Caveat Emptor: Your Tape Face May Not Be THE Tape Face

We enjoyed the “Tape Face” show at Harrah’s Las Vegas a lot.

Tape Face came to prominence on “America’s Got Talent,” and his Las Vegas show is inventive, funny and highly recommended.

That’s not an unconditional recommendation given recent revelations, though.

Tape Face

The Tape Face show is a little mime, a little clown, a little audience interaction, a little oven mitt and a lot of offbeat.

We recently learned the Tape Face you’re seeing onstage at Harrah’s may not be the actual Tape Face.

See, the Tape Face who made a splash on “America’s Got Talent” is named Sam Wills.

Now, we hear there’s another Tape Face, referred to by the production as “T2.” An understudy, you might say. Although, that may not be quite the right word for it. Not a “back-up.” Double, maybe? Stand-in?

No matter what you call it, it’s another Tape Face.

When we first heard about this “Face swap” from reviewer Alex Belfield, we thought it sounded very shady. You don’t just get to replace a performer with a similar performer without letting your audience know.

Tape Face, however, or someone Tweeting on behalf of Tape Face (who knows at this point?), had a different take on what it all means and why it’s not shady.

Tape Face asserts Tape Face isn’t a performer, per se. It’s a character. He Tweets, “You do know that Tape Face is a character, yeah? I am sure if Seinfeld was a character who wore a costume with the right training and direction you could absolutely present his comedy. That’s called
acting.”

We sort of get what he’s going for. He wants Tape Face to be Blue Man Group. Lots of people play the blue man in Blue Man Group, and cast members are often swapped out without the show suffering and nobody feels deceived.

“There is no such thing as a true Tape Face as I believe that we all have a version of Tape Face in us. We are all weird,” Tape Face Tweets.

Tape Face

Not all weird is created equal.

We’re still pretty firmly in the camp that Tape Face isn’t considered a generic character, it’s the guy who was on “America’s Got Talent,” and it’s the guy we saw crush it at Harrah’s. Not another guy with tape on his mouth who knows the routines.

Tape Face respectfully disagrees. “I will have to disagree with you. As a brand, the choice was made to go on ‘AGT’ to advertise the show. Whilst an audience ‘discovers’ the show on a platform, in reality it’s been developed over 15 years to be exactly what it is. A show performed by a character.”

Tape Face goes on to say, “If the performance was bad the audience wouldn’t be happy. It’s one of the reasons we keep the show to my standards and our other Tape Face continues to receive standing ovations from Vegas crowds.”

We totally get that the T2 performance could be as good as the original. Our issue is really with transparency. While Tape Face says the show makes it known the performer onstage might not be Sam Wills, we couldn’t find a mention of that fact on any of the ticket sites we researched. Not even once, anywhere.

The official Harrah’s site is careful to say “Tape Face is the creation of New Zealand comedian Sam Wills,” without specifying he’s the Tape Face in the show.

Tape Face did confirm some performances where a substitution (our word, not his) would occur at Harrah’s.

Tape Face

Pretty sure every Vegas headliner would love to have a clone.

It’s also worth noting Tape Face and his people haven’t exactly hidden the fact there’s a T2. Here’s a Tweet from March 2019.

Tape Face Tweet

Question: How does someone who doesn’t follow Tape Face on Twitter know all this?

Given what we know, we aren’t entirely sure what to think about all this.

We can’t really get onboard with Tape Face’s assertion people just magically know this “character” is a brand and not an individual performer.

If the show’s good, the show’s good, but even if that’s the case, we feel like it’s the responsibility of the performer, the production and the venue to clearly communicate to customers who’s going to be onstage.

A “Tape Face, starring…” credit would work. Or maybe the show should be called “Tape Faces.”

As a practical matter, when we recommend a show, we really need to know which show we’re recommending.

The bottom line: Know before you go, and before you buy, verify. Yes, we just made that up.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Bait-and-switch or non-issue?

18 thoughts on “Caveat Emptor: Your Tape Face May Not Be THE Tape Face

  1. Vegas Insight

    When Bon Jovi comes to Vegas and plays a concert, you’re not getting the band that recorded “Slippery When Wet.” Richie Sambora ain’t in the band.

    People come and go in bands. That’s the nature of bands. But typically it’s well known. Nobody is fooled into thinking they’re seeing Sambora on guitar.

    KISS is a more interesting band. They switched out guys in the 80s and 90s, then reunited the original band, and are back to mixing and matching. Of course, for the last 15+ years they’ve had different musicians playing the Space Man and the Cat. It’s all very public. And it offended some longtime, hard core KISS fans. The original KISS members doubled as characters, but a lot of fans didn’t like that they hired replacements rather than bring in new characters in the early 2000s, as they did in the early 80s before KISS was “unmasked.”

    It seemed shady to sell the persona of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in the 2000s, but KISS has enough fans that they’ve kept making money. Some people claimed they no longer wanted to support the entity, but plenty of people don’t seem to care, so KISS continues printing money, and Tape Face is taking a page from Gene Simmons’ playbook.

    For what little I know, I agree, Tape Face has been known and associated with one person. I don’t know the history, but I’m guessing there were others who helped “Sam” develop his act. But it was his act, I’m guessing, not the act of an ensemble who took turns doing the shtick. To suddenly franchise it out seems insulting to the fans.

    While it shouldn’t be trusted, there’s no suggestion I saw to indicate that Tape Face is a brand on Sam’s Wikipedia page. I’m gonna guess the paint is still drying on the branding. Awfully convenient, all of a sudden, that his longtime character is a brand, don’tcha think?

    It’d be one thing if Tape was retiring, and his son was following in his footsteps, and he handed off the character to his son. But to simply train another performer seems fraudulent, unless you’re selling it as Tape Face, Too, and making it clear who you’re getting on stage.

    I would be pissed if I paid to see Carrot Top and showed up to find out that another guy with curly red hair is telling the jokes that night, and pretending to be Carrot Top.

    The Tape Face corporation may be noting Sam has a protege via social media, but it sounds like the corporation is trying to monetize the shtick with its own franchise employees and not be forthcoming about it. That’s dirty business, no matter how you justify it.

    Reply
  2. Ben

    I think it’s somewhere in between bait and switch and non-issue. I fully understand that some may feel let down. But they’ve not exactly been secret about it. They did post it on Twitter with ~100k followers (probably Facebook, too). Some places to buy tickets (the top result if you google ‘tape face tickets’) do imply it’s the person from AGT. But let’s be honest, if they put on the ticket site that the perfromer isn’t the same individual from AGT, how many people would actually read it? It wouldn’t stop much of the outrage. Of course, I meant the moron tourist, not you, the person reading this. Obviously you would read the fine print.

    Years ago, however, I didn’t read anything from any official channel that there were actually multiple Blue Man Group ‘teams’. I figured it out when I knew they toured but also still performed in Vegas. How can they be in Chicago and Vegas on the same day, even the same hour? Must me multiple teams. Basic logic. The show I saw didn’t become less entertaining once I learned that.

    tl;dr – they could have been more forthcoming (not sure how, not my job), but it’s really a non-issue.

    Reply
  3. Rooster

    Rob Becker pulled it off with Defending the Caveman. He was originally a one man show, and then “franchised”. The guy at the D isn’t the original guy. I think they have like 12 caveman nationwide.

    I guess it depends on if the understudy can pull it off.

    Reply
  4. Jeremy

    To me it is a non issue. I saw Tape Face in Vegas March of 2018 and it was fantastic. I go to see the show not the performer and if the same talent is brought to the stage by another then I would be happy with the show. I think they should credit the guy though, so when the original is in town say “Sam Wills as Tape Face” and when his understudy is on stage say “____ ____ as Tape Face”.

    Reply
    1. Vegas Insight

      I thought the same thing, and noted it at the end of my blog post, but left it off of my comments above. The idea that a Gallagher clone could draw a crowd cracks me up.

      Reply
    2. EnuffBull

      I was going to say the same thing, too!

      It’s not like the Gazillionaire was a REAL character, either, but COME ON!

      Reply
  5. Erin Thomas

    Totally shady. Harrah’s better figure their crap out. We went to see Menopause the Musical because of all the signs revues and ads starring Cindy Williams. Guess what—no Cindy Williams and they never even mentioned her. Shady.

    Reply
    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      What? I thought she was still performing in it, and as you said, she’s all over the advertising. I’ll have to look into that further, thank you.

      Reply
  6. Logan

    This 100% has Gallagher Two vibes- which was not cool. If this was a Broadway show, Actors Equity requires a posted, written, or verbal announcement before the show. It’s the professional and right thing to do.

    Reply
  7. Jason

    I noticed this in Yelp reviews a month ago. While Sam Willis might think of Tape Face as just a character, I think there are a lot of people who watched him on tv, rooted for him, voted for him, and feel like they have a connection to him. They want to see the guy they saw on tv and they feel cheated when they don’t. I’d be annoyed if I paid to see Piff the Magic Dragon and it was some random (albeit trained) guy doing the show.

    Reply
  8. Ann Moody

    I’m going to have to give it to the Tapes this time. It’s an act. It’s not advertising the real name of a specific performer. If the show is good, it’s good. He’s obviously sanctioned by Sam. And the more I think about this story, it’s more obvious that Sam created the generic character name with expansion in mind from the beginning.

    Reply

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