I Almost Killed George Burns is a very rare behind the scenes, the real story, book about the world of stand up comedy and stand up comics. Andy Nulman was CEO of the great Just For Laughs comedy festival held every summer in Montreal. Although the Aspen Comedy Festival has come along recently, Just For Laughs is still the place many funny comics hope to get discovered. If it worked for Tim Allen, of Tool Man, Home Improvement fame and Chris Rock (to name a very, very few), why not me?
The first chapter in Andy Nulman's memoir of his years at Just For Laughs is biographical information about Andy Nulman. This is perhaps interesting for Montrealers and those who like to understand the roots of something or someone. The real interest lies in what comes in the next chapters. This is where you discover Just For Laughs was born after Gilbert Rozon, concert promoter, needed to keep his creditors at bay and promised them a comedy festival to pay them back; thus was created Juste Pour Rire, the French side of Just For Laughs, a festival that is just as important for French-speaking comics as Just For Laughs is in English. I Almost Killed George Burns shows how everything is a matter of luck, coincidence, and money, and you can't disassociate the three. Interest in Just For Laughs was there at the beginning but definitely grew once Nulman and Rozon got a TV deal for some of the festival galas.
There is a lot of behind the scenes stories in Andy Nulman's I Almost Killed George Burns. If you want to know what Alan King is really like, get the real story behind why Jerry Lewis (the ultimate love him or hate him comic) tried to strangle Nulman, how unpleasant an over the hill Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle) could be and yet always be a professional on showtime, the adventures of diva Roseanne, Roseanne Barr, Roseanne Arnold and Tom Arnold, etc this is the ultimate must have book about comedy and comedy shows.
There is a lot more to I Almost Killed George Burns (like how lifetime achievement awards are really bait for old comics and a way to put asses in the seats) but telling more would be spoiling many of the punch lines. Andy Nulman has since retired from Just For Laughs; reading this book explains why.