Denis Colin O’Leary is an American actor, comedian, singer, writer and producer. Leary was the star and co-creator of Rescue Me, which ended its seventh and final season on September 7, 2011. He has starred in many films including playing Captain George Stacy in Marc Webb’s film, The Amazing Spider-Man, Cleveland Browns Head Coach Vince Penn in Ivan Reitman’s film Draft Day, and as the voice of Francis in A Bug’s Life and Diego in the Ice Age franchise. Take a look below for 28 more fun and fascinating facts about Denis Leary.
1. Leary was born on August 18, 1957, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Roman Catholic immigrant parents fro County Kerry, Ireland.
2. His mother, Nora, was a maid, and his father, John Leary, was an auto mechanic.
3. Being the son of Irish parents, Leary is a citizen of both the United States and Ireland.
4. Through marriage, Leary is a third cousin of talk show host Conan O’Brien.
5. He attended Saint Peter’s High School (now Saint Peter-Marian High School), in Worcester and graduated from Emerson College, in Boston.
6. At Emerson, he met fellow comic Mario Cantone, whom to this day Leary considers his closest friend.
7. At the school, he founded the Emerson Comedy Workshop, a troupe that continues on-campus today.
8. 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.
9. He received an honorary doctorate and spoke briefly at his alma mater’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 16, 2005; he is thus credited as Dr. Denis Leary on the cover of his 2009 book, Why We Suck.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Leary has been married to author Ann Lembeck Leary since 1989.
15. 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).
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. He is a fan of the Boston Bruins and the Boston Red Sox, as well as the Green Bay Packers.
19. 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.”
20. 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….”
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. For many years, Leary had been friends with fellow comedian Bill Hicks. When Leary’s comedy album No Cure for Cancer was released, Leary was accused of stealing Hicks’s act and material. The friendship ended abruptly as a result.
26. At least three stand-up comedians have gone on the record stating they believe Leary stole Hicks’ material, comedic persona and attitude. One similar routine was about the so-called Judas Priest “suicide trial,” during which Hicks says, “I don’t think we lost a cancer cure.”
27. 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.
28. 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. On a later episode of the same show, Leary challenged this assertion by claiming to have co-written the song with Chris Phillips.