earn him a real Las Vegas residency: The “House of Tape” debuts in a new customized theater at Harrah’s on March 16.
“It’s pretty insane,” says Wills. “My first [shows] at the Flamingo ran about three months then I disappeared to do some other shows and came back in October for three weeks. I guess I was there long enough to make an impact.”
The new show will be consistent with the old show, which is difficult to describe. Tape Face has a thick strip of tape over his mouth and performs without speaking. His spiky hair and shadowy eyes recall a character from a Tim Burton movie and he seems to operate with the same amount of uncertainty about what’s going to happen next as his audience.
“This character really came out of trying to prove a point, which is that I once made a joke about doing a silent character, putting together a five-minute sketch without using words, and nobody believed me,” says Wills. “At first I did it to prove I could, but it evolved over time even though I didn’t take it seriously. So I had an hour of [Tape Face] material and slowly, over about six months, it took over from my other shows. It was getting booked more and more and it accidentally became my job. It’s kind of funny because it was never my intention and it’s gotten out of control.”
Tape Face uses props, audience interaction and music to create a do-it-yourself feel for his show, which is seriously funny but most importantly, full of surprises. Wills, who notes he’s more influenced by Buster Keaton than Charlie Chaplin, says his audience members are excited to get onstage and participate in the show because unlike other comedians who work the crowd, there’s no insulting or bullying involved.
“When I first started out as a child learning to juggle at the age of 13, I remember saying to my parents that all I wanted to be was a juggler in Las Vegas, so this is all pretty hysterical,” Wills laughs. “It’s a fun town. All the shows are really fun and there’s such a great party atmosphere. I’m very much looking forward to spending more time there and seeing what’s really out there away from the Strip. I know there’s a real community with real things and I can’t wait to get involved.”
Tape Face performs at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at Harrah’s (3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-777-2782) and more info can be found at caesars.com.