American actor and comedian George Burns famously wrote “For me the toughest thing about dyslexia was learning how to spell it”. His comedic charm and successful television career make it hard to imagine him struggling with a learning disability. But Burns, who remained undiagnosed for most of his life, was constantly faced with anxiety and frustration during his career. The young George Burns struggled in school from the start. He could barely read or write, and he never seemed to grasp mathematics either. Burns found himself unable to catch up no matter how hard he worked. Dyslexia was not something diagnosed or recognized by the school at the time so Burns soon thought his time spent in a classroom was useless and frustrating. By fifth grade he dropped out.

After years of working odd jobs, Burns entered the performance business. He gained an interest in comedy, doing live radio shows and comedic stage acts. Scripted radio shows worried Burns because he thought his dyslexia would prevent him from properly reading the scripts. In order to allow himself to focus on the timing and delivery rather than controlling his anxiety during these radio shows, Burns took to memorizing the script beforehand. This became a regular routine through all of his career. If Burns didn’t take the time to memorize the scripts, his dyslexia would cause him to become anxious and affect his performance.

Burns went on to become a producer and star of the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. He starred in films such as Oh God! and The Sunshine Boys. He pushed aside his dyslexia even more and became a bestselling author with ten published books.

Check out all of George Burns’ television and motion picture appearances here or read more about his early life and dyslexia here.