Denis Leary

Denis Colin Leary (born August 18, 1957) is a Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-nominated American actor, comedian, writer and director. He is known for his often angry comedic style, and his frequent chain smoking. Leary displays an overt affinity for libertarianism. Leary is currently the star and co-creator of the television show Rescue Me.

Early life

Leary was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Irish Catholic immigrants. His mother, Nora, was a maid, and his father, John Leary (deceased) was an auto mechanic. Since his parents are both from Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland Leary holds both Irish and American citizenship. He graduated from Saint Peter-Marian High School, in Worcester. Through marriage, Leary is a distant cousin of talk show host Conan O'Brien and has jokingly said on Late Night with Conan O'Brien that, "All Irish people are related." His name is often misspelled as "Dennis" instead of the correct "Denis."

Emerson College

Leary is a graduate of Emerson College, in Boston, where he was classmates with fellow comic Mario Cantone, who to this day remains his closest friend. Comedian Steven Wright and actress Gina Gershon also attended Emerson at the same time as Leary. At the school, he and Jodi Haffner Wallace co-founded the "Emerson Comedy Workshop," a troupe that continues to thrive on-campus to the present day. After graduating with the Emerson Class of 1979, he took a job at the school teaching comedy writing classes and maintained the job for five years. Leary was honored with an honorary doctorate and spoke briefly at his alma mater's undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 16, 2005.


Leary started his career as a comedian in the notorious Boston comedy scene of the 1980s, where he hosted his own show at the underground club "Play It Again Sam". He also wrote and appeared on a local comedy series, Lenny Clarke's Late Show, hosted by his friend Lenny Clarke and written by Boston comedy writer Martin Olson. Leary and Clarke both spoke about their early affiliations and influences in the Boston comedy scene in the documentary film When Standup Stood Out (2006). It was during this time that he developed his stage persona. He also appeared in skits on the MTV game show Remote Control, playing such characters as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, the "brother" of cohost Colin Quinn and artist Andy Warhol.

Leary first became famous through an MTV sketch in which he ranted about R.E.M. Several other commercials for MTV followed, in which Leary would rant at high speeds about a variety of topics. He has released two records of his stand-up comedy: No Cure for Cancer (1993) and Lock 'n Load (1997). In late 2004 he released the EP Merry F#%$in' Christmas, which included a mix of new music, previously unreleased recordings, and some tracks from Lock 'n Load.

In 1993, his sardonic song about the stereotypical American male, "Asshole", achieved much notoriety. It was voted #1 in a major Australian youth radio poll (the Triple J Hottest 100) as well as reaching #2 in the singles chart in that country. The video also became a staple of MTV's late-night programming. Due to its explicit and controversial content, however, it received limited airplay on mainstream American radio stations. At the 2004 Comics Come Home in Boston, Massachusetts, Denis performed a new version of the song directed at the New York Yankees, and as the song concluded, Bronson Arroyo walked on stage with the World Series trophy. The song was also used as part of the Holsten Pils series of ads in the UK which Leary was participating in, with adapted lyrics criticizing a drunk driver.

Although he says he is most at home on stage doing stand-up, Leary has appeared as an actor in over 40 movies, including The Sandlot, Monument Ave., The Matchmaker, The Ref, Suicide Kings, Dawg, Wag the Dog, Demolition Man, The Thomas Crown Affair and Operation Dumbo Drop. He has had the lead role in two television series, The Job and Rescue Me. In addition, Leary has provided voices for characters in animated films such as a medium fire-breathing dragon, Flame from the The Agents series, a saber-toothed tiger named 'Diego' in Ice Age and its sequel Ice Age 2 and 'Francis' in A Bug's Life. He has produced (and still produces) numerous movies, television shows, and specials through his production company Apostle; these include Comedy Central's Shorties Watchin' Shorties, the stand-up special Denis Leary's Merry F#$%in' Christmas, and the movie Blow. As a Boston Red Sox fan, he narrated the official 2004 World Series film. In 2006, Leary and Lenny Clarke appeared on television during a Red Sox telecast and, upon realizing that Red Sox 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis is Jewish, delivered a criticism of Mel Gibson's anti-semitic comments. As a hockey fan, Leary also hosted the National Hockey League video NHL's Greatest Goals.

In 2003, Comedy Central honored Denis Leary in the Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary. Friend Jeff Garlin acted as roastmaster. Roasters included Mario Cantone, Adam Ferrara, Jim Breuer, Nick DiPaolo, Don Gavin, Christopher Walken, Lenny Clarke, Gina Gershon, Conan O'Brien, Gilbert Gottfried, Colin Quinn and Michael J. Fox.

Leary is now the star and co-creator of FX's Rescue Me. He plays Tommy Gavin, a New York City firefighter dealing with alcoholism, family dysfunction, and other issues in post-9/11 New York City. Leary received Emmy nominations in 2006 and 2007 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance. For this TV series, he turned down roles in two films: The Departed (Mark Wahlberg got the role after Leary turned down the role) and Bobby, which his close friend Emilio Estevez directed.

Leary recently did the TV voiceover for MLB 2K8 ads, where he used his trademark rant style in baseball terms. He was also a producer of the FOX show Canterbury's Law and wrote and directed its pilot episode. Canterbury's Law aired in the spring of 2008 but was canceled after eight episodes. He is currently working in the Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs movie, which will be released July 1, 2009.

On September 9th, 2008, Leary was the host of the sixth annual Fashion Rocks event, which aired on CBS. During one part of the show, Leary came onstage dressed in a long gold halter dress and wearing diamond earrings and a bracelet; he carried a purse and a pair of high heels. In another segment, he let out a controversial rant about Britney Spears, the birth of Ricky Martin's twins and David Duchovny going to rehab for sex addiction.

Personal life

Denis Leary has been married to writer Ann Lembeck Leary since 1982. They met when he was her instructor for an English class at Emerson College. They have two children, son John Joseph "Jack" (born 1990) and daughter Devin (born 1992). Ann Leary published a memoir, An Innocent, a Broad, about the premature birth of their son on an overseas visit to England. She has also written a novel, Outtakes From a Marriage, which was published in 2008. He lives in New York City.

Leary is an ice hockey fan and has his own backyard hockey rink with piping installed under the ice surface to help the ice stay frozen. His favorite National Hockey League team is the Boston Bruins. He is also a diehard Boston Red Sox fan, as well as a fan of the Green Bay Packers.

Leary Firefighters Foundation

On December 3, 1999, six firefighters from Leary's hometown of Worcester were killed in a massive warehouse fire. Among the dead were Leary's cousin Jerry Lucey and his close childhood friend Lt. Tommy Spencer. In response, the comedian founded the Leary Firefighters Foundation. Since its creation in the year 2000, the foundation has distributed over $2.5 million (USD) to fire departments in the Worcester, Boston, and New York City areas for equipment, training materials, new vehicles, and new facilities. Leary won $125,000 for the foundation on the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Leary has close ties with 107.3 WAAF-FM, which in 2000 released the station album "Survive This!" Part of the proceeds from this album were donated to the Leary Firefighters Foundation.

A separate fund run by Leary's foundation, the Fund for New York's Bravest, has distributed over $2 million (USD) to the families of the 343 firemen killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks in addition to providing funding for necessities such as a new mobile command center, first responder training, and a high-rise simulator for the FDNY's training campus. This new fund was established because the families of the Worcester fire did not want to include New York families into the fund. As a result, Leary created a separate fund for New York.

As the foundation's president, Leary has been active in all of the fundraising, usually presenting large checks and donated equipment personally. The close relationship he has developed with the FDNY as well as with individual firefighters across the New York/New England area has resulted in Leary's most recent television show, Rescue Me, a Comedy-drama on FX. In the pilot episode of the show, he is seen wearing a Leary Firefighter Foundation 9-11 Memorial T-shirt.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Leary donated over a dozen boats to the New Orleans fire department to aid in rescue efforts in future disasters. The foundation also rebuilt entire NOLA firehouses.

Accusations of plagiarism

For many years, Leary had been friends with fellow comedian Bill Hicks. However, when Hicks heard Leary's No Cure for Cancer, he felt Leary had stolen his act and material. Hicks famously told an interviewer: "I have a scoop for you. I stole his (Leary's) act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and to really throw people off, I did it before he did". The friendship ended abruptly as a result. At least three stand-up comedians have gone on the record stating they believe Leary stole not just some of Hicks' material but also his persona and attitude.

As a result of this, it is claimed that after Bill Hicks' death from pancreatic cancer, an industry joke began to circulate about Leary's transformation and subsequent success (roughly; "Question: Why is Denis Leary a star while Bill Hicks is unknown? Answer: Because there's No Cure for Cancer.")

During a 2003 roast of Denis Leary, comedian Lenny Clarke, a friend of Leary's, said there was a carton of cigarettes backstage from Bill Hicks with the message, "Wish I had gotten these to you sooner." This joke was cut from the final broadcast.

The controversy surrounding plagiarism is also mentioned in American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story, by Cynthia True:

Leary was in Montreal to host the "Nasty Show", at Club Soda, and Colleen was coordinating the talent so she was standing backstage when she heard Leary doing material that sounded incredibly similar to old Hicks riffs, including his perennial Jim Fixx joke: ("Keith Richards outlived Jim Fixx, the runner and health nut dude. The plot thickens."). When Leary came offstage, Colleen, more stunned than angry, said, "Hey, you know that's Bill Hicks' material! Do you know that's his material?" Leary stood there, stared at her without saying a word and briskly left the dressing room.

Reportedly, upon hearing a tape of Leary's album No Cure for Cancer, "Bill was furious. All these years, aside from the occasional jibe, he had pretty much shrugged off Leary's lifting. Comedians borrowed, stole stuff and even bought bits from one another. Milton Berle and Robin Williams were famous for it. This was different. Leary had, practically line for line, taken huge chunks of Bill's act and recorded it."

In the August 2006 Playboy, an interviewer told Leary, "Much has been written about you and comedian Bill Hicks.... People have accused you of appropriating his persona and material." Leary replied:

That's a great story that people like to latch onto.... Very quickly we got New York club owners saying, 'You guys are too alike' while I was saying, 'What are they fucking talking about?' It's the same approach to the subject maybe, but it's not the same act.... But as I've said many times, a fable is sometimes better than the truth.

On Sept 9, 2008, Louis CK appeared on Opie and Anthony and related a story from when he was much younger alleging Leary had plagiarized a bit from him. At the time, CK's closing bit was one about how great it would be to "just be an asshole." During a show when both CK and Leary performed, CK says Leary continued the bit, with due credit. However, after that, he said he saw Leary perform his entire bit without credit, and it has been suggested that this bit evolved into the song Asshole. Despite this, CK, who has been cited as the victim of plagiarism on other occasions as well, said he prefers to just write new material and move on rather than harbor a grudge.


Year Result Award Category Film/Show
2008 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Recount (2008)
2007 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Rescue Me
2007 Nominated Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Series, Drama Rescue Me
2007 Nominated Prism Awards Performance in a Drama Series, Multi-Episode Storyline Rescue Me
2006 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Rescue Me
2006 Nominated Satellite Awards Best Television Series, Drama Rescue Me
2006 Nominated Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Series, Drama Rescue Me
2006 Nominated Prism Awards Performance in a Drama Series, Multi-Episode Storyline Rescue Me
2005 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Rescue Me
2005 Nominated Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama Rescue Me
2005 Nominated Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Series, Drama Rescue Me
2005 Won Satellite Awards Best Ensemble - Television Rescue Me
2005 Nominated Satellite Awards Best Television Series, Drama Rescue Me
2005 Nominated Television Critics Association Awards Outstanding Achievement in Drama Rescue Me
2005 Nominated Television Critics Association Awards Outstanding New Program of the Year Rescue Me
2003 Nominated Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie Ice Age
2003 Nominated DVD Exclusive Awards Best Actor Double Whammy (2001)
2002 Nominated Television Critics Association Awards Individual Achievement in Comedy The Job
2002 Nominated Television Critics Association Awards Best New Show The Job
2000 Won Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Supporting Actor - Drama/Romance The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
1996 Won CableACE Awards Best Directing: Comedy National Lampoon's Favorite Deadly Sins (1995)
1992 Won Edinburgh International Arts Festival Critic's Award No Cure for Cancer (1992)
1992 Won BBC Festival Recommendation Award No Cure for Cancer (1992)



Year Title Role Notes
1987 Long Walk to Forever Newt short film
1991 Strictly Business Jake cameo
1993 The Sandlot Bill
Who's the Man? Sergeant Cooper
Demolition Man Edgar Friendly
National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 Mike McCracken cameo, performing You Really Got Me
Judgment Night Fallon
1994 The Ref Gus
Gunmen Armor O'Malley
Natural Born Killers Prison Inmate director's cut, cameo
1995 National Lampoon's Favorite Deadly Sins Jake TV-movie, also directed segment "Lust"
Operation Dumbo Drop Lt. David Poole
The Neon Bible Frank
1996 Underworld Johnny Crown/Johnny Alt
Two If by Sea Francis "Frank" O'Brien also writer
1997 The Second Civil War Vinnie Franko TV-movie
Love Walked In Jack Hanaway also producer
Subway Stories Guy in wheel chair TV movie, segment "The Red Shoes"
Wag the Dog Fad King
Suicide Kings Lono Veccio
The Real Blonde Doug
The MatchMaker Nick
1998 Monument Ave. Bobby O'Grady a.k.a Snitch, also uncredited writer
Wide Awake Mr. Beal
Small Soldiers Gil Mars
A Bug's Life Francis voice
1999 True Crime Bob Findley
Jesus' Son Wayne
Do Not Disturb Simon
The Thomas Crown Affair Det. Michael McCann
2000 Sand Teddy
Lakeboat The Fireman
Company Man Officer Fry
2001 Double Whammy Det. Raymond Pluto also uncredited producer
Final Bill performing Little Sister
2002 Dawg Douglas "Dawg" Munford a.k.a Bad Boy
Ice Age Diego voice
The Secret Lives of Dentists Slater
2003 When Stand Up Stood Out Himself documentary
The Curse of the Bambino Himself documentary
Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino Himself documentary (sequel)
2006 Ice Age: The Meltdown Diego voice
2008 Recount Michael Whouley TV-movie
2009 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Diego voice

Gross (films)

Year Title US Gross
1993 The Sandlot US$32.1 million
Demolition Man US$134.0 million
Judgment Night US$12.1 million
1994 Gunmen US$3.4 million
Natural Born Killers US$11.1 million
1995 The Neon Bible US$780,072
1997 The MatchMaker US$3.3 million
1998 Wide Awake US$58,212
Small Soldiers US$71.7 million
A Bug's Life US$162.7 million
1999 The Thomas Crown Affair US$69.3 million
2006 Ice Age: The Meltdown US$195.3 million

TV shows

Year Title Role Not(es)
1987 Remote Control Various roles All episodes
1990 Afterdrive Himself Talk show
1992 Tonight with Jonathan Ross 2 episode
1998 The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder Himself Episode dated 24 April 1998
1998 Fantasy World Cup Himself Episode #1.15
1998 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Himself Episode: Waiting For Edward
2001-2002 The Rosie O'Donnell Show Himself Guest at two episodes
2001-2002 The Job Mike McNeil Also writer and producer
All episodes
2002 Contest Searchlight Fictionalized version of himself All episodes
2002 Crank Yankers Joe Smith (voice) Episode: 1.2
2004 Rescue Me: FDNY Tommy Gavin nominated for Golden Globe and Emmy
also creator,producer and writer
2005 The Charlie Rose Show Himself one episode
Last Call with Carson Daly Himself two episodes (2004-2005)
The Tony Danza Show Himself episode dated 13 July 2005
The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch Himself one episode
2006 Rachael Ray Himself 1 episode
Late Show with David Letterman Himself 5 episode (2003, -4, -5, -6, -7)
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Himself 6 episode (1997-2007)
The Daily Show Himself 5 episode (2002, -3, -6, -7, -8)
Live with Regis and Kathie Lee Himself 2 episode
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Himself 6 episode (1997-2007)
2007 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Himself episode dated 12 September 2007
The Ellen DeGeneres Show Himself Episode dated 2 October 2007
The View Himself 4 episodes (2005-2007)
2008 The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Himself 3 episodes (two of them in last seasons)
The Simpsons Himself 1 episode
Family Guy Himself 1 episode




External links

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