Failure is a part of life. Not one that I generally strive for, of course. I fail all the time in my life. Usually it is small things: make a mistake at work, burn some chicken, forget to pick the kids up from school (ok, that one is not a small failure). However, fear of failure is an anxiety of mine and can often paralyze me into not trying new things or avoiding specific situations so there is zero chance I will fail.

But for some reason, failure on stage is different. I often strive for it. I find myself wanting to push the envelope and purposefully put myself in a situation where failure is a likely outcome. 

Probably the most popular rule in improv is “Yes, And”. No matter what is said or done on stage, as a scene partner you in some way agree with it and add to it. There’s been countless books and essays written about this philosophy. Some people use it as a major tenet to model their life after (try and avoid these people). But I think an equally important rule in improv is “Don’t Be Afraid to Fail”.  

I’ve been performing and teaching improv for over 15 years, and I push myself, my castmates, and my students to all fail onstage. And not just because watching someone fail is funny. That’s the main reason that America’s Funniest Videos or AFV is still on tv (seriously, it is – google it, that’s where I discovered the acronym). But when you are on-stage and not afraid to fail, that means you are trying. More importantly, you’re making bold choices.

Improv is a team sport. You have support from your castmates, and you support them. The rules of “Don’t Be Afraid to Fail” and “Yes, And” work hand-in-hand. And when you are on stage making bold choices and pushing the envelope, your castmates are right there with you, backing you up and along for the ride. This support gives you the freedom to fail. A lot of times, you make a bold choice, and with your castmates’ support, that bold choice propels the scene into a very funny place. Failure averted and hilarity achieved.

But sometimes, it doesn’t work out, and that bold choice can fail. But more often than not when that happens, failure achieved and hilarity achieved too. This delves into the AFV territory. Hopefully the bold choice doesn’t revert to someone getting a wiffle ball to their nether-regions, but rather a bold failure on-stage, which can be just as funny. Sure the audience (and your castmates) will be laughing at you, but also with you. Because yes you failed, but it is a funny failure. And no big deal. You were trying and your castmates and the audience will respect you for even having the chutzpah for making that bold choice. 

Why can’t I translate my fearlessness to fail on stage to my personal life, you may ask? I have no idea. Maybe that’s a tenet I need to model my life after. In that case, please avoid me.

Greg Rojcewicz
NCT Mainstage Cast