Ordering pizzas to be delivered to his room #208 at 2505 Côte Vertu wouldn’t be particularly unusual; but in this case Andy Nulman’s apartment #208 happened to be his classroom at Sir Winston Churchill High School.

“I’ve always liked to see how far I could stretch the rules. Still playing within the rules – but always looking for a way to bend them.”

Even in younger days there was evidence that Andy’s view of the world was different. “Our Grade 4 class was assigned a project on Brazil.

At that time – you did your project in a scrapbook or mounted it on a bristle board. My Dad smoked cigars, and so I put all my Brazil stuff in a cigar box – sort of like a treasure box. The teacher didn’t see it as creative and I failed.” But the story didn’t end there… “My parents knew that I had done the work; that it was original and they supported me. They went to the teacher and I was given an opportunity to present my Brazil project and I earned a very good mark.”

Andy wanted to be a journalist, and wrote for the high school paper; where he learned some publishing terminology that would soon prove to be valuable.

“I went to the Sunday Express to see if I could get a job. I just walked in… Gary McCarthy was showing me around and I said; ‘I see you’ve got your layout sheets ready to go.’ He asked if I knew what they were and I replied offhand; ‘Of course I know what a layout sheet is.’ Andy continues; “Gary hired me to write an entertainment column – and so in the summer of ’76 I was writing about rock ‘n’ roll! I was enrolled in business school at McGill, but here was my chance to begin a career as a working journalist. I chose work.” At 16 Andy Nulman was a working journalist and writing a weekly entertainment column.

Andy quickly advanced and was soon working as the paper’s Promotion Manager and Entertainment Editor. He was hosting a St. Lawrence River cruise for 100 contestants when a colleague thought it would be humorous if he cut Andy’s tie in half. “I didn’t see the humour – and so I thought it would be funny if I spilled red wine on his white sweater. Three weeks later that colleague was appointed to be the Editor, and his first act was to get rid of me.”

“So there I was – no job, no business school, and no money.” Using his Promotion Manager’s experience and the contacts he’d established,

Andy started doing freelance promotion work. “I knew promoter Rubin Fogel, and he started to send some work my way. One day he suggested that we work together to co-promote a show with Howie Mandel. He said that we’d each put up $10,000 and split the profits.” So far – so good; but Andy didn’t have $10,000. “I borrowed it from my cousin Kenny Goodman. The show sold out – and we made a profit. I went outside to the street; thinking; ‘Well – that was a nice night!’ and saw a guy scalping tickets to Howie’s show – our show!” Andy recognized that the scalper was Howie’s tour manager, and the tickets he was selling were the promo tickets he’s been given to distribute to local media personalities to generate interest in the show.

Mandel fired the tour manager and asked Rubin and Andy to take over his bookings. “We already knew Howie, partly because my parents – who had a clothing agency – used to give him free clothes. He was doing the St. Elsewhere TV show, but was available for shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Rubin and I booked him for shows on the weekends and we all made some money.”

“One day Rubin said he wanted me to meet someone – Gilbert Rozon had a comedy festival called Juste Pour Rire, and he wanted someone to develop the English side of the business. We had a conversation about trends and the future. That was at the end of 1985 – I stayed for 15 years.” Andy built Just For Laughs from a 2 day show to a month-long event that attracted the world’s biggest names in comedy, many of whom were ‘discovered’ at Just For Laughs. Booking agents and talent buyers began attending the festival to scout and evaluate new talent. Andy was the Executive Producer for 150 TV shows for Just For Laughs.

“There’s a saying, ‘If you don’t jump – you’re going to get pushed;’ and I didn’t want that to happen.” After 15 years, Andy decided to move on from Just For Laughs. Andy set up a web business with business partner Garner Bornstein, just before the dot com industry collapsed. “Our business tanked – but we kept producing stuff, experimenting to keep our investors onside. Bell came to us and said; ‘You guys do that funny stuff – could you adapt it for cell phones?’ Of course we said ‘Sure!’ It was pure desperation – we had to believe that we could do it.” Andy smiles across his desk and says; “The edge is where the fun is…”

Not only did Andy and Garner have fun with Airborne Mobile; they did very well for themselves when they sold the company in 2005 for $100 million to Cybird Holdings of Japan. Airborne continued to thrive for a while, being cited as North America’s 4th fastest growing company by the Deloitte Fast 500 in 2006. The new owners didn’t have the same intuition for the business, and it went into a decline. “They didn’t know what to do with it.” Andy and Garner repurchased the company in 2008, built it back up, and then sold it again.

How Andy and Garner accomplished this is best revealed in Andy’s first book, How To Do The Impossible. “Normal people know that you can’t do the impossible. It’s the abnormal ones that go out there. They don’t know that you can’t do it, and so the good ones do it.”

Andy recently returned to Just For Laughs as President of Festivals and TV. “I grew up with this place – and we’ve already changed a lot. We’re going back to Place des Arts for our galas. We’re putting some silliness back into what we do. We’ve got new posters, a new look to our ads. We’re making huge steps in our use of the internet and website; including being able to process ticket sales. We’ve gone from 600,000 views per week on our website to 5 million views a week.”

Andy isn’t afraid to make big decisions. “Our Toronto festival lacked focus and coherence – so I’ve decided to skip this year. Sure there’s a danger of leaving the marketplace for a year – but there’s a much bigger danger of doing something half-assed that dilutes the brand.”

Andy and his wife Lynn have two sons, neither of them in the entertainment business. He is obviously very proud of Aidan and Hayes. “Aidan is a digital entrepreneur, and Hayes makes high-end fine furniture and is going to school. I taught them to stand out and to have fun. …and maybe keep some of their treasures in a cigar box.”

As our conversation concludes, Andy suggests that I follow him to the advertising department so that I may see the new ads, posters and TV commercials. He may be the President, but in his Just For Laughs sweatshirt, longish hair and rock ‘n’ roll bling, Andy Nulman fits right in as one of the team. Well – make that as the leader of the team…

For information about Just For Laughs, the website is (what else?)
www.hahaha.com For information about Andy’s blog and latest book: www.powrightbetweentheeyes.com

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