Opportunities have been lost, success missed, and paydays squandered because of a basic human trait. It has held back thousands of performers, including actor Alan Ladd. An out-of-control ego kills careers. And it is a problem on multi-personality shows that don’t embrace an FTS (For The Show) mentality.

Air talent performing in well-cast roles are better together than as solo artists. There’s a chemistry that brings out the best in each individual. But as shows experience success, problems arise. A cohost thinks he or she should be the “star” of the show or a personality is jealous that another player’s name is on the show and theirs isn’t.

This can lead to bad career choices, and often results in disaster.

Ego & Alan Ladd

You probably heard of Alan Ladd. Maybe even seen some of his movies. He was in 150 of them. But he never became the star he could have been. He was a box office draw through the ’40s and much of the ’50s. That in itself is miraculous because film critics rate most of his movies as routine or less.

Ladd was in some great movies, usually in a supporting role.

But he always wanted the lead role. With a break, the right director, and a decent script, he could be terrific. And may even have become the star he wanted to be. But ego killed his career. And it held Alan Ladd back.

Director George Stevens wanted Ladd for a role in the 1956 movie”Giant.”

But the lead had already been cast with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Ladd turned it down because he wanted the Rock Hudson role. He didn’t want to be #2.

That character was eventually played by James Dean and it was the movie that launched Dean’s career. Giant would have done wonders for Alan Ladd if only he could have overcome his ego.

Andy Richter Embraces Role

You probably have heard of Andy Richter (Conan, Madagascar, Andy Richter Controls the Universe), an American actor, voice actor, writer, comedian, and late-night talk show announcer.

He says:

You’ve got to know the parameters of your role. You have to know that you’re second and take that supporting role, and also know you’re a valuable player.

Richter references a segment by NPR correspondent Sarah Vowell about Johnny Carson’s #2, Ed McMahon.

The first line of Ed’s autobiography was something like, ‘I first met Johnny Carson….’ This was the first line of the story of his life. I think Ed believed in being No. 2 a bit too much.

In Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, Dax asks Richter about being a “sidekick” instead of”the guy”.  The response is a great lesson. Listen to the full episode for more insight. 


At some point, maybe you’ll get a shot to host your own show. 

But maybe your best role is as cohost, or even producer, for a great brand. 

Having a For The Show attitude doesn’t mean there’s no ego. It means understanding how the team works best and working together so each can shine. I love what John Lennon once said:

I knew I wasn’t Elvis, but I knew that Paul and I together could kick Elvis’ butt.

Ego doesn’t kill careers. Ego problems kill careers.

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