Denis LearyComedian / Actor
Born: 18 August 1957
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts
Best known as: Star of cable TV's Rescue Me
Denis Leary was an acerbic Boston comedian until 2004, when he refashioned himself as a serious dramatic actor in the cable TV series Rescue Me. A graduate of Boston's Emerson College, he worked the comedy clubs in the northeastern U.S. in the 1980s and got his big break through MTV: Leary did promotional spots in which he smoked cigarettes and ranted with comic urgency on pop culture. That led to national success as a stand-up comedian, a couple of comedy records (1993's No Cure for Cancer and 1997's Lock 'n' Load) and the beginnings of an acting career. While still doing stand-up, he got good notices for his roles in the movies The Ref (1994, starring Kevin Spacey), Underworld (1996), and Suicide Kings (1997, starring Christopher Walken). By the end of the 1990s Leary was working steadily in the movies. He co-created and took the lead in Rescue Me, a melodrama set in post-9/11 New York, a series apparently inspired by the attacks in 2001 as well as a 1999 tragedy in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts that killed six firefighters. Rescue Me earned him critical acclaim and Emmy nominations, but his comedy -- on stage and in his 2008 book Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid -- remains provocative enough to maintain his reputation as an edgy outsider. His other film credits include Wag the Dog (1997, with Dustin Hoffman), A Bug's Life (1998) and Ice Age (2002).
Extra credit: Leary has created two non-profit organizations to benefit families of firefighters: The Leary Firefighters Foundation (inspired by the Worcester fire) and the Fund For New York's Bravest (inspired by the attacks of 9/11).
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