Denis Leary

"Dennis Leary" redirects here. For the restaurateur and chef, see Dennis Leary (chef). For the American politician, see Denis O'Leary.
Denis Leary

Birth name Denis Colin Leary
Born (1957-08-18) August 18, 1957
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • American
  • Irish
Alma mater Emerson College
Years active 1987–present
Spouse Ann Lembeck (m. 1989)[1]
Children 2
Notable works and roles

Denis Colin Leary (born August 18, 1957) is an American actor, writer, producer, singer, and comedian.

Leary was the star and co-creator of Rescue Me, that ended its seventh and final season on September 7, 2011. He has starred in many motion pictures, most recently as Captain George Stacy in Marc Webb's film, The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Cleveland Browns Head Coach Vince Penn in Ivan Reitman's film, Draft Day (2014), and the voice of Diego in the Ice Age franchise.

As of 2016, Leary wrote and has been starring in the comedy series, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, that premiered on FX on July 16, 2015.

Early life

Denis Colin Leary was born on August 18, 1957, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Roman Catholic immigrant parents from County Kerry, Ireland.[2] His mother, Nora (née Sullivan) (b. 1929), was a maid, and his father, John Leary (1924-1985), was an auto mechanic.[3][4] Being the son of Irish parents,[5][6] Leary is a citizen of both the United States and Ireland.[7] Through marriage, Leary is a third cousin of talk show host, Conan O'Brien.[8][9]

He attended Saint Peter's High School (now Saint Peter-Marian High School), in Worcester and graduated from Emerson College,[10] in Boston. At Emerson, he met fellow comic Mario Cantone, whom to this day Leary considers his closest friend.[11][12] At the school, he founded the Emerson Comedy Workshop, a troupe that continues on-campus today.[13]

After graduating with the Emerson Class of 1981, he took a job at the school teaching comedy writing classes and maintained the job for five years.[14] He received an honorary doctorate and spoke briefly at his alma mater's undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 16, 2005;[15] he is thus credited as Dr. Denis Leary on the cover of his 2009 book, Why We Suck.


Leary began working as a comedian in the Boston comedy scene of the 1980s at the underground club, Play It Again Sam's; however, 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 wrote and appeared on a local comedy series, The Late, Late Show, hosted by his friend, Lenny Clarke, and written by 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), and during this time, he developed his stage persona. He 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 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. [16] 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 in more than 40 films, 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 tiny part in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers that was eventually cut. He held the lead role in two television series, The Job and Rescue Me, and he co-created the latter, in which 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 Departed (2006) but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with Rescue Me. He 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. 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. He has also appeared in commercials for Hulu and DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package. 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, he 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. The Comedy Central special Douchebags and Donuts, filmed during the tour, debuted on American television on January 16, 2011, with a DVD release on January 18, 2011.[24]

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

He is an Executive Producer of the documentary, BURN, that chronicles the struggles of the Detroit Fire Department. BURN made its debut on April 23, 2012, at the Tribeca Film Festival.

He created a new television series for FX, in which he also stars in the lead role, called Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. A 10-episode first season has been ordered by FX, which premiered on July 16, 2015.[27][28]

Personal life

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

Leary has been married to author 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).[29] 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.[30]

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.[31] He is a fan of the Boston Bruins and the Boston Red Sox,[32] as well as the Green Bay Packers.[33][34]

Leary describes himself as a Jack Kennedy Democrat with some conservative ideologies, including 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."[35]

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...."[35]

Leary Firefighters Foundation

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. 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

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's act and material. The friendship ended abruptly as a result.[36] 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".[37]

At least three stand-up comedians have gone on the record stating they believe Leary stole Hicks' material, comedic persona and attitude.[36][38][39] One similar routine was about the band Judas Priest, during which Hicks says, "I don't think we lost a cancer cure."[40]

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.[41]

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.[42]

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."[42]

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.[43] On a later episode of the same show, Leary challenged this assertion by claiming that he (Leary) co-wrote the song with Chris Phillips.[44]


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

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.[45][46]



Year Title Role Notes
1987 Long Walk to Forever Newt Short film
1991 Strictly Business Jake Cameo
1993 Sandlot, TheThe Sandlot Bill
1993 Who's the Man? Sergeant Cooper
1993 Demolition Man Edgar Friendly
1993 Loaded Weapon 1 Mike McCracken Cameo, performing "You Really Got Me"
1993 Judgment Night Fallon
1994 Ref, TheThe Ref Gus
1994 Gunmen Armor O'Malley
1994 Natural Born Killers Prison Inmate director's cut, cameo
1995 National Lampoon's Favorite Deadly Sins Jake Television film, also directed segment "Lust"
1995 Operation Dumbo Drop CW3 David Poole
1995 Neon Bible, TheThe Neon Bible Frank
1996 Underworld Johnny Crown/Johnny Alt
1996 Two If by Sea Francis "Frank" O'Brien also writer
1997 Second Civil War, TheThe Second Civil War Vinnie Franko Television film
1997 Love Walked In Jack Hanaway also producer
1997 Subway Stories Guy in wheel chair Television film, segment "The Red Shoes"
1997 Wag the Dog Fad King
1997 Suicide Kings Lono Veccio
1997 Real Blonde, TheThe Real Blonde Doug
1997 Matchmaker, TheThe Matchmaker Nick
1998 Monument Ave. Bobby O'Grady a.k.a. Snitch, also uncredited writer
1998 Wide Awake Mr. Beal
1998 Small Soldiers Gil Mars
1998 A Bug's Life Francis Voice only
1999 True Crime Bob Findley
1999 Jesus' Son Wayne
1999 Do Not Disturb Simon
1999 Thomas Crown Affair, TheThe Thomas Crown Affair Det. Michael McCann
2000 Sand Teddy
2000 Lakeboat The Fireman
2000 Company Man Officer Fry
2001 Double Whammy Det. Raymond Pluto Also uncredited producer
2001 Final Bill performing "Little Sister"
2001 Blow Producer
2002 Dawg Douglas "Dawg" Munford a.k.a. Bad Boy
2002 Ice Age Diego Voice only
Nominated - Kids' Choice Award for Favourite Voice from an Animated Movie
2002 Secret Lives of Dentists, TheThe Secret Lives of Dentists Slater
2003 When Stand Up Stood Out Himself Documentary
2003 Curse of the Bambino, TheThe Curse of the Bambino Himself Documentary
2003 Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino Himself Documentary (sequel)
2006 Ice Age: The Meltdown Diego Voice only
2008 Recount Michael Whouley Television film
2009 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Diego Voice only
2012 Amazing Spider-Man, TheThe Amazing Spider-Man George Stacy
2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift Diego Voice only
2014 Draft Day Coach Penn
2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 George Stacy Voice & Actor
2015 Freaks of Nature Rick Wilson
2016 Ice Age: Collision Course Diego Voice only


Year Title Role Notes
1987 Remote Control Various roles All episodes
1990 Afterdrive Himself Talk show
Rascals Comedy Hour Himself Stand Up
1994–95 Mike & Spike Charles S. Baby 3 episodes
1998 Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, TheThe Late Late Show with Tom Snyder Himself Episode dated April 24, 1998
Fantasy World Cup Himself Episode #1.15
Space Ghost Coast to Coast Himself Episode: "Waiting for Edward"
2001–02 Rosie O'Donnell Show, TheThe Rosie O'Donnell Show Himself Guest at two episodes
Job, TheThe Job Mike McNeil Also writer and producer
All episodes
2002 Contest Searchlight Fictionalized version of himself All episodes
Crank Yankers Joe Smith Voice only
Episode: 1.2
2004–11 Rescue Me Tommy Gavin 93 episodes; nominated for Golden Globe and Emmy
also creator, producer and writer
2004–05 Father of the Pride Chaz Voice only
2008 The Simpsons Himself 1 episode - "Lost Verizon"
2011 Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Diego (voice) TV Special
2013 Maron Himself 1 episode - "Dead Possum"
2015 Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll[47] Johnny Rock Also creator, producer and writer
2016 The Late Late Night Show With James Cordon Bill Clinton A Spoof of 1st Presidential Debate of 2016
Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade Diego (voice) TV Special




Year Result Award Category Film/Show
2009 Nominated Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Recount (2008)
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 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
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
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)


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