The Boy With Tape on His Face

San Francisco Bathhouse, 171 Cuba St, Wellington

02/05/2011 - 07/05/2011

Comedy Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

10/05/2011 - 14/05/2011

The Press CLUB at Christ’s College, Christchurch

15/01/2015 - 24/01/2015

NZ International Comedy Festival 2011

Production Details

Created and performed by Sam Wills

Sam Wills brings his Chortle Award-winning Show back home.

Without a word our new comedy hero makes a triumphant return to the NZ International Comedy Festival, with shows in Wellington (May 2-7) and Auckland (May 10-14, 2011).

This exciting one-man show is attracting attention across the globe: The Boy With Tape on His Face won the Best Breakthrough Act at the UK’s 2011 Chortle Awards and has racked up awards for Best Show, Best Show Concept, People’s Choice at the New Zealand, Melbourne and Adelaide festivals.

After his extraordinary success on debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2010, playing to sold-out houses from day one, and gaining an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination, followed up with a National Tour of the UK, New Zealand’s latest international success story, Sam Wills a.k.a The Boy With Tape on His Face, is delighted to return to the New Zealand International Comedy Festival for the first time since 2007.

Wills was performing in the Adelaide Comedy Festival when the February 22 earthquake hit his hometown Christchurch, so he immediately put together a benefit show, Stand Up For Christchurch. The show features many top international comedians and airs on March 16 on TV2 at 8.30pm.

Drawing on a heritage that includes silent film, mime, magic, puppetry, Motown and the films of Patrick Swayze, The Boy With Tape On His Face is a pensive, curious soul approaching every object and audience member as a potential friend – or plaything. Shoes sing, empty dresses dance and electrical tape blossoms into roses creating a world of possibilities where the only certainty is laughter.

Wills is a mad scientist of vaudevillian pranks, who reminds us that life is an adventure…

Reviews from Edinburgh 2010:

“The Boy With Tape on His Face is utterly spectacular! Endlessly inventive, hysterically funny. Sublime physical lunacy – fight for a ticket.” Tim Arthur, Time Out ✭✭✭✭✭

“A deliciously skilful hour, some of the set pieces are simply joyous, sometimes mesmerising”  The Times ✭✭✭✭

“It’s not often you can say you really didn’t want a show to end” The Scotsman ✭✭✭✭

The Boy with Tape on his Face (at Edinburgh Festival)

Mon 2 to Sat 7 May / 7pm
San Francisco Bathhouse, Cuba St, Wellington
Book at  Ph 0800Ticketek

Tues 10 to Sat 14 May / 7pm
The Comedy Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, The EDGE
Book at 0800buytickets /

Silence deepens laughter lines

Review by Jacqueline Smith 12th May 2011

Sam Wills, the guy behind the cheeky and ingenious caricature The Boy With Tape on His Face, sits patiently as his sold-out crowd take their seats in the stately chamber, his satchel of tricks slung across his shoulder and his first gag slapped across his mouth. 

The New Zealand mime was one of the most celebrated acts at Edinburgh last year. He has revised his show, adding new physics experiments, gently goofy Mr Bean routines and costumes to the quaint, antipodean sounds of Yann Thierson’s Amelie soundtrack.

The result is perfectly executed, whimsical silence that gives your cheek muscles a workout. [More]


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Charming, inventive and very funny

Review by Sian Robertson 11th May 2011

An intense young man with a piece of black tape over his mouth and very expressive eyes sits on the stage impatiently waiting for the audience to be seated and the lights to go down. The show starts the moment you step through the door, and finishes before you want it to. 

I reviewed The Boy With Tape on his Face in the 2007 Comedy Festival, and he’s kept some of the favourite parts from that show, which is understandable, though it took some of the surprise out of it for me. The element of surprise is a key part of his act, as he painstakingly sets the scene with props from his box full of odds and ends – and occasionally members of the audience – then brings us to a delightfully unexpected punchline.

I would have liked to see more new material four years down the track. Having said that, if you haven’t seen him yet, he has finely tuned his act and is as fresh and engaging as ever, and I urge you to go while you have the chance.

Wills creates a sense of timelessness, with a combination of jaunty French accordion music, late 20th century pop tunes, his stylised Boy With Tape persona, and the odds and ends that he uses as props, such as kitchenware, costumes, children’s toys, a couple of rolls of tape, and some helmets with clever contraptions attached, to name a few.

He summons audience members to the stage to assist him with various parts of the show. Amazingly it’s always clear, without words, what he is asking them to do. His flirtations with the audience are enjoyable for all and very funny.

He uses pop songs to hilarious effect, employing mime, make-shift puppetry and members of the audience to humorously re-enact a scene from a movie or well-known pop song.

Sam Wills is the recipient of a mounting stack of comedy awards at home and abroad. It’s easy to see why: this is one of the most charming and inventive comedy acts you’ll see anywhere.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Editor May 12th, 2011

I note the NZ Herald review includes: “He has revised his show, adding new physics experiments, gently goofy Mr Bean routines and costumes ...”  

Editor May 12th, 2011

Thanks for clarifying that, Sam. Neither the media release nor the 2011 NZICF brochure make it as clear as you now have. And how excellent that so much of it felt fresh to Sian four years later.  

Sam Wills May 12th, 2011

Thank you for your review, however I feel I should clear something up.

This show is a RETURN season of the 2007 show. It is EXACTLY the same content as the 2007 show. It's the SAME show.

"I would have liked to see more new material four years down the track."

Feel free to come along and review my second Tape Face show "The Boy with Tape on His Face - More Tape" which is a completely different hour of comedy when I bring it here but for this show it was made pretty clear in all the advertising that this was the first show and a return season.

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Uplifted audience left with smiles on their faces

Review by Robbie Ellis 03rd May 2011

Very difficult to pigeon-hole, this act is. It’s in a comedy festival, no doubt, but while there’s a live microphone on stage there’s no stand-up comedy. The Boy With Tape On His Face (real name Sam Wills) doesn’t say a word for the whole show; wears a black-and-white striped shirt; and uses the accordion-and-glockenspiel soundtrack to Amélie as his default background music, yet I can’t, strictly speaking, call it mime either.

Let’s settle on ‘prop clowning’ then, with a strong overtone of street theatre. Sam Wills, after all, trained as a clown in Timaru and at Circus School in Christchurch, home of the Buskers Festival. He’s carved a niche with a big-hearted show that gets laughs – many and often – without wearing an audience down as so many stand-up comics can.

So how does he do it? Well, there are two primary devices. The first is the use of props, as I mentioned. At no point does he employ sleight of hand or illusion, but there’s real magic to be had when he exhibits something from which he creates something else far greater than the sum of its disparate parts – Stevie Wonder out of shoes and a scarf, for instance; or a rose made entirely of adhesive tape.

There is the occasional moment when the payoff fails to meet expectations, but I feel uncharitable in saying so. It’s only because he’s already set the bar so high for himself with the tricks that have come before.

The other device is us punters. At the top of the show, a voiceover makes us aware that there will be audience participation: “Do play along or you will look like a cock.” Sam chooses all his extras – not one is a volunteer – so if you’re painfully shy, sit away from the front. Tonight (opening night) he got an excellent and willing cross-section of participants and they were handled with grace and efficiency.

Some very elaborate setups are co-ordinated very well considering that, of course, the boy with tape covering his mouth cannot give verbal direction. Despite the odd miscommunication or prop malfunction on our night, nobody was ever left hanging; everything was incorporated into the act with ease. The Boy With Tape On His Face has a little bit of a misanthropic streak in his dealings with both props and people, but never nasty – his slight disdain of his audience guests only makes us love them (and him) more.

Technical operation is slick: there are sudden switches of music and lighting which require pin-point timing, and these are executed brilliantly. The recognition value in pop songs is used to its full potential, especially with inanimate object singalong – which we see a lot of – but this and other running gags never outstay their welcome.

Most importantly for audience appeal, Sam Wills has also managed to create something that’s all too rare in live comedy: good clean fun. A lot of the public is turned off from the Comedy Festival because of the stereotype of the stand-up comedian who relies on swearing and smut to get laughs, but this show is nowhere near that. There’s the odd PG gag but nothing explicit, and there’s no filthy language because, well, there’s no speaking. Parents can feel confident bringing their tweenagers or teenagers to this show (note: the San Francisco Bath House is a licensed R18 venue), but don’t get me wrong: it’s not a show specifically for kids, it’s a show for everyone.

To sum up: it’s fun for all, it’ll deliver laughs without fail, and you’ll leave the venue uplifted and with a smile on your face. Can’t ask for more than that, really.
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Post-script: for the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, the San Francisco Bath House has set up five long parallel tables perpendicular to the stage. However, the tables are spaced far too close: when each aisle has seats on both sides, access is very difficult and it’s essentially impossible to seat two people back to back. If SFBH removes one of the long tables and re-spaces the remainder to make the aisles wider, they’ll be onto a winner.


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