October 27, 2004
I've been trying to get this write-up written for about two months now, believe it or not. And I totally cannot explain what the hold up was all about. I love Denis Leary. I've always loved Denis Leary. And now that he's got a fabulous new television show, there's just that much more of him to love every single bloomin' day.
Who knows what my problem was. Maybe it's because he's a comedian and this site is supposed to be funny and I felt a lot of pressure to measure up? Except that I don't really care if anyone else thinks I'm funny. What's important is that I consistently crack myself up, which I do. (Watch: Two cannibals are eating a clown. The one cannibal turns to the other and says, "Does this taste funny to you?" Bah ha ha ha ha ha!) So, no, that doesn't really explain this. I'm totally at a loss. I'm speechless. (Hah, I'm speechless. In your dreams. . . )
Anyway, now that I'm finally just pounding this puppy out, it all seems sort of no-harm-no-foul. Except that, of course, Denis's fabulous new television show just ended its first season, so even if you believe me when I describe it with the word “fabulous” for the third time in three paragraphs, there won't be anything you can do in response. In terms of timing, I've really sucked this up bad.
Good thing the show did well and everybody expects it to be renewed for a second season, no thanks to me. And it also helps that the show is on the FX channel and they are the Holy Roman Emperors of Rerunslander. I think it's safe to assume that if you missed any or all of season one of “Rescue Me,” this isn't a condition that you'll find it's difficult to rectify. Watch the TV guide –- they'll undoubtedly have a marathon soon and often.
I feel like I need to warn those of you who don't know Denis or his new show very well, though. Because this show, about firefighters in New York and set about a year after 9/11, is not for the faint of heart or the sensitive of ears. There's a lot of crassness and sex talk and disgusting "guy" behavior. There's misogyny the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen on television, and oy, the explicit language. Interestingly, I've begun to notice that every episode of “Rescue Me” and “Nip/Tuck,” FX's other risqué show, are prefaced by an advertisement for the V-chip. You know what the V-chip is, right? It's that amazing little gadget you can stick into your television to keep kids from accidentally happening upon a show that, like "Nip/Tuck" for example, has scenes involving three-way sex or butt implants. I can't tell if it's in an attempt to assuage the parents who tune in accidentally and are horrified ("Hey, if you don't like it, we already told you what you can do about it"), or if it's FX thumbing its nose at them instead. In the advertisement, they show a 1950's-esque family all seated around an ancient relic of a TV set, somewhat implying, I'd say, that if you don't like shows about three-way sex and butt implants, you might as well put on an apron and install twin beds in your master bedroom.
Either way, I take great amounts of glee in the irony of it all.
The main character on “Rescue Me,” played by Denis himself, is Tommy Gavin, a middle-aged firefighter who lives across the street from his ex-wife (never a good idea, but nobody ever listens to me). The premise of the show is that Tommy's best friend and cousin, Jimmy, was killed on 9/11 and now haunts Tommy in his free time, counseling him on everything from fighting fires to drinking beer. At the beginning of the series, Tommy saw a lot of dead people actually. Victims of fires haunted him, talked to him, followed him around. And the show was teetering dangerously on the edge of "Sixth Sense" cheesiness. But by the middle of the season, it had thankfully pulled back somewhat on the ghost stuff, and begun to focus more on the interactions between the firefighters themselves, and Tommy's somewhat unbalanced interaction with the world around him.
Of course, the interactions between the firefighters consist largely of jokes about sex, talk about sex, plans to have sex, stories about the sex they had last night, and why women are useless except for sex. Also, there are jokes about poop. And, last but not least, there's a midget, because what comedy show could go a whole season without a midget, for pete's sake? There's just no avoiding the midget! None!
I know, I know, it sounds juvenile and awful on paper, doesn't it? But oddly enough, it's just totally, uh, fabulous. The characters are so intense and real, and Tommy is complex and fascinating. Just when you think he's officially about to hit bottom, he manages to dog-paddle his way through yet another day. And in the meantime, we get to see a picture of what life for firefighters in New York after 9/11 is really like.
At least, I assume that's the picture we're getting. Not being a firefighter in New York after 9/11 myself, I actually have no reference from which to work.
However, Denis Leary, while not a firefighter himself, is actually very well known in the firefighting world. He's the founder and president of the Leary Firefighters Foundation, an organization he started after his own cousin, Jerry Lucey, was killed battling a blaze in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1999. The Foundation's mission is to provide funding and resources for fire departments to help them obtain the best equipment, technology, and training money can buy. It also provides resources to the families of firefighters who have died or been injured in the line of duty.
Pretty cool. And I think this alone gives the show "Rescue Me" a pretty decent amount of credibility. Obviously, Denis knows of what he speaks, and what he doesn't know, he surely is having no trouble finding out from real firefighters he knows on the outside.
But before I get too carried away with talk about "Rescue Me," I want also to tell you that it wasn't just this show that made me want to feature Denis Leary. I've been a big fan of his for years and years, starting way back when he used to do stand-up comedy, and moving through a decade of both good and bad movie making.
Some of my favorite Denis Leary movies include, "The Ref," which is a hilarious movie about a burglar who attempts to rob a house on Christmas Eve only to find it inhabited by a kid who starts to hero worship him and two bickering, annoying, horrible, dysfunctional parents (played by Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) who slowly begin to drive him absolutely insane. A burglar's worst nightmare. But one heck of a hilarious movie.
Another one of my all-time favorites is "The MatchMaker," which stars Janeane Garofalo (whose first name I can never remember how to spell) and some very, very good looking Irishmen. Janeane plays the assistant to a political candidate who wants to exploit his Irish roots so he can appeal to the JFK-worshippers of his constituency. Only, he's not actually Irish. So, he sends Janeane to Ireland to get her to convince some real Irish people to pretend to be his family on camera. Except, Janeane falls in love with a local and starts to feel disenchanted by the dirty tricks of politics (join the club, Janeane). Denis plays her non-Irish boyfriend, who is a staunch supporter of the politician guy, and is infuriated by Janeane's "betrayal." While he doesn't have a big part, or a particularly charming part, in the movie, Denis is just really a lot of fun to watch. And this is a sweet, funny romantic comedy with a lot of charm.
Other great Denis movies include: "The Sandlot" (a very sweet kids and baseball movie), "A Bug's Life" (he's the voice of Francis), "True Crime" (starring ex-Boyfriend Clint Eastwood), "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Jesus' Son" (based on a terrific short story by Denis Johnson), and "Lakeboat" (a David Mamet film directed by future Boyfriend Joe Mantegna).
BAD Denis Leary movies include (and this is just one girl's opinion, so please try not to take it personally): "Wag the Dog," "Company Man" (also featuring, astonishingly, ex-Boyfriends Paul Guilfoyle and Anthony LaPaglia), and "Two if By Sea," a romantic comedy that was neither romantic nor comedic, but WAS absolutely awesome in its relentless mediocrity. However these things are all in the past, and I much prefer looking forward to the future, which I'm hoping will feature more, more, MORE Denis Leary in a firefighter's uniform, pushing his blond hair out of his eyes every five minutes and perhaps even cracking himself up with bad jokes about cannibals. Or poop and midgets. You know, whichever.
Denis was born on August 18th, 1957 in Worchester, MA, to parents Nora and John Leary, Irish immigrants who had grown up together. After a childhood in the sixties, Denis went to Emerson College in Boston, where he actually started out with a focus on writing as well as acting. It was at Emerson that he and some buddies founded the "Emerson's Comedy Workshop," and after graduation, Denis taught at the College for five years.
Towards the end of his teaching days, Denis had started a second career as a stand-up comic. It was a struggle, but gradually, he began to get the recognition he deserved. He was famous for drinking throughout his act, and for being wholly unapologetic about the fact he was a smoker. In fact, a lot of his comedy had to do with relishing cigarettes and disdaining whiny secondhand-smoke complainers.
In 1990, his wife Ann had their first child while they were both in London where Denis was set to perform in the BBC's Paramount City. Their weekend trip became a stay of months, and since he soon found himself with nothing better to do, Denis began to work on a new comedy act. Bringing in some old pals from the States, he put together a musical performance called "No Cure For Cancer." Despite some protests about the title, the show won the Critic's Award and the BBC Festival Recommendation. The next year, it was transplanted to America and broadcast on Showtime, ultimately spawning a book, CD, and video, and kicking off Denis's film career.
The one piece of trivia that I found particularly astonishing was the fact that Denis is actually well over six feet tall. For some reason, I've always assumed he was short. There's something about his body that just makes him seem about five and a half feet tall to me. Even next to the midget, he seems miniscule. Can't explain it. I was also happy to learn that he's been married to the same woman since 1982 -- for some reason, I've been carrying around an impression of him as somewhat of a womanizer, and was extraordinarily gratified to discover that was all just part of his act. Yes!
Up next for Denis, more "Rescue Me," and less relentless mediocrity! Hey, that kinda rhymes!
Interrupt. . .
MacGyver Factor Score: 97.294. My only problem with Denis Leary, aside from the chain-smoking thing, is that I really hate it when people spell their names weird. Denis instead of Dennis? You know why I'm having a problem with this? Because when I start to type "Denis," my fingers instinctively add an "e" onto the end -- Denise. And Denise Leary? Just doesn't sound as sexy. To me, anyway. But that's just me.
Q: How many kids with ADHD does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: LET'S RIDE BIKES!!
[Note: I'm sorry if the ADHD joke, the use of the word "midget," or the joke about the cannibals eating the clown were offensive. V-Chip, baby! V-CHIP!]