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S7, Ep7 How to Fail: Adam Pearson

S7, Ep7 How to Fail: Adam Pearson

By Elizabeth Day

So. This podcast episode almost didn't happen because I'd forgotten to put it into my iCal (I find any diary that isn't paper so confusing, don't you?) and on the allotted day, I had a text from sound engineer Chris saying 'We're outside!'. Needless to say, I was not inside. I was half-an-hour away having breakfast with my friend Viv.

It is a testament to Adam Pearson's kindness that, when I spoke to him, harassed and sweating as I ran for the train, he didn't seem remotely put out. 'It's very on-brand to fail at turning up,' he quipped.

Anyway, I'm so glad Adam stuck around because when we did sit down to record this interview, he was utterly phenomenal. Adam is a broadcaster, actor, campaigner and documentary-maker (and also Celebrity Mastermind champion) who has lived for most of his life with the incurable genetic condition, neurofibromatosis which causes benign tumours to grow along the nerves. In his case, the tumours are mostly on his face and they have severely affected his physical appearance since the age of five.

Adam joins me to talk about what his condition has taught him: from standing up to bullies at school to confronting the people filming him on their cameraphones when he ventures outside. He talks about the discrimination, the name-calling and how he has managed to channel his anger into changing the world for the better. Along the way, we discuss the pressures of social media in a culture that has learned to value superficial aesthetic 'perfection' at the cost of other, more meaningful characteristics. And we talk about his failure at dating, which involves once taking a Swedish woman to Ikea (it seemed like a good idea at the time) and possibly the most offensive joke you'll ever hear about why he was barred from eHarmony - listeners of a sensitive disposition might like to turn away for that bit, but I've left it in because it will give you a sense of Adam's humour, which is an integral part of how he has learned to survive.

I hope you enjoy the episode. As the man himself might say: BOOYAH.

This episode is sponsored by Frank Body who are offering listeners 15% off when they spend £20 or more with the code HOWTOFAIL15 at checkout.


The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong is out now in paperback and available to buy here.


You can now buy exclusive How To Fail podcast merchandise - sweatshirts, t-shirts, mugs, post-its and notepads. The perfect gift for the failure in all of us! View the full range at


How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you! To contact us, email

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Adam Pearson @adam_pearson


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