"A Hard Act to Follow," is a non-fiction literary account of Henry Bushkin's tenure as Johnny Carson's lawyer, business partner, and friend. The book gives genuine insight into the 'Carson behind Johnny' with candid personal vignettes about the two, during the rollicking years when Johnny was the undisputed king of television. This is an engaging, eye-opening, anecdote-packed story about a young lawyer and his client, one of the biggest celebrities in the country. This funny, unfiltered account gives readers a look at the Johnny Carson that none but a select few really knew.
The question that people most frequently ask me is what Johnny was really like.They are usually happy to hear the first part of the answer: he was endlessly witty and enormously fun to be around. Their interest flags when I get to the second part, when I add that he could also be the nastiest son of a bitch on earth. The truth is that he was an incredibly complex man: one moment gracious, funny, and generous; and curt, aloof, and hard-hearted in the next. Never have I met a man possessed of a greater abundance of social gifts—intelligence, looks, manners, style, humor—and never have I met a man with less aptitude for and an even lesser interest in maintaining real relationships.
But to understand Johnny in his complexity is to first understand his artistry and the esteem in which he was held. It is not an easy thing to do. If we were to talk about a great movie actor, it would be simpler: his transformation into his character would be evident; the range of behavior he depicts would be obvious; the subtlety and nuance of the human experience that he illustrates would grab you by the throat. But what Johnny seemed to do was more commonplace. He came out and told a few jokes. He then kidded with Ed (McMahon) and Doc (Severinsen), played a game with the audience or per- formed in a ridiculous skit, and then made chitchat with celebrities. And it was the same thing, every night. What was so damn special about that?