Show of Support

Denis Leary is known in media circles for being one of the most fun and friendly interviews in the TV business. Here he is, chatting about Bristol Palin, real firefighters, and the last time he hit a cabdriver with his hockey stick. (The comedian and FX star is in town Saturday, bringing his “Rescue Me” tour at the Hard Rock, along with legendary Boston comic Lenny Clarke.)


Leary’s a native of the Boston area, a tough place indeed.

“It is, as Jon Stewart once described it, the drinkingest and fightingest town in America,” Leary says. “We like to settle things face to face.”

Many Boston guys keep baseball bats and other items in their vehicles in case a fight needs to break out.

“I always had a hockey stick in my car. I still do in my truck, because I play hockey,” he says.

“You still hear stories about people getting into fights about shoveling out spaces when there’s a snowstorm. They shovel out a spot for their car, and somebody takes it, and it’s the beginning of World War III.”

But Leary keeps a lid on his aggression.

“Truly the last time I had a confrontation was about four years ago now. That was with a cabby in New York. It wasn’t pretty.

“I was on my way to play hockey. I’m sure I don’t have to explain: He was in the wrong. Suffice to say, it did not end well for him.

“The real reason it ended is I decided in the middle of it, people were on their way to work and they were pulling out their cell phones, and I thought, ‘I really should get out of here before the cops come.’

“But I just want to emphasize I haven’t done it since. And I was in the right. I was definitely in the right. I had a green light, and he had a red light, and he decided he was gonna go through.”


Some proceeds from Leary’s “Rescue Me” tour will go to his charity (, as will some proceeds from a “Rescue Me Tour” special running on Comedy Central in August.

Leary’s foundation helped fund the first high-rise firefighting simulator in the history of the Fire Department of New York. The simulator stages stunts for firefighters to practice rescues.

“They go in there and there’s fire and smoke and flashovers and elevators that collapse, and every circumstance you can imagine,” Leary says.

“It allows the fire department to create and train in the chaotic circumstances they would find in any skyscraper in New York City, whether it’s a fire or a terrorist attack.”

His foundation has helped rebuild fire houses in various U.S. cities and helped resupply fire boats in New Orleans.

Leary says fire departments in New York and other cities are strapped for money to build such things, because firefighters never go on strike as a bargaining chip.

I told Leary it’s typical that politicians didn’t fund that firefighting simulator.

“I know, I know,” he says. “Hey listen, I started this charity with the idea that eventually it would go out of business, because people in city government and state government and federal government would be embarrassed that somebody like me had to raise money to help the fire department. But I’m OK with doing the job until they finally say, ‘We’re really embarrassed, so we want to put you out of business.’ ”

If Leary ran for office, he could do his part to change the government. That’s what I tell him. He laughs.

“I would love to be president or the governor or something. They would really see some abuses of power if I was in charge, I’ll tell you that much. First of all, there’d be no cabs available, because I’d be arresting every single cabdriver I’d run into. ... I’d arrest everybody. That’s why I’m not a cop or the president.”

OK, so maybe Leary should stay on TV and not run for anything.


When I was a TV critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, I named “Rescue Me” one of my 20 favorite shows of all time.

Leary’s top three favorites ever are “Columbo,” “All in the Family” and “The Sopranos.”

But he doesn’t think “All in the Family” could play on broadcast TV now, because of the controversial language it pioneered in the 1970s.

Not only that (I say), but there’s no way a major film studio would put out “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in today’s climate, because of the abortion scene alone.

“It’s unbelievable. We’ve actually gone backwards in time in some regards,” he says.

He knows which kinds of people to blame for that situation:

“People like Sarah Palin — who doesn’t want to talk about abortion because her daughter is getting paid $30,000 a speech to talk, I guess, about how not to have sex with a hockey-playing moron. I’m just guessing. I haven’t seen her speak. But she’s getting paid $30,000 to tell teenagers not to have premarital sex. So you know, whatever.”

Doug Elfman’s column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@ He blogs at