Born: August 18, 1957
Blue Meter: Tame
In match-ups against other comics:
Won: 1988 | Lost: 1411
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All video pulled from YouTube.
|2004||Merry F#%$in' Christmas||Buy: Amazon | iTunes|
|2000||Comics Come Home VI
Features multiple performers
|1997||Lock 'N Load||Buy: Amazon | iTunes|
|1993||No Cure for Cancer||Buy: Amazon | iTunes|
Specials (and other video)
|2011||Denis Leary and Friends Presents Douchebags and Donuts||Buy: Amazon | iTunes|
|2005||When Stand Up Stood Out||Buy: Amazon|
|2003||Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary||Buy: Amazon|
|1999||Comedy Rx: Comics Come Home 5
Features multiple performers
|1998||Comics Come Home 4|
|1997||Comics Come Home 3|
|1997||Denis Leary: Lock 'N Load
Part of "The Complete Denis Leary"
|1996||Comics Come Home 2
This special features multiple comedians.
|1995||Comics Come Home
|1992||No Cure for Cancer
Part of "The Complete Denis Leary"
|1990||Caroline's Comedy Hour|
Books (by and about)
|2012||Denis Leary's Merry F#%$in' Christmas||Buy: Amazon | iTunes|
|2010||Suck On This Year: LYFAO @ 140 Characters or Less||Buy: Amazon|
|2008||Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid||Buy: Amazon | iTunes|
|1992||No Cure for Cancer||Buy: Amazon|
I would never do crack. I would never do a drug named after a part of my own ass.
An “in your face” punk comic, Denis Leary’s faux James Dean looks and sneering demeanor made New York critics weak in the knees. Also weak from laughter, they pronounced him the new star among performance artists.
Hardly ready to settle for darling of the kneejerk set, Leary parlayed his good notices into a blitz of TV commercials, CD’s and guest spots on TV and in films, ultimately starring in his own movies and earning a cult following for his attitude-based comedy.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Leary was the son of Irish immigrants. He attended Emerson College in Boston and was part of a comedy workshop there. He insists he came by his attitude early on: ” My brother was the tough guy, so with my built-in protection I was kind of a wise-ass. Pretty much everybody in my neighborhood was a wise-ass. They still are.” His tough-but-pretty looks helped him win an acting scholarship at Emerson College in Boston. “My SATs were really bad, we didn’t have any money, and I wasn’t good enough to win a hockey scholarship. It was, to say the least, a lucky break.”
After he graduated, he stayed at Emerson, teaching for five years and working on his stand-up routines. He went on to New York where he began performing his one man “No Cure for Cancer” show. He developed a following for his “Two Words” catch-phrase and routine (if it was possible to popularize “Fuck You” any further with the masses) and his “edgy” antics earned him ubiquitous time on MTV.
In England in 1990 (where his wife Anne Lembeck gave birth to their son) Leary developed a strong following. He performed his show at the Edinburgh International Arts Festival. It won the Critics’ Award and as more a “performance artist” than a stand-up, he returned to America and premiered at Irving Plaza in New York, October 10, 1992. Showtime put up the big bucks for a cable version. There would also be a book and a CD.
The big joke in “No Cure for Cancer” was Leary furiously sucking on cigarettes and spewing out hard, nasty lines that were seemingly outrageous, but actually aimed at rather safe targets not likely to hit back. Like lesser comics toiling in comedy clubs, he went after Ted Kennedy and Yoko Ono:
“That’s the problem with this country. We always shoot all the wrong guys. We shoot J.F.K., we shoot R.F.K. and it comes to Teddy, we go, ‘Ah, leave him alone. He’ll fuck it up himself, no problem, you know?’ He’s the biggest target in the whole goddamn Kennedy family—and nobody takes a shot at him.”
“We live in a country where John Lennon takes six bullets in the chest. Yoko Ono is standing right next to him. Not one fucking bullet! Explain that to me! Explain that to me, God!”
Rather than jokes, Leary spat out shock-value statements that triggered laughs:
“I would never do crack. I would never do a drug named after a part of my own ass, okay?”
“Life sucks. Get a fucking helmet, okay?”
“Lou Gehrig. Died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. How the hell do you not see that coming?”
At this best, his uncompromising sense of humor aimed at hypocrisy and fired point blank:
“There’s the problem. We only want to save the cute animals, don’t we? Yeah. Why don’t we just have animal auditions. Line ‘em up one by one and interview them individually.
‘What are you?’
‘I’m an otter.’
‘And what do you do?’
‘I swim around on my back and do cute little human things with my hands!’
‘You’re free to go . . . .And what are you?’
‘I’m a cow.’
‘Get in the fucking truck, okay, pal?’
‘But I’m an animal!’
‘You’re a baseball glove! Get on that truck!’”
“We kill the cows to make jackets out of them and then we kill each other for the jackets we made out of the cows.”
The title routine took a sinister and sour look at fate:
“Most people think, Life sucks, then you die. I disagree. I think, Life sucks, then you get cancer, then you go into chemotherapy, you lose all your hair, you feel bad about yourself, then all of a sudden the cancer goes into remission, you come out, you look good, you feel good, you’re going great and then all of a sudden you have a stroke, you can’t move your right side, and one day you step off the curb at sixty-eighth by Lincoln Center and BANG you get hit by a bus and then—maybe—you die.”
For those relishing harsh truths, harsh laughter was the result. Leary’s line on New York was that there were five seasons, not four: “Winter, spring, summer, HELL, and fall. HELL. You know those three weeks right at the end of the summer? When it’s 175 degrees out?”
Had he not earned such instantaneous success, who knows what might have happened. Leary insists, “I think I was one of those guys who would have walked into the post office with a gun.”
Most of Leary’s lines seemed to echo comics of the not too-distant past. Like Sam Kinison, he championed alcoholic excesses:
“Every time you read about alcohol-related accidents, who’s the guy that walks away alive? The drunk guy.”
Like Lenny Bruce, he took delight in pointing out how much Jerry Lewis imitated the kids he was saving:
“Jerry Lewis. For years he made millions of dolls running around like a spaz. Now he spends the rest of his life trying to help kids who actually do walk that way. I thought that was nice of God. Thank you, God, for that piece of justice pie. I’ll have two pieces of that pie. Okay?”
But unlike those comedians, Leary wasn’t afraid of lines that weren’t funny at all, garnering just a shock laugh from cruelty:
“‘This kid’s born with no arms and now he’s playing guitar with his feet!’ I couldn’t play the guitar that well if I had been born with ten arms. But then again—I can blow my nose if I have to. God giveth and he taketh, you know what I’m saying?”
Leary went on to star in his own Hollywood film “The Ref” in 1994, and gradually softened his image by the time he co-starred with Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy “Two If By Sea.” The movie was co-written by Denis and his wife.