Denis Leary was born in Worcester, Massachusetts to Irish
Catholic immigrants John Leary (an auto mechanic who died in
1985) and Nora (a maid); Leary holds both Irish and American
citizenship. He is a graduate of 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 "Denis."
This comes out in one of his comedy routines in which he
mentions how his father had a peculiar way of writing which
included "D's" that look like "P's"; it led to notes that were
written to Denis' teachers that looked like they said "P----."
This is how Leary got the nickname "P----Man".
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#%$in' Christmas, which included a mix of new music, previously unreleased recordings, and some tracks from Lock 'N Load.
In 1994, his sardonic song about the American lower-middle-class male, "(I'm an) Asshole", achieved much notoriety. It was voted #1 in a major Australian youth radio poll (the Triple J Hottest 100) as well as reaching #2 in the singles chart in that country. The video also became a staple of MTV's late-night programming. Due to its explicit and controversial content, however, it received limited airplay on mainstream American radio stations. At the 2004 Comics Come Home in Boston, Massachusetts, Denis performed a new version of the song directed at the New York Yankees, and as the song concluded, Bronson Arroyo walked on stage with the World Series trophy.
Although Learysays he is most at home on stage doing stand-up, Leary has appeared as an actor in over 40 movies, including The Sandlot, Monument Ave., The Match Maker, The Ref, Suicide Kings, Dawg, Wag the Dog, Demolition Man, The Thomas Crown Affair and Operation Dumbo Drop. He has also starred in two television series, The Job and Rescue Me. In addition, Leary has provided voices for characters in animated films such as the saber-toothed tiger 'Diego' in Ice Age and 'Francis' in A Bug's Life. He's produced (and still produces) numerous movies, television shows, and specials through his production company Apostle; these include Comedy Central's Shorties Watching Shorties, the stand-up special Denis Leary's Merry F#$%in' Christmas, and the movie Blow. As a Boston Red Sox fan, he narrated the official 2004 World Series film.
Denis Leary is now the star and co creator of F/X's Rescue Me. He plays a New York City fire fighter who is a recovering alcoholic. In July 2006, Leary picked up an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in "Rescue Me".
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.
A separate fund run by Denis 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, as well as 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, and usually presents large checks and donated equipment personally. The close relationship he has developed with the FDNY, as well as 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.
Leary has close ties with 107.3 WAAF-FM, who in 2000 released the station album "Survive This!." Part of the proceeds from this album were donated to the Leary Firefighters Foundation.
Denis Leary is a very proud graduate of Emerson College in Boston. At the school he founded the Emerson Comedy Workshop, a troupe that continues to thrive on-campus to this day. After graduating with the Emerson Class of 1979, he took up a job with the school teaching comedy writing classes and maintained the job for five years. At Emerson's 2005 commencement ceremony, he spoke and received an honorary doctorate. During a December 2005 appearance at Emerson's Cutler Majestic Theatre he claimed that Emerson College "saved his life" by giving him direction and that throughout his career he's "never forgotten" the lessons he learned there. He also claimed that he was the reason Emerson students were no longer allowed on the roofs of the buildings at Emerson, due to an incident following Game 6 of the 1975 World Series where he and some classmates allegedly poured a large bucket of ice water down onto a Cincinnati Reds fan on the sidewalk below.
Leary was honored and spoke briefly at his alma mater's undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 16, 2005.
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