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Busy Kiwi, who now lives in Westcliff, makes a pilot show to be aired on BBC3
3:00am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Theatre
IN a world where comedy is on the whole loud, proud, bolshy and bold, audiences don’t always know quite how to deal with silence. “I did this gig up north and it had been amazing,” laughs Sam Wills, aka whimsically eccentric the Boy With Tape on His Face. “The MC had done a killer job and all the acts had been amazing, then I walked out as the headliner and I could feel the room tense up and I actually heard this woman at the front go ‘well this is weird’.
“I just thought ‘brilliant, now I’ve got to try and win’, it’s like a little game, and if you can win people over it’ll be fine.” Fortunately for Sam, his silent comedy routine, which he performs with gaffer tape over his mouth, usually wins people over. Relying on mime, carefully sequenced music and a range of alarmed facial expressions, he has built up his reputation over the past few years, making the character something of a cult favourite. Sam who’s originally from New Zealand, but lives in Westcliff with his wife, burlesque performer and singer Lili La Scala, saw increased success when he took to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall last year as part of the Royal Variety Show and was snapped up more recently by the BBC to work on a pilot for a TV show, which will be screened on BBC3 this month. He says: “I got nominated for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe the year before last and off the back of that I did a lot of stuff for BBC3. They were doing a lot of live at the Fringe shows and I appeared on a few of those. The response was nice and all the online stuff was good.
“The BBC have a series called Feed My Funny where they commission seven pilots to be made and then pick up one, or five – or none of them, and they asked if I’d like to do it.” Sam had been looking at developing the character, so was excited to have the chance to adapt it into a TV pilot, although having worked solo for so long wasn’t so keen on handing over his character to others to work on with him. He explains: “I wanted to create a new version of a variety show. I had five elements I wanted in the show — stand-up comedy, my own style of comedy, sketches, animation and music all in this weird little world. “From there we worked on it for about a year, casting people, having cast members drop out and all the general stress that comes from working with other people. “I don’t tend to take direction very well, I work alone in my own little world and I’m not really a team player. “There were a few arguments, and a few heated phone calls and creative differences. It’s always difficult when you have the bigger company who want to create a product and the artist or comedian who wants to make what they want make and you have to find a compromise that works for both. “I’m lucky enough to not care about being on TV. So many people in this country want to just go on Britain’s got Talent and stuff, they’re desperate for any kind of TV time, but I prefer live comedy. If you buy a ticket and go to a live show you’re seeing the performer at his best.” Although he doesn’t think his pilot will be developed into a series, it will go on TV in August, and he’s in early talks to develop the character with them for a possible future project. Sam’s happy with the final pilot, and is looking forward to fans responding once it’s aired. Describing the feel of the episode he says: “I wanted something which people could watch again and again. I don’t like the idea of TV being disposable – there’s so much of that already. “Something like Fawlty Towers, you can watch that over and over again. They only made 12 episodes, which is amazing.” What Sam’s really looking forward to is being back on the road with his live show. He’s off to Edinburgh with Lili where they’ll both be on stage, although not together, and Sam’s taking his new stage show, More Tape, to a 750-seater venue for the whole four weeks. With an assortment of props – mainly purchased from hardware store Red Rocket, in Westcliff, which is unaware its toilet plungers have been on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in front of Royalty – and affectionate audience participation, Sam will then go on tour.
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