Shhhhh, don’t tell:
Tape Face is (sort of) talking
By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor | May 17. 2017 1:13PM
With a name that is an obvious nod to the wide strip of tape covering his mouth, Tape Face (aka New Zealand native Brad Wills) delights in the silly with a delivery that lives somewhere between awkward silence and unexpected physical comedy.
During his audition for “AGT,” he slipped on white oven mitts as hand puppets and had them perform a dramatic lip-sync duet to the 1981 ballad “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. To top it off, while another ’80s tune played — Chris de Burgh’s ode “Lady in Red” — Tape Face managed to duet with himself, thanks to a half-man, half-woman costume and some passionate pantomime.
Though Wills didn’t make it into the Top 5 on “AGT,” he was a fan favorite who progressed all the way to the finals of the television competition. Now, the one-time busker — with his trademark tape, black-rimmed eyes and spiky hair — is touring the world, and planning a silent entrance at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord on Sunday night.
But since he’s not really a vocal guy, NH Weekend reached out to the comic mime via email with a handful of questions. Here’s what Wills, who is based in Grantham, England, had to “say.”
Why the tape? Were you at a loss for words or perhaps just tired of talking?
I was very much tired of talking and seeing so many people use words badly. It was nice to just be without them and find physical ways to communicate with an audience.
What do you do when you have a cold and can’t breathe out of your nose?
I have an old circus sideshow stunt that involves a balloon and a 4-inch nail. If things are really blocked I then use a power drill.
Now that that’s out of the way, I wanted to ask about that amazing moment on “America’s Got Talent” when the judges’ faces go from confusion and skepticism to amusement and acceptance. Is that a reaction you often get?
I used to get it quite a lot before the insane exposure “AGT” bought to the character. It was fun to wander out on stage into a comedy club and feel an audience not understand how it was going to work. I very much enjoyed that first laugh of them seeing how the game was going to be played.
I would imagine it’s like juggling, tossing things out and not knowing when and how things will land. Do you like that tension and buildup?
The biggest tension in the show for me is using the volunteers. Just reading someone’s body language that they will be suitable doesn’t mean that they will be funny. When the volunteers behave in extremely normal ways in such a strange setting it can bring the biggest laughs, and they are the ones who I extract the tension out of as they don’t know what they are supposed to do.
There’s a sense of childlike simplicity and awe in your performances. Is that something that follows you off stage into your everyday life?
I will never grow up and believe that imagination is like a muscle that we need to exercise on a daily basis, so it is very much in my day to day living.
How did you begin your career as a mime, and what’s the best place it’s taken you thus far?
I started out with a magic set at the age of 12 and then became an apprentice to a clown who pointed me in the direction of a circus school ... it’s on Wikipedia.
The best place it’s taken me? Happily further into my own head away from the realities of the real world. Stay weird.