ESP’s comedy columnist Sarah Slack managed to grab a word with the comedy act who doesn’t normally speak ahead of his Stamford gig!
After storming into the States with appearances on America’s Got Talent and a successful residency in Las Vegas, the international phenomenon known as Tape Face will be back on UK soil this autumn with a brand new tour.
Ahead of his performance at the Stamford Corn Exchange on Thursday September 26, I managed to bag an interview with the man behind the tape to talk oven gloves, sock puppets, and why the world needs more clowns…
ESP: Firstly thank you very much for taking time out of your busy Vegas schedule to promote your upcoming gig in Stamford here in the UK! It’s been a few years since you’ve toured the UK, so what can audiences expect from the new show?
TAPE FACE: “In many cases it’s more of the same surreal silly humour that audiences have already enjoyed. I have developed this show however to have more strange moments, but we are still sticking with the format of using audience members and everyday objects as the base for all of the comedy in the show.”
In the press release for the upcoming tour, it says ‘Putting your shoes on will never be the same after seeing this show’. Would you care to elaborate, or would that be a major spoiler?
“Let’s just say that when you find the right piece of music and have a sock puppet, certain things change…”
Prior to your huge success in the US, you received the Panel Prize in 2012 at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Now that you’ve had such a significant impact overseas, do you think you were given this quite early on in your career, and has it limited you in any way from coming back to the Fringe now you’ve achieved what many would see as the highest accolade to receive?
“Overnight success is a wonderful thing, and whilst I am not sure if winning a prize limits your opportunities, it does put a certain ‘end credits’ to my feelings of the Edinburgh Fringe. The festival was a great place to develop the show and to also see how I need to develop the show outside of Fringe, but there is a lot of world out there which doesn’t care about awards or festivals, and for me everything has to serve a purpose.”
From seeing your shows myself back at the Fringe at the Pleasance Grand, there’s obviously a huge amount of audience participation. How do you deal with people that just don’t want to get involved, whilst also not being able to talk?
“I am very happy to let people say no – the people who come to the show who are sitting there thinking ‘I don’t want to go onstage’ can rest assured that I am thinking the same thing! I am not in the business of getting a laugh at the expense of another human, so I don’t want someone onstage who is hating it and doesn’t want to play. I view audience interaction as an agreement where I am asking the audience member to help me out, and they agree knowing I am going to make them look like the hero and leave the stage to applause.”
Do you have a certain ‘criteria’ for picking the perfect audience member to get involved?
“Sometimes it does come down to if the person is wearing the right coloured top or something, but mostly I am looking for people who look like they are having fun and enjoying the show. The biggest problem I encounter is picking people who want to get involved too much!”
2016 must have been an amazing year as this was when you reached the finals of America’s Got Talent after footage of your auditions went viral on YouTube. How important do you feel YouTube has been in promoting your act, and does it come with its own set of challenges for comedy performers?
“YouTube has been amazing for me as it helped the show the reach an international audience. The only big thing is that the oven gloves routine has essentially become my Stairway to Heaven that audiences are all wanting to see! It won’t be featuring in the new show however as we are doing 100% new material.”
You’ve previously travelled from New Zealand to the UK as a performer and had huge success in communicating your comedy across to British audiences, but have there been any issues with translating your act for an international audience? Are there any bits of material that no longer get the same reaction, and have you had to cater your act in any way?
“Overall the style of humour I am writing is very much for all audiences. The only piece of material I have had to change for international audiences is a routine where I ask the audience to shout out the sounds of letters because different cultures pronounce letters differently. So when I was doing a show in South Korea, the moment I started this joke I knew it was going to go wrong!”
It’s been widely publicised that you’ve been training other performers to act as understudies (aka T2s!) in your Las Vegas residency, however recently some audiences in the US were disappointed they weren’t getting the “real deal”, so to speak. What was your reaction to this situation, given it was so overtly promoted, and has it changed how the residency will be promoted in future?
“The people who were most upset were the people who wanted to have a ‘celebrity’ experience of seeing “that guy from the TV” in front of them, but when 1-2 people are upset, the other 178 people in the room are laughing and giving the show a standing ovation at the end. We have worked incredibly hard to keep the show quality the same, and ultimately the show is about a character playing in a world of people and props, so we will continue to be promoting the show as exactly what it is – the Tape Face show.”
What was the audition process like for performers who wanted to become the next Tape Face?
“It is a very fun process indeed – a lot of the time people don’t even know when the auditions have even started! The main characteristic is that you need to have funny bones – if you know funny then we can play.”
Finally, I can’t imagine what will top having a successful three year residency in Las Vegas, but do you have a five year plan for the future of Tape Face? Does it include more UK dates, or even a potential return to the Fringe?
“I am the type of performer who writes plans, goals and lists, but I am also the type who doesn’t tell people what I am up to! What I can tell you however is that we are not even halfway through the plan at this stage. This may include more festivals in future as I think one thing is certain – the world needs more clowns!”
Tape Face will be performing at the Stamford Corn Exchange on Thursday September 26. For more information and to book tickets, please call 01780 766455 or visit www.stamfordcornexchange.co.uk.
Lead photo: Credit A D Zyne