Take a Bow for Failure

 In Blog

If you are a reader of our newsletter, you may recall my adventure trying improvisational theater. Despite how terrible I was, I grew a lot from the experience. I signed up again and after two classes I am still terrible.

I learned about a wonderful improv tradition that radio and podcast hosts might benefit from. The failure bow.

Improvisation does not come with a script (much like your show, or life…) so you react in the best way that you can. Sometimes you react well, sometimes not so well and sometimes it is a catastrophe.

When disaster strikes, you do a failure bow:

  1. Extend your arms to the sky.
  2. Bow completely forward, like a circus performer after a somersault.
  3. Rise and grin like you won an Oscar.
  4. Say “thank you, thank you very much!”
  5. Audience applauds.

I take so many failure bows that my back aches, but here is what I appreciate about the idea:

  • Takes credit. You are brave to have tried. Be proud!
  • Vulnerability. You are not flawless. Own it.
  • Learning. Celebrate that real growth only comes from foul-ups.
  • Mindset. Shifts you from thinking “failure” to “just part of the show.”
  • Gratitude. Expresses thanks to the audience for sticking with you.
  • Support. The applause expresses that experimenting and failing are ok.

All great broadcasters eventually do something worthy of a failure bow. Early in their morning show run, the Kevin and Bean Show KROQ Los Angeles was caught faking an on-air murder confession. They paid several thousand dollars in fines out of their own pockets and performed 149 hours of community service.

I don’t know if anyone will actually do it, but I love the idea of on-air presenters taking a huge failure bow to in-studio applause after finishing a shitshow segment.

“Thank you, thank you very much!”

Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash

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