Denis Leary

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Denis Leary
Leary performing in Minneapolis in 2010
Birth nameDenis Colin Leary
Born(1957-08-18) August 18, 1957 (age 57)
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
MediumStand up, television, film
NationalityAmerican, Irish
Years active1987–present
GenresObservational comedy, Black comedy, Insult comedy, Satire, Musical comedy
InfluencesBill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison
SpouseAnn Lembeck (1989–present)[1]
Notable works and rolesNo Cure for Cancer
Lock 'n Load
Gus in The Ref
Michael McCann in The Thomas Crown Affair
Diego in Ice Age
Tommy Gavin in Rescue Me
Bill in The Sandlot,
Captain George Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man
Francis in A Bug's Life
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Denis Leary
Leary performing in Minneapolis in 2010
Birth nameDenis Colin Leary
Born(1957-08-18) August 18, 1957 (age 57)
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
MediumStand up, television, film
NationalityAmerican, Irish
Years active1987–present
GenresObservational comedy, Black comedy, Insult comedy, Satire, Musical comedy
InfluencesBill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison
SpouseAnn Lembeck (1989–present)[1]
Notable works and rolesNo Cure for Cancer
Lock 'n Load
Gus in The Ref
Michael McCann in The Thomas Crown Affair
Diego in Ice Age
Tommy Gavin in Rescue Me
Bill in The Sandlot,
Captain George Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man
Francis in A Bug's Life

Denis Colin Leary (born August 18, 1957) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, director, producer, writer, voice artist, and comedian, best known for his biting and fast-paced comedic style. He was the star and co-creator of Rescue Me, which ended its seventh and final season on September 7, 2011. Leary has starred in many motion pictures, most recently as Captain George Stacy in Marc Webb's 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man and the voice of Diego in the Ice Age franchise.

Early life[edit]

Leary was born Denis Colin Leary in Worcester, Massachusetts on August 18, 1957, the son of Irish Catholic[2] immigrants. His mother, Nora (née Sullivan), was a maid, and his father, John Leary, was an auto mechanic.[3][4] As both of his parents are from Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland,[5][6] Leary holds both Irish and U.S. citizenship.[7] Through marriage, Leary is a third cousin of talk show host Conan O'Brien.[8][9] He attended Saint Peter-Marian High School, in Worcester.[10]

Leary is a graduate of Emerson College,[11] in Boston. While at Emerson, he met fellow comic Mario Cantone, whom to this day Leary considers his closest friend. Comedian Steven Wright and actress Gina Gershon also attended Emerson at the same time as Leary.[12][13] At the school, he founded the Emerson Comedy Workshop, a troupe that continues on-campus as of 2011.[14] 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.[15] Leary received an honorary doctorate and spoke briefly at his alma mater's undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 16, 2005;[16] he is thus credited as "Dr. Denis Leary" on the cover of his 2009 book, Why We Suck.


Leary in 2011

Leary began working as a comedian in the Boston comedy scene of the 1980s at the underground club Play It Again Sam's. But his first real gig was at the Rascals Comedy Club as part of the TV show The Rascals Comedy Hour on October 18, 1990. He also wrote and appeared on a local comedy series, The Late, 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 co-host Colin Quinn, and artist Andy Warhol.

Leary first earned fame when he ranted about R.E.M. in an early 1990s MTV sketch. Several other commercials for MTV quickly followed, in which Leary would rant at high speeds about a variety of topics, playing off the then-popular and growing alternative scene. One of these rants serves as an introduction to the video of "Shamrocks and Shenanigans (Boom Shalock Lock Boom)" by House of Pain. He 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. However, this bit was allegedly stolen from Louis CK, discussed by Louis on an interview on the "Opie and Anthony Show". It was voted #1 in an Australian youth radio poll (the Triple J Hottest 100).[17] The song was used as part of the Holsten Pils series of ads in the UK, in which Leary was participating, with adapted lyrics criticizing a drunk driver.[18] The single was a minor hit there, peaking at No. 58 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1996.[19]

Leary has appeared as an actor in over 40 movies, including The Sandlot, as Scott's stepfather Bill, Monument Ave., The Matchmaker, The Ref, Draft Day,Suicide Kings, Dawg, Wag the Dog, Demolition Man, Judgment Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Operation Dumbo Drop. He had a small part in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, playing a ranting inmate during a prison riot; his part was eventually cut, but can be seen on the Special Edition DVD. He has had the lead role in two television series, The Job and the FX cable-network series Rescue Me, of which he was also a co-creator. He played Tommy Gavin, a New York City firefighter dealing with alcoholism, family dysfunction and other issues in post-9/11 New York City. He received Emmy Award nominations in 2006 and 2007 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Rescue Me, and in 2008 for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie for the HBO movie Recount.[20] Leary was offered the role of Dignam in the 2006 film The Departed but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with Rescue Me.

In addition, Leary has provided voices for characters in animated films, such as a fire-breathing dragon named Flame in the series The Agents, a pugnacious ladybug named Francis in A Bug's Life and a prehistoric saber-toothed tiger named Diego in the Ice Age film series. He has produced 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 (Q Video/MLB Productions, 2004). In 2006, Leary and Lenny Clarke appeared on television during a Red Sox telecast and, upon realizing that Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is Jewish, delivered a criticism of Mel Gibson's antisemitic comments.[21] As an ice hockey fan, Leary hosted the National Hockey League video NHL's Greatest Goals.[citation needed] In 2003, he was the subject of the Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary.[22]

Leary did the TV voiceover for MLB 2K8 advertisements, where he used his trademark rant style in baseball terms, and ads for the 2009 Ford F-150 pickup truck.[citation needed] He has also appeared in commercials for Hulu and DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package.[citation needed] Leary was a producer of the Fox Broadcasting series Canterbury's Law, and wrote and directed its pilot episode. Canterbury's Law aired in the spring of 2008 and was canceled after eight episodes.

On September 9, 2008, Leary hosted the sixth annual Fashion Rocks event, which aired on CBS. In December of the year, he appeared in a video on critiquing a list of some of his "best" films, titled "Denis Leary Remembers Denis Leary Movies".[23] Also in 2008, Leary voiced a guest role as himself on the "Lost Verizon" episode of The Simpsons.

On March 21, 2009, Leary began the "Rescue Me Comedy Tour" in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The 11-date tour, featuring Rescue Me co-stars Lenny Clarke and Adam Ferrara, was Leary's first stand-up comedy tour in 12 years.[citation needed] The Comedy Central special Douchebags and Donuts, filmed during the tour, debuted on American television January 16, 2011, with a DVD release on January 18, 2011.[24]

On January 1, 2010, both Leary and Lenny Clarke sang the Neil Diamond song "Sweet Caroline" at the 2010 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, flanked by members of the Boston and Worcester Fire Departments.[citation needed] Nine days later, Leary sang at Road Recovery, on New York City's The Bowery, along with Peter Frampton, John Varvatos and Leary's band The Enablers.[citation needed]

He played Captain George Stacy in the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, released in July 2012.[25] He is writing the American adaptation of the British comedy Sirens.[26]

Leary is one of the executive producers of the documentary BURN, which chronicles the struggles of the Detroit Fire Department. BURN made its debut on April 23, 2012, at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Personal life[edit]

Leary and his wife Ann Lembeck at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival

Leary has been married to writer Ann Lembeck Leary since 1989.[1] They met when he was her instructor in an English class at Emerson College. They have two children, son John Joseph "Jack" (born 1990) and daughter Devin (born 1992).[27] Ann Leary published a memoir, An Innocent, a Broad, about the premature birth of their son on an overseas visit to London. She has also written a novel, Outtakes From a Marriage, which was published in 2008. Her second novel, The Good House, was published in 2013.

Leary is an ice hockey fan and has his own backyard hockey rink at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, with piping installed under the ice surface to help the ice stay frozen.[28] His favorite National Hockey League team is the Boston Bruins.[28] He is also a Boston Red Sox fan,[29] as well as a fan of the Green Bay Packers.[30][31]

Leary describes himself as a Jack Kennedy Democrat with some conservative ideologies, such as support for the military. Leary told Glenn Beck, "I was a life-long Democrat, but now at my age, I've come to realize that the Democrats suck, and the Republicans suck, and basically the entire system sucks. But you have to go within the system to find what you want."[32]

Leary has said of his religious beliefs, "I'm a lapsed Catholic in the best sense of the word. You know, I was raised with Irish parents, Irish immigrant parents. My parents, you know, prayed all the time, took us to Mass. And my father would sometimes swear in Gaelic. It doesn't get more religious than that. But, no, after a while, they taught us wrong. I didn't raise my kids with the fear of God. I raised my kids with the sense of, you know, to me, Jesus was this great guy...."[32]

Leary Firefighters Foundation[edit]

On December 3, 1999, six firefighters from Leary's hometown of Worcester were killed in the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire. Among the dead were Leary's cousin Jerry Lucey and his close childhood friend Lt. Tommy Spencer.[8] 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, 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 to the families of the 343 firemen killed in the September 11 attacks in 2001 in addition to providing funding for necessities such as a new mobile command center, first responder training, and a high-rise simulator for the New York City Fire Department's training campus. 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.


Allegations of plagiarism[edit]

For many years, Leary had been friends with fellow comedian Bill Hicks. When Leary's comedy album No Cure for Cancer was released, many people believed Leary had stolen Hicks' act and material. The friendship ended abruptly as a result.[33] In April 1993, the Austin Comedy News remarked on the similarities of Leary's performance, "Watching Leary is like seeing Hicks from two years ago. He smokes with the same mannerisms. (Hicks recently quit) He sports the same attitude, the same clothes. He touches on almost all of the same themes. Leary even invokes Jim Fixx." When asked about this, Hicks told the magazine, "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".[34]

At least three stand-up comedians have gone on the record stating they believe Leary stole Hicks' material, comedic persona and attitude.[33][35][36][37] One similar routine was about the band Judas Priest, during which Hicks says, "I don't think we lost a cancer cure."[38]

During Leary's 2003 Comedy Central Roast, 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.[39]

The feud is also mentioned in Cynthia True's biography American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story:

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.[40]

According to the book, True said 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."[40]

In a 2008 appearance on The Opie and Anthony Show, comedian Louis CK claimed that Leary stole his "I'm an asshole" routine, which was then expanded upon and turned into a hit song by Leary.[41] On a later episode of the same show, Leary challenged this assertion by claiming that he (Leary) co-wrote the song with Chris Phillips.[42]


In his 2008 book Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, Leary said:

There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks... to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't [care] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you — your kid is not autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.

In response to the controversy, Leary stated that the quote was taken out of context and that in that paragraph he had been talking about the trend of unwarranted over-diagnosis of autism, which he attributed to American parents seeking an excuse for behavioral problems and under-performance. Later, he apologized to parents with autistic children whom he had offended.[43][44]


2009NominatedGolden Globe AwardsBest Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TelevisionRecount (2008)
2008NominatedEmmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieRecount (2008)
2007NominatedEmmy AwardsOutstanding Lead Actor in a Drama SeriesRescue Me
2007NominatedSatellite AwardsBest Actor in a Series, DramaRescue Me
2007NominatedPrism AwardsPerformance in a Drama Series, Multi-Episode StorylineRescue Me
2006NominatedEmmy AwardsOutstanding Lead Actor in a Drama SeriesRescue Me
2006NominatedSatellite AwardsBest Actor in a Series, DramaRescue Me
2006NominatedPrism AwardsPerformance in a Drama Series, Multi-Episode StorylineRescue Me
2005NominatedEmmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Drama SeriesRescue Me
2005NominatedGolden Globe AwardsBest Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - DramaRescue Me
2005NominatedSatellite AwardsBest Actor in a Series, DramaRescue Me
2003NominatedKids' Choice AwardsFavorite Voice from an Animated MovieIce Age
2003NominatedDVD Exclusive AwardsBest ActorDouble Whammy (2001)
2002NominatedTelevision Critics Association AwardsIndividual Achievement in ComedyThe Job
2000WonBlockbuster Entertainment AwardsFavorite Supporting Actor - Drama/RomanceThe Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
1996WonCableACE AwardsBest Directing: ComedyNational Lampoon's Favorite Deadly Sins (1995)
1992WonEdinburgh International Arts FestivalCritic's AwardNo Cure for Cancer (1992)
1992WonBBC FestivalRecommendation AwardNo Cure for Cancer (1992)


1987Long Walk to ForeverNewtShort film
1991Strictly BusinessJakeCameo
1993Sandlot, TheThe SandlotBill
Who's the Man?Sergeant Cooper
Demolition ManEdgar Friendly
Loaded Weapon 1Mike McCrackenCameo, performing "You Really Got Me"
Judgment NightFallon
1994Ref, TheThe RefGus
GunmenArmor O'Malley
Natural Born KillersPrison Inmatedirector's cut, cameo
1995National Lampoon's Favorite Deadly SinsJakeTelevision film, also directed segment "Lust"
Operation Dumbo DropCW3 David Poole
Neon Bible, TheThe Neon BibleFrank
1996UnderworldJohnny Crown/Johnny Alt
Two If by SeaFrancis "Frank" O'Brienalso writer
1997Second Civil War, TheThe Second Civil WarVinnie FrankoTelevision film
Love Walked InJack Hanawayalso producer
Subway StoriesGuy in wheel chairTelevision film, segment "The Red Shoes"
Wag the DogFad King
Suicide KingsLono Veccio
Real Blonde, TheThe Real BlondeDoug
Matchmaker, TheThe MatchmakerNick
1998Monument Ave.Bobby O'Gradya.k.a. Snitch, also uncredited writer
Wide AwakeMr. Beal
Small SoldiersGil Mars
A Bug's LifeFrancisVoice only
1999True CrimeBob Findley
Jesus' SonWayne
Do Not DisturbSimon
Thomas Crown Affair, TheThe Thomas Crown AffairDet. Michael McCann
LakeboatThe Fireman
Company ManOfficer Fry
2001Double WhammyDet. Raymond PlutoAlso uncredited producer
FinalBillperforming "Little Sister"
2002DawgDouglas "Dawg" Munforda.k.a. Bad Boy
Ice AgeDiegoVoice only
Nominated - Kids' Choice Award for Favourite Voice from an Animated Movie
Secret Lives of Dentists, TheThe Secret Lives of DentistsSlater
2003When Stand Up Stood OutHimselfDocumentary
Curse of the Bambino, TheThe Curse of the BambinoHimselfDocumentary
Reverse of the Curse of the BambinoHimselfDocumentary (sequel)
2006Ice Age: The MeltdownDiegoVoice only
2008RecountMichael WhouleyTelevision film
2009Ice Age: Dawn of the DinosaursDiegoVoice only
2012Amazing Spider-Man, TheThe Amazing Spider-ManGeorge Stacy
Ice Age: Continental DriftDiegoVoice only
2014Draft DayCoach Penn
The Amazing Spider-Man 2George Stacy
Kitchen SinkFilming


1987Remote ControlVarious rolesAll episodes
1990AfterdriveHimselfTalk show
Rascals Comedy HourHimselfStand Up
1994–95Mike & SpikeCharles S. Baby3 episodes
1998Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, TheThe Late Late Show with Tom SnyderHimselfEpisode dated April 24, 1998
Fantasy World CupHimselfEpisode #1.15
Space Ghost Coast to CoastHimselfEpisode: "Waiting For Edward"
2001–02Rosie O'Donnell Show, TheThe Rosie O'Donnell ShowHimselfGuest at two episodes
Job, TheThe JobMike McNeilAlso writer and producer
All episodes
2002Contest SearchlightFictionalized version of himselfAll episodes
Crank YankersJoe SmithVoice only
Episode: 1.2
2004–11Rescue MeTommy Gavinnominated for Golden Globe and Emmy
also creator, producer and writer
2004–05Father of the PrideChazVoice only
2008The SimpsonsHimself1 episode - "Lost Verizon"
2015Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll[45]Johnny RockAlso creator, producer and writer




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  41. ^ Denis Leary ripped off "I'm An Asshole" from Louis CK. YouTube. 
  42. ^ Denis Leary responds to Louis CK claiming he stole "I'm An Asshole" from him. Opie & Anthony Show (YouTube). November 18, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2012. 
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