I first saw Tape Face on television in the UK four or five years ago. I was impressed, loved him. It’s the sort of act you remember. Original, clever, funny and, most of all, simple. The guy comes on wearing an ordinary jacket, jeans and striped t-shirt. Slung around his neck is a leather shoulder bag. But what makes you remember, what makes him stand out is that he has greased spikey hair, a lot of heavy black eye make-up and, rather conspicuously, a strip of black gaffer tape across his mouth. Hence the name – Tape Face. I have been trying to see his stage show or get our sister magazine in the UK to see him ever since. But things contrived against it and it wasn’t till last night that I finally saw him and interviewed him for ArtsTalk Radio.
A lot has happened in those five years or so. Apart from the TV shows he has a show running permanently in Las Vegas and another in Australia and is currently on tour in Holland and Belgium. How can he be in three places at once? Simple, there are more than one of them, rather like Father Christmas and, I suspect, Nana Mouskouri. The Tape Face “industry” employs other guys who don the costume and the tape. They learn to perform an exact scripted copy of the act and on they go. But there are lots of unofficial ones too, imposter performers going round claiming to be Tape Face.
But the universal success and acclaim is not all that has changed. The simplicity has gone. Whereas before all his props used to be in his shoulder bag, now he has a stage full of them, plus a lot of big lighting and smoke effects.
His act consists of what amounts to a series of practical jokes. He gets unsuspecting – no, suspecting and willing audience members up on stage to assist him in the various pranks – and very funny they are to. And, most importantly, the stooges are not humiliated or made to look stupid. It’s all done in the best possible taste, like the guy who was asked to sit on a whoopee cushion followed inevitably by a good couple of minutes of full-bellied farts only for it to be revealed that Tape Face had removed the cushion before he sat down. There are a series of mysterious and dramatic phone calls after which he tries in vain to fly a kite and there is a prolonged, maybe too prolonged, sketch in which he tries to catch a tennis ball shot at him while blindfolded.
He claims his on stage persona is that of a nine-year-old child, that it is the innocence and sense of wonder that fuel his act. There are elements of Mr Bean as well as Buster Keaton and all the rest but Tape Face has hit upon a winning formula which has sustained him for nigh-on fifteen years. If you don’t know him there are plenty of videos on YouTube and I would certainly recommend seeing the live show. Great fun, although I have to say I think I preferred it when it was much simpler. Michael Hasted 22nd January 2020
Listen to our exclusive interview with Tape Face