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Honest Questions with Denis Leary
Aired July 04, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GLENN BECK, HOST (voice-over): Denis Leary got his start as a stand- up comic, but it was a sketch on MTV that got him his fame.
DENIS LEARY, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: Free beer and a baseball hat for everybody.
BECK: He`s done everything from writing to directing to acting. But you`ll find him most at home on the stage.
LEARY: That`s the problem in this country: we were never satisfied with the stuff the way it was. We`ve got to make it bigger, and better, and stronger and faster.
BECK: Leary stars in the FX drama "Rescue Me", where he plays an alcoholic fireman.
LEARY: Here`s the deal. Every time I hear your voice on my voicemail, I have to leave.
BECK: But his true passion is with the real firemen. His Leary Firefighter Foundation has raised millions.
Funny, uncensored, and guaranteed to make us blush, Denis Leary joins me now for an hour of honest questions.
BECK: Tonight a whole hour with actor/comedian, and star of "Rescue Me", Denis Leary.
LEARY: An hour?
BECK: An hour.
LEARY: I thought it was just a few minutes.
BECK: I know. Going to be the longest hour of your life, my friend.
So you`re a celebrity, but you`re not really a Hollywood guy.
LEARY: No, no. You mean in terms of living there and being there?
BECK: Yes, I mean, the whole mentality. What is the difference between you and the Hollywood set? Is there a difference?
LEARY: I don`t know. I mean, I don`t live there. I -- the longest I was ever there was probably a couple of different stretches making movies that were shot there for over a couple years. I was there for probably like a year and a half. And I don`t mind being there when I`m working. It`s not my...
LEARY: I`m born and raised in the Northeast. My parents are Irish immigrants. So our tendency is to shy away from the big yellow ball that comes up in the sky every once in a while.
BECK: Yes, yes.
LEARY: So I like to -- I like to change the scenes on stuff. I like the waiter in the restaurant or the waitress to actually be the waiter or the waitress, as opposed to somebody who has a screen play or a resume or...
BECK: Everybody does, right.
LEARY: Yes, everybody does. And I don`t like to drive. I like to walk around the city.
BECK: The -- some of the Hollywood people -- let me just get your thoughts here, because I want to get onto who you -- where you came from. But I want to start with who you are now. I want to pick your brain on not only people but also events.
B ECK: So let`s start. Mel Gibson.
LEARY: I did a song -- I do charity, and a couple of paid stand-up gigs every fall, because I can`t do a tour because of the "Rescue Me" shooting schedule.
But my comedy band and I did a song called "The Mel Gibson Blues", which is basically a blues number set to the events that surrounded Mel`s thing. My thing on Mel is -- and I love Mel Gibson as an actor, and as a director. I think he`s terrifically talented. Never met the man.
But that`s -- that`s classically what a comedian says before he rips you apart, by the way. I love blah, blah, blah, but -- but it is true. I do think Mel Gibson`s very talented.
I come from an Irish family. We have an incredibly long and well- researched relationship with alcohol. And I`ve never heard anybody blame their racist remarks on a particular brand of alcohol. In Mel`s case he blamed alcohol, in particular, tequila. If tequila was, in fact, something that made you anti-Semitic, Mexico would be a Jew-free zone, pretty much. And we know -- I know a lot of Jews who go there for vacation.
LEARY: So at 2 a.m. in the morning, all of Mexico would turn into, "let`s kill the Jews." And it just doesn`t happen.
LEARY: So there`s a weird thing in there where it`s like -- here`s the other thing. When I was doing the material on stage, I would put up Nick Nolte`s mug shot. You remember that famous mug shot.
LEARY: And then I put up Mel Gibson`s mug shot. And the audience would automatically start laughing before I said anything, because I would point at Nick and say, "This is a guy who doesn`t even know, No. 1, that his mug shot is being taken, and No. 2 has had plenty to drink." And whatever he said he wouldn`t remember.
But you look at Mel`s, where he took a moment to kind of fix his hair, and he`s kind of like that, that guy, is first of all, not drunk enough. He knows he`s taking a mug shot. And what he said 15 minutes ago to the police I think is pretty reticent in terms of where his mind was at. I don`t think it was the tequila.
BECK: So what do you think about Michael Richards?
LEARY: Here`s what I think about Michael Richards. And you may have heard this already, or read it from other comedians. Look, I`m not saying being a comedian is brain surgery, but it is definitely -- it`s like being a carpenter. You learn how to make tables and chairs. You have to have the right tools and you have to know how to put the thing together, right?
And you work in the club for long hours and days and weeks and nights and years to get to be good, especially when it comes to hecklers. Any comedian will tell you, like, you get -- you just get so much experience with it, that you`re used to it and you handle it well.
What he did was, first of all, not what a working comedian would do in that situation. And he was trying to do something that he wasn`t equipped to do, because when he was working in the stand-up clubs, he didn`t have a stand-up act. He had a physical act. He did all this physical shtick.
Which is different than, for instance, like you know, myself maybe, or Chris Rock or whoever you might want to say, who goes out and talks about things that are in the newspaper. You know, controversial issues.
Michael Richards is -- he was out of his league that night. And so for, therefore, for that owner of that club, the Laugh Factory, then to say that the "N" word was no longer admissible, well, you`re automatically taking -- you`re taking a word, a weapon off the table for at least just the black comedians, you know?
BECK: Are you -- are you concerned at all that we are entering this insane zone of political correctness?
LEARY: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. No, it happens all the time. And that -- Michael Richards was an example. The Don Imus thing is an example. God, I can think of two or three.
BECK: The Don Imus thing kills me. This guy, I mean, this is -- this has been happening...
LEARY: What Don Imus said, OK. I pride myself on, when I perform, if part of the audience isn`t pissed off, I`m not doing my job correctly. Because I know what I think is out of the ordinary compared to most Americans.
LEARY: But I also know that there`s an audience out there that agrees with me, and they probably buy the tickets to my show. But if they -- the other audience hears what I have to say, people are going to be upset. I can`t believe -- how dare he?
But that`s the great thing about stand-up comedy. I always think it`s the most Democratic form of art, or whatever you want to call it, that we have, because it`s me and that microphone, plus 200, 2,000, whatever, people in a room. And I say whatever the hell I want. And they vote on it by laughing out loud, right?
BECK: But isn`t that -- isn`t that what radio is supposed to be?
LEARY: Everything is supposed to be.
BECK: Your show, your first episode in "Rescue Me"...
BECK: One of the characters says the "N" word a million times.
LEARY: Yes, and black characters.
BECK: Yes, black characters saying it a million times. You`re not going to hear anything about it -- well, maybe you will, but I mean, you`re not going to be taken off the air for that. If -- if you don`t want to watch it, turn it off.
LEARY: Don`t watch it. That`s what I say to the -- you know, Italian anti-Defamation League when you`re talking about "The Sopranos". Yes, OK, like there`s no, you know -- there`s no Italian mobsters and never have been.
LEARY: I did a piece years ago for -- a comedy piece about the St. Patrick`s Day parade. It was about, you know, how drunk Irish people get on St. Patrick`s Day. And the Irish Anti-Defamation League came after me.
I`m like, OK, I have personal experience with this in New York of being at the St. Patrick`s Day parade and watching two Irish friends of mine get in a fist fight.
LEARY: And fall through a furniture -- a plate glass window into a furniture store. And then they got up and shook hands and hugged each other and went out and had more drinks.
LEARY: So don`t tell me it doesn`t happen.
BECK: Right. And your last name is Leary.
LEARY: Yes, my last name is Leary. There was actually an "O" on it. They took it off when we came to this country.
My point is, the stereotypes exist because they`re true. And yes, do we want to defeat them? Sure we do. But within certain realms, it`s always going to be that way.
Nappy-headed ho, first of all, great name for a band, I think.
Second of all, if Chris Rock said it, it wouldn`t have made a ripple. And Imus said it, and it becomes a big thing. Well, you know what? Don`t listen to that radio show. You know what I mean? Don`t -- it`s -- that`s why we have -- I mean, what if they were here telling you and I what -- what you couldn`t ask me?
That falls into, you know, there were no comedians in Nazi Germany.
BECK: Let me...
LEARY: There were no -- you know, there`s no comedians right now in - - and won`t be in several, you know, countries on this planet. Do you think there`s comedians in Kim Jong-Il`s country? Except for him, no.
BECK: Don`t you think that -- don`t you think that this is a -- both sides are using it. Both sides are using it.
BECK: They`re trying to take Don Imus down. I heard Tom DeLay trying to take Rosie O`Donnell down. Geez, man. More, it`s not less (ph).
LEARY: The Rosie thing, because I love Rosie, and I think she`s one of the funniest women. If you ask any standup comedian who was working in the clubs in my generation, they`ll talk about how flat-out Rosie O`Donnell and Roseanne Barr, two -- it just doesn`t matter what gender they are. They are two genuinely funny standup comedians.
LEARY: And could come out and talk about anything off the cuff and make it funny.
The thing that killed me with the Elisabeth Hasselbeck thing was, because Rosie, like when she did the Trump thing, she threw her hair over to one side, what most people don`t realize, is one of the funniest things about that to me, is she made her mouth square the way Donald Trump`s mouth is while she was doing the impression of him. That`s a talented comedian who knows how to do certain things.
With Elisabeth Hasselbeck, they took the comedy out of Rosie`s hand. Because Hasselbeck, who is not being funny, is just pouring, pouring, pouring political correct stuff onto Rosie, and Rosie has to react within that without being funny. And it takes her power away.
BECK: OK. Now wait a minute. But there`s something to be said for, you know, Rosie funny, OK.
BECK: Rosie saying the government took down World Trade Center No. 7.
LEARY: Fist of all, can I answer that question?
LEARY: Because I`m really sick and tired of these people. I know a lot of the guys, the firemen who were down, you know, running from No. 7 as it fell, because they were there trying to make sure the building stayed up.
LEARY: It`s not a conspiracy theory. At least a quarter of the foundation of the building was knocked out by debris that fell from the Twin Towers. So basically, the building was teetering to begin with.
And this whole theory that there were explosives and everything else, talk to the guys who were there. There weren`t any explosives. What they heard was the building just coming down because the foundation was already, you know, damaged, you know.
So that conspiracy thing, I just start to go -- OK, Bush is not smart enough to figure out how to end the war in Iraq, but he is apparently smart enough to set this entire thing...
BECK: Drives me crazy.
LEARY: Whatever you want to say about the guy, he`s not smart enough to put a conspiracy together. I`m telling you.
BECK: OK. Coming up, Denis Leary will...
LEARY: First time in history a president hasn`t conspired to do anything except fail.
BECK: All right. Back in a second.
BECK: All right. So we`re back with the star of "Rescue Me", Denis Leary.
Your new season begins June 13?
LEARY: That`s hard to believe. Really hard to believe.
BECK: We -- I don`t know. I don`t even know if I want to go here with you.
BECK: We left it on politics.
BECK: We left it on politics. And you started railing on Bush.
LEARY: Yes. Yes, and?
BECK: I don`t know if I want to know all of the stuff about politics with you. You know what I mean?
LEARY: I`m very black -- I`m very black and white when it comes to politics because I`m old enough now and because of my involvement with the -- my firefighters foundation, you know, I have a good friend of mine, Mike Fox, who`s affected by Parkinson`s and therefore very involved in the stem cell research. That`s another cause of mine.
I have teenage kids, so education for kids. You know, you get your causes. And now it`s who I end up voting for.
BECK: Here`s what -- here`s what I`m sick of. I am sick of people who are a -- "I`m a Democrat, and all the -- all the Republicans suck," or "I`m a Republican and all the Democrats suck."
LEARY: OK. Well, I was raised a Kennedy Democrat. My parents were Irish immigrants. Of course, Jack Kennedy...
BECK: I know where this is going already.
LEARY: Well, no, wait. Listen to me. Jack Kennedy was a saint in my house, as was Bobby Kennedy. And you know, the picture of the two Kennedy brothers and the pope, you know, in the kitchen.
And 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.
LEARY: So if there`s somebody who supports stem cell, that`s where I`m going to vote. If there`s somebody who supports firefighters, that`s where I`m going to fall. Because I`m more interested in my issues than I am in the guy, because they`re all, especially when you get to the presidential politics, you know, they`re so watered down at that point.
BECK: Do you think a person can actually win an election who says, look, man, I know I`m going to piss you off on this, this, and this, but this, this, and this you`ll agree with me on.
LEARY: I think if the country gets -- I don`t know what to say about this country. People are sitting around getting fat, watching us on TV right now, including even members of my own family.
People are so fat and lazy and spoiled in this country, I think they forget -- Charles Durning, who plays my father on my show, landed at the beach on D-Day, fought at the Battle of the Bulge. You know, was a -- was a middle-weight boxer, then became a ballroom dancer, then stumbled into acting, you know, because somebody said, "There`s a part. We need a tough looking guy."
You talk to a guy like that about what World War II was about and ask him to talk about, you know, what he believes in. And he believes in God and country and what he fought for meaning something.
And then you look at some of the -- my cousin, Jimmy, is now in politics up in Massachusetts. He`s working for the governor up there. I - - and he`s a terrific politician. But I was witness to John Kerry getting ready to relaunch his campaign for Senate up there, and he is more well spoken and more empowered and sort of driven than he ever was.
And that`s -- the thing is, once guys realize that they`re not going to run for president again, and this is their seat of power, like Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy`s power all came after that failed attempt to take Jimmy Carter on in `76. Once he realized this is where I`m going to be, the power came to him. That`s where the difference is made.
All the guys -- I mean, look at the guys that are running for president, the Democrats and the Republicans. I don`t know if you watched the debates. Half the time I`m squinting going, wait a minute. What, is there 15 of them? I`m like, who`s that guy? And what kind of toupee is that? And what is -- what`s on his face?
LEARY: I mean, it`s ridiculous, you know? Somebody reminded me recently about Steve Forbes when he was running for president last time. You know, it comes down to a billionaire. It doesn`t matter what he has to say or what he actually believes or what he`s capable of doing or how much experience, he`s got the money, you know?
I don`t know what to say about that. I think they need to redesign the system.
BECK: We were -- we were in the makeup room right before, and Lou Dobbs came in. And you were -- I mean, you were star-struck.
LEARY: I was star-struck.
BECK: You were like, this is like Hollywood.
LEARY: Well, you`ve got to -- I`ve got to tell you, you know, when you get to a point like -- well, I`m still very impressed by certain people, like Clint Eastwood, you know.
LEARY: If I run -- I did a movie with him. But if I see him, like, at an award show or something, I`m like, "Hey, Clint." You know what I mean? That`s like John Wayne to me. You know, Paul Newman. There`s still certain people.
But when I see Lou Dobbs, man, that`s like -- that trumps them all. Because I see him on television every night, and I really agree with a lot of the things he has to say. You know?
BECK: See, I think -- see, here you are. You`re obviously -- you`re obviously somebody who votes mainly Democrat. I`m somebody who votes mainly Republican.
BECK: And yet what Lou has is exactly what this country needs. And it`s common sense. Where you and I can sit around and go, you know, I disagree with a lot of stuff, but on these issues, he`s exactly right. We`ve got to stop hating each other, don`t you think?
LEARY: I don`t even think -- yes, hate is just driving me crazy. When I was up there, Deval Patrick, the guy that was just elected governor of Massachusetts, made a great speech about the radical right, you know, and about the ridiculousness of the nonsensical approach to politics that they have. And it`s all that fear-based thing. And there`s very few people...
BECK: Well, the...
LEARY: The left does the same thing.
BECK: All right.
LEARY: So my thing is, you know, if we take the money equation out of it, are these people running around going -- every time you run around Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton is at a dinner. And I don`t blame Obama, who even the -- they`ve got to go out and go on these fishing expeditions to get $2,500 from this guy and this guy.
You know, they spend all that time trying to promise, can I say -- I don`t know if I can say this -- I probably can`t.
BECK: We`ll bleep you but go ahead.
LEARY: They promise (expletive deleted) to (expletive deleted).
BECK: You said it twice.
LEARY: All right. It`s not -- the system`s built wrong. So then they get in the office and they feel like they`ve got to bring all the people who gave you the money in to take pictures.
BECK: It`s a billion-dollar election. A billion-dollar election. How can they expect to get anything, you know, the common people?
LEARY: I know. You can`t even figure out who the good candidate is, you know.
You know what? I like the idea of having a president...
LEARY: This is what I liked about Jack Kennedy. And of course, I was a tiny kid. I didn`t realize it until later when I saw the videotapes. But here`s a guy that could talk on his feet. Whatever you thought of him, when somebody asked him a question, he could actually be funny.
I think being funny goes a long way. Because that means you`re smart, and it also means you`re not just reading a prepared statement.
And you -- I think it should be required that you have military service. Even if you weren`t in a war, I think you have to have -- I think everybody when they`re 18 in this country should be forced to give two years to your country in military service anyways, like they do in Israel. Just so you appreciate, whether you`re, you know, R. Kelly, Dennis Leary or Glenn Beck. You -- two years, you do anything except learn discipline.
But I think to be president you should have served in military and had to have some level -- have an appreciation of sending 18-, and 19-, and 20- year-old kids to their conceivable death in a circumstance that you deem important. OK?
BECK: OK. Back in a second with Denis Leary.
BECK: Back with actor and comedian Denis Leary. Your -- your character in "Rescue Me", alcoholic.
BECK: I`m an alcoholic.
BECK: You strike me as an alcoholic.
LEARY: Yes. Jesus, I`m drinking water. Did you think this was vodka?
BECK: No, you just seem like an alcoholic wannabe. You look like somebody who should be an alcoholic.
LEARY: Geez, I guess I should -- should I go out and practice more?
BECK: I don`t know. I don`t know.
LEARY: I -- well, the character is -- well, all the main characters in "Rescue Me" are based...
BECK: I`m not talking about the characters. I`m talking about you. I`m talking about you. You -- I mean, you`re a chain smoker, two packs of cigarettes...
LEARY: That`s what I used to smoke.
LEARY: I`m probably at a pack. You know?
LEARY: But yes, I know, as I get older, I play hockey. That`s my workout. I play ice hockey and street hockey. Believe it or not.
BECK: You`re going to be 50 this summer and you are...
BECK: You piss me off.
LEARY: Why? How old are you?
BECK: I`m 43.
LEARY: You don`t look older than 40.
BECK: You don`t look 50.
LEARY: Well -- well, there`s the deal with the devil. I should have mentioned that.
BECK: Right, right.
LEARY: A little Satan deal.
BECK: There you go.
LEARY: No -- yes, the smoking thing is getting harder now, because I`m trying to compete with the younger guys, but...
BECK: Why do you smoke?
LEARY: I don`t know. I don`t know.
BECK: How long have you smoked?
LEARY: I smoked a long time, you know? Long time.
BECK: My dad -- my dad smokes like a chimney. Started when he was 30. Just picked it up, started when he was 30.
LEARY: Well, you know, my -- my wife`s grandfather lived to be 97 years old. Was playing golf every day. Had one cataract, or two cataracts...
LEARY: Played golf every day, even up to the point where he died. He quit smoking at 90. And I`ll never forget, we had a 90th birthday party, and I said, hey, do you want to go out to have a smoke with me? And he said, "No, I quit."
"I got sick of it."
BECK: Start doing drugs, you know...
LEARY: So I don`t know. Who knows?
BECK: Have you thought about quitting?
LEARY: Yes, I have. I quit once for a while. And now I`m really starting to think about it. It`s hard, if you play hockey against younger guys, you lose a step here and there, and then they start calling you the old guy.
BECK: What do you think of this -- what do you think of this stuff about not letting you smoke on sidewalks? And, you know, everywhere?
LEARY: I smoke everywhere.
BECK: You don`t care?
LEARY: I smoked at events that the mayor has been at.
BECK: I just -- I find, because you`re not supposed to smoke in this building.
LEARY: Yes, I forgot my cigarettes in the truck. I was going to ask Lou Dobbs for one, but Lou had to go do the show. That would have been the highlight of my career.
BECK: It`s so funny to see. I`ve gone out on, you know, walking out of Time Warner, and there will be Lou, standing out having a smoke.
LEARY: Lou Dobbs. We were shooting "Rescue Me" on this block, and we were up the block. And I looked and I said to one of the guys, "That`s Lou Dobbs." And we went like this. And Lou was out there smoking. We didn`t want to approach him because it was, like, his private smoking time. You know?
BECK: Private smoking time.
LEARY: I forget what we were talking about.
BECK: We were just talking about you smoke anywhere.
LEARY: Yes. Peter Falk, I did a movie with Peter Falk years ago, and I said -- and he smokes like a chimney. And he`s Columbo, you know. One of the things that`s the cool thing about Peter Falk, is people, including me, call him Columbo or lieutenant, and he just answers to it.
And you go, "Lieutenant."
And he`ll go, "Yes, what?" So I love him for that.
But he said, "I smoke -- kid, I smoke everywhere I go. I go to the Lakers games and I smoke."
I said, "How do you smoke at a Lakers game?"
"I just light `em up. And then by the time they come down to tell me, I got one done and I light another one when they the guy`s walking away." I just love him for that.
BECK: Back with Denis Leary in a second. Hang on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEARY: Sit down, sweetheart, all right? Are you ready? Come here, sweetheart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, Tommy, don`t go!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tommy, what are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang on, sweetheart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: You know, I`m just -- Denis Leary, we`re here for a full hour with Denis Leary. That`s from the FX series "Rescue Me." The new seasons starts June 13th. You were commenting while that was going on about the girl who was in the bucket. What happened?
LEARY: A lot of the stunts, you know, we don`t do green screen. And in that particular circumstance, that was a girl who was a gymnast. And this was her first job working as a stunt woman. We needed somebody who looked like a 13-year-old girl. So she was 20-something, but she was small. She`d been a gymnast, and that was her first -- she had to jump out the window and grab onto the bucket.
BECK: Can you guys play that back again?
LEARY: Yes, she just missed falling. We were like...
BECK: And were you the one that was actually...
LEARY: Twelve stories up.
BECK: No, who is that?
LEARY: No, I was in the window. She did the jump herself. She just jumped from the ledge. You`ll see it. I mean, it looks great on television, but, man, it was scary as hell when it happened. My heart always gets in my throat when I shoot these things. Watch this, when she goes, you`ll see her. Watch this.
LEARY: She just -- it was like, whew! Scary.
BECK: How much -- because you -- I`m amazed by you, that you -- and good for you on this -- you moved, after 9/11, you moved your offices and everything else downtown...
BECK: ... closer to Ground Zero. How much...
LEARY: But that wasn`t -- I mean, we really didn`t think twice about it. It was because we`ve always loved downtown and, practicality-wise, my kids were turning into teenagers. So living, you know, uptown was boring. Downtown is like all the great, cool shopping. But I also got more space for my offices, and so it was more about that.
BECK: Do you ever think of -- I mean, everybody I`ve talk to that lives here in Manhattan, they are always some place, at least a couple times a week, and they think...
LEARY: Oh, yes. I mean, I can see it from my new apartment in the neighborhood. Even this morning, what was I doing this morning? Oh, I was doing a photo shoot for "Rescue Me," and we were on the West Side highway. And I can`t help but looking up at that -- you just look up and you see that...
LEARY: ... that space. You always think of it. It always passes through your head, you know?
BECK: Where were you?
LEARY: I was on the West Side highway...
BECK: No, I mean on 9/11.
LEARY: So it was right in front of us, you know? But I think about it, because we have to write about it a lot on the show. And the guys that -- the characters are based on it, but also our technical adviser, Terry Quinn, who is currently still a firefighter, and the guys that play the firefighters in the background on the show are all guys that were involved, who lived through it. So it`s never that far from our thoughts.
But for those guys, obviously, if you go like this, it`s a very upsetting thing to any of them, but they`re all still working. So it`s like they don`t talk about it; they really don`t talk about it.
BECK: Does it piss you off -- it does me, and I go down there very rarely. And I usually only go when somebody comes in from out of town and says, "I want to see Ground Zero." All I say is, "Prepare, because everything you felt on 9/11 is going to come rushing back. And then you`re going to be pissed off that it`s still a hole in the ground."
LEARY: It`s still a hole in the ground.
BECK: Does that drive you nuts, that this country is letting that happen?
LEARY: It drives me nuts that -- I`m only focusing on one particular thing here, because you could find so many ways to get angry about that event -- 343 firemen that sacrificed their lives that day, that`s just one aspect of it. And here it is, you know, this many years later, and there`s been no movement forward. And that involves politics and business, and blah, blah, blah. But the only memorial to the firefighters was actually put together privately and exists down on the side of the firehouse. It`s beautiful.
BECK: It`s beautiful. The big plaque?
LEARY: And that`s it. My cousin, Jerry, was killed in a fire in my hometown of Worchester, Massachusetts, with five other firemen back in December of `99, the ultimate sacrifice, which was they ran into a burning warehouse to save a homeless couple who ended up having -- as we found out, had started the fire and run out of the building. That being what it is, now, that`s in Worcester, Massachusetts, in December of `99. As of right now, the city sold the firehouse they served from, which was the busiest firehouse in the city -- it no longer exists -- and they`ve put that crew and doubled them up into another firehouse to save money, because they sold the firehouse so that a hotel could go up.
There`s no memorial being built by the city. My foundation is building a memorial building and, you know, a series of plaques and statues. And it`s like look, I look at the politicians and I go, "Jeez, remember all the promises and Bush standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and the bull horn, and all that crap," and it`s five years later, here it`s, you know, nine, eight years later in Worcester, Massachusetts, the firefighters are still fighting to get paid a fair wage.
BECK: You know what? They all are, the Republicans and the Democrats, they`re all in bed -- I mean, you`ve been watching the news of what`s been happening recently with the TB guy on a watch list, flying across the country, then driving across our border, and the border guards had his name?
LEARY: It`s unbelievable.
BECK: I mean, it`s incredible.
LEARY: Yes, it really is.
BECK: This thing is going to happen again. And when it does, everybody`s going to say, what the hell did you know, and when did you know it? You know now. We all know it`s coming.
LEARY: Well, we`ve known it for a long time. And, you know, as regards living in New York, I just -- it amazes me that you wouldn`t say, just as common sense again, I`m running this country. And I go, what I need to do is arm my first responders. What would be the first place I would arm? Well, I`d go to New York and Washington, which were the two places that were attacked that day and make sure that the firefighters had every available piece of equipment and training, so that, if it happens again, when it happens again, those guys, the first guys to the scene, have everything they need.
BECK: They still can`t talk to each other.
LEARY: They can`t talk to each other through the radios. And they`re still fighting for a pay raise. I`m not blowing my own horn. This is about the people who donate the money. My foundation is building the high- rise simulator in New York, not the city government, not the mayor, not the state of New York. We`re building -- yes, we`re breaking ground this summer on a $4 million high-rise so they can simulate what it would be like to go up in a tower.
BECK: Does it ever...
LEARY: This is the greatest firefighting department in the world. And we`re building it for them? It never -- where is the money from Washington? You know, last year at this time, they found out that, when the federal, you know, anti-terrorism money was being passed out, Mississippi and Missouri and several of these states were getting more money than the city of New York was, which is just -- that`s that old politician`s thing of like, "I need money for my people over here." You know, it drives me insane, drives me insane.
BECK: So the foundation that`s doing that, what else is it...
LEARY: We are currently, 22 out of 33 firehouses in New Orleans were destroyed during Katrina. We`ve rebuilt 11 through private donations...
BECK: Good for you.
LEARY: ... which is a fund that`s called the Jerry Lucey Fund, named after my cousin. There`s one particular firehouse, Engine 7, that Ellen DeGeneres, and Frito-Lay, out of the blue -- nobody asked them to -- but Ellen`s from there. She donated $150,000. But we need another almost $1 million to get that firehouse up.
We gave them 16 rescue boats. No firehouses in New Orleans had rescue boats before Katrina hit. This is a place surrounded by the sea. It`s like the Lou Dobbs thing, it`s the common sense thing. My 15-year-old daughter could figure it out better...
BECK: I know.
LEARY: ... than the politicians.
BECK: You know what the deal is? They don`t need to figure it out; they just don`t want to do it. I mean, I was on the air a year before Katrina, and I said, "I`m going to tell you the biggest disaster city in America." It was a year before. And I based it all on research that was from the 1950s and `60s. I mean, we could have seen this coming. And every time they would have the chance to get the money, the politicians would take it and spend it some place else. It`s insane.
LEARY: It`s so stupid.
BECK: You know what? I was thinking recently how brilliant our founding fathers were. If you look at the Constitution, it is "we the people." Who`s solving the firefighter problem here in New York?
LEARY: Well, yes.
BECK: We the people.
LEARY: But, you know, I find that amazing, because as I go around to raise money -- that`s one of the great things about this country that nobody talks about. You know, after the tsunami, at the heart of this country is a giant heart. People in this country really do care, and give a leg up, and all that stuff.
LEARY: And, you know, if you go to people and you say, "We`re not getting the money for this from the government," they`ll go, "You`re kidding me? I didn`t know that." And they`ll write you a check, whatever it is, stem cell, I mean, whatever disease it might be. And that`s really the saving grace of this country.
It goes back to what we talked about, stand-up comedy. You go back into a standup comedy club where you can say -- the absolute truth is always the funniest thing to say when it comes to politics. You say it, they laugh. That`s why, you know, you -- I watch these guys running for office, and it`s like Al Gore. When he was running for president, it`s like somebody stuck a steel rod up his rear end. All of a sudden, as soon as he`s defeated, he`s making the greatest speeches he`s ever made. He`s at the Oscars doing a comedy sketch with Leo DiCaprio.
BECK: Oh, come on, don`t call that comedy.
LEARY: That was very bad.
BECK: I`m not a comedian, you know, but...
LEARY: It`s like I`m just looking for the guy that just is out there being himself, without the script. Throw the script away. Hillary Clinton, it`s like, I don`t know where the teleprompters are, but even when she`s speaking extemporaneously, it looks like there`s a teleprompter somewhere.
BECK: They`re all afraid.
LEARY: They`re deathly afraid.
BECK: They`re afraid to lose.
LEARY: They`re afraid to say the truth.
BECK: Because they`re afraid to lose.
LEARY: We have to fix that system.
BECK: Who cares, man? You lose. Just at least stand up for what you believe in.
LEARY: Lou Dobbs for president.
BECK: OK. All right. Real quick.
LEARY: You could be the vice president.
BECK: No, I don`t want your pity vice president.
LEARY: CNN ticket.
BECK: No, I don`t want your pity office.
LEARY: Lou Dobbs would let you dress like that as the vice president.
BECK: Back in a second.
LEARY: And plus the president would smoke. How about that?
BECK: Back with Denis Leary, who has just made me vice president of the United States.
BECK: You were raised Catholic.
LEARY: Oh, yes, 12 years in Catholic prison, yes.
BECK: See what I`m saying?
BECK: You have a real problem with it.
LEARY: No. First of all, I`m very thankful, because one thing they don`t realize they`re teaching you when they`re raising you that way is that repression leads to just fantastical amounts of laughter. Because they always say, "There`s no laughing. There`s no laughing in church. There`s no laughing in this classroom. There`s no laughing in the hallways." And, you know, of course when you tell kids, "Don`t do this," that`s the first thing you do. And, of course, it extends to everybody, "Don`t play with yourself. Don`t do drugs." You know what I mean? It`s like, "I`ve got to keep writing this shit down." Don`t read "The Godfather" book. Yes, OK, let`s get that. Don`t buy this record.
BECK: I remember when I was -- because I went to Catholic school, and I remember they banned "Only the Good Die Young" by Billy Joel and all of us had it.
LEARY: ... George Carlin -- never would have heard of George Carlin`s seven dirty words until they mentioned it in the Sunday pamphlet. And I was like, "We`ve got to get this record. It must be something really good." It`s called "Seven Dirty Words," class clown? Come on, we`re getting it.
So I thank them for that. And, also, I had a nun named Sister Rosemary Sullivan who was in charge of the musicals, the high school musicals. And I was in grade school, and she grabbed me in the hallway one day, and she said, "I need you to come and audition for this part in this musical." And I was like, "I`m not doing a musical." And she`s like "Get out of school early every day at 1:00." And I was like, "I`m in."
So I did this musical called "Maim." (ph) I played the little boy, and I noticed at age 13 that all the pretty girls from high school were in the musical. And when you danced with them, the nun would tell you, like, "You`ve got to grab her here." And I was like, "Wow, I have to grab her ass? The nun told me to." So that stuck with me. I went into high school, and I went right into the musicals and, again, grabbed parts of girls` bodies during dance routines.
BECK: You have a very different experience in Catholic school than I did.
LEARY: Yes. And then listen to this. This nun, my parents didn`t have a lot of money for college, you know, to send me to college. And the nun said, "Why don`t you go to this school, Emerson, because I took a night course in drama there?" And you audition and you write an essay. And they have a huge financial aid program. So I did. And through her connection, I auditioned, and I got in. I got a full scholarship, and that changed my life. That`s where I met my wife. That`s where I met by best friends. That`s where I really learned how to act.
BECK: And you taught there for a while?
LEARY: And then I taught there briefly afterwards. And it just was...
BECK: And you were sleeping with the students, because wasn`t your wife a student? We won`t talk about that.
LEARY: It was a different time. It was before it was against the law. It was back when presidents were allowed to sleep with women and not get in trouble.
But the point was, the nun was -- not only was she a great nun, but she actually would actually call me up and say, "I saw `No Cure for Cancer` last night on cable." I go, "Sister, you know, what about the language?" She`s like, "I heard you kids using that language back when you were in grade school."
So I was like -- she really changed my life. And another kid, named Mike McGrath, who went to school with me, who ended up being one of the stars and nominated for a Tony for "Spamalot," who always wanted to be a Broadway star, he was the other kid she encouraged with the musical theater. So that`s where I started, musical theater.
BECK: So do you get a lot of heat from Catholics? Are you a Catholic or not a Catholic? Are you a God person?
LEARY: 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...
BECK: In awe of God.
LEARY: ... who was a good guy, you know, walked around in sandals, and he kicked the morons out of the temple. And, you know...
BECK: I don`t as the first thing of Jesus -- I don`t think he was a great guy who walked around in sandals. But I mean...
LEARY: My old man one time said something, which was true -- I think it was my old man, if not, it was somebody in the same age group that said, "You know, if Jesus had taught those people on that mountain, you know, to fish and how to make bread, he would have done a world of good instead of doing a magic trick and feeding them, so every time they were hungry, they went to the mountain, like, `Can you feed us again`"?
BECK: And your father was a Democrat?
LEARY: My father was a Democrat. But, see, I look at it -- I raised my kids not to be afraid of God and not to have a fear of that. You know what I mean? Like everything about the Catholic Church was like, "You know, you`re going to be hit by a bolt of lightning if you have sex." Well, you know, I hate to tell you, but it`s a little late. I`m 50, and I haven`t been hit by lightning yet.
BECK: You have two kids?
LEARY: I have two kids, two great kids.
BECK: I mean, you keep talking about how you`re raising them with God. What is it like to be a dad and be you?
LEARY: It`s great. Well, being a dad is great. And I have two really terrific kids, my daughter and my son, really, really nice kids, and really well-behaved. And my son is really funny. My daughter`s really funny. But, you know, I thought I was going to get all these cool points - - when they were little, I was like, "When they grow up, and they see that I`m in animated movies and I`m this and I was this MTV guy"...
BECK: Not impressed?
LEARY: They say, "Drop me off around the corner from the school. If we bump into each other, you don`t know me." It`s like a mafia hit. "Give me the money, OK. Kick me out three blocks away at 11:30 after the dance, OK? As soon as I get in the car, take off."
So that doesn`t go away, but they`re really funny. I had dinner with my daughter and my son the other night, and I think some of the people in the restaurant thought I was choking, because they were just telling me some of the stuff they found on YouTube. And my son was acting some stuff up. My daughter is making sarcastic comments. It`s great to have basically two people now who are really a lot of fun to have around.
BECK: How would you feel if they followed in your footsteps?
LEARY: Fine. My son`s interested in rock `n` roll. Here`s my son`s plan: I think I`m going to go into acting, and my safety net is rock `n` roll. Oh, great. So should I just take like $2 million out of the bank and give it to you now?
BECK: Let`s just set it on fire.
LEARY: You know, I want them to do it. I would never discourage them. My father came to this country as an immigrant and became an auto mechanic because he was very talented working with cars, but he was also really talented musically, except he had to feed a big family. And when I told my dad I think I want to go into acting, instead of saying what a working-class father should say, "What, are you`re nuts?" He said, "Well, look, try it, and if it doesn`t work, you know, you can always come back, I can get you into my union." My brother was a Teamster. So I approached it -- whatever they want to do, you know?
BECK: Good. Back in a second, in just a second. The final moments with Denis Leary.
BECK: Back with the star of "Rescue Me," Denis Leary. The new season starts on the 13th of June on FX.
BECK: You write a lot of it?
LEARY: Yes, I write it with my two guys, Peter Tolan, who is my creative partner. We did a show called "The Job" together on ABC years ago. And a guy named Evan Reilly, who we sort of brought along from "The Job." And one of our other cast members, John Scurti, who plays Kenny Shea, who`s a really old friend of mine, he writes a couple of episodes for us.
BECK: What is your love? What is the thing that -- you do a little of everything -- what is the thing you would say?
LEARY: Standup comedy is my favorite thing.
BECK: Nothing better than the standup.
LEARY: There`s just nothing -- 8:00, the show starts, which goes back to my theater days. You know, whatever happens during the day, 8:00, the curtain goes up. It`s me and them, it`s unfettered, there`s nobody in between. And there`s no editing. Once the show starts, you go. I don`t write jokes in advance. I have bullet points, so I`m improvising as I go. It`s just electric. And then, beyond that, I really like -- I love writing "Rescue Me" or writing anything, because once you get -- I love acting when it`s comedy, you know?
BECK: You know, I don`t mean to -- I hope you don`t take this as an insult...
LEARY: I probably will.
BECK: Yes, you probably will. In a couple of scenes that I have seen on "Rescue Me," you almost have a Woody Allen quality to you, where you are just the guy -- you are just like...
LEARY: You know, I take that as a compliment.
BECK: I mean it as one.
LEARY: He was a big influence, I think, probably, on me comedically. See, I love that stuff. I love like doing "Wag the Dog" or something that`s basically a satire or comedy. You know, in "Rescue Me," there`s the heavy stuff, and I work from the method. You know, that`s kind of like how I know how to work, that kind of stuff. And that invariably means you`ve got to dig into stuff -- you know, you`ve got to be in a bad mood for a chunk of that.
But having said that, I really love doing this show, and I love the actors I`m working with. And I go to work every day -- we don`t do a lot of takes. We sometimes throw the scene away and improvise a whole scene. Really, it`s the best job I`ve ever had. It`s really great, you know?
BECK: What`s next? We`ve got about 30 seconds. A movie?
LEARY: Yes, "Ice Age 3," which is in the works.
BECK: But are you writing a movie? Are you doing a movie yourself?
LEARY: I`m writing a couple of movies that I`m hoping to direct, and I`m also finishing my book, which is called "Kiss My Irish Ass." That comes out a year from this fall, which is going to be basically this past hour rolled into a book.
BECK: Yes, good. Leave it there.
LEARY: All right. Thanks, Glenn. I really appreciate it.
BECK: Remember: Vote Dobbs-Beck.
LEARY: Vote Dobbs-Beck. That`s the ticket.