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Leary and friends come home again

By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / November 4, 2009

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What started as an entertaining way to raise some cash for a worthwhile cause is now in its 15th year. That’s right, Comics Come Home, begun by Denis Leary, is the longest-running comedy benefit in America. It takes place Saturday at Agganis Arena and features Leary, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Burr, Lenny Clarke, Adam Ferrara, Kenny Rogerson, and Tony V, among others. The evening benefits The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care and The Neely Cancer Fund. The other day, we reached Leary while on a butt break between takes of his hit show “Rescue Me.’’

Q. This is a big anniversary. Did you ever imagine you’d still be doing this 15 years later?

A. I think the first year it was Cam’s idea to do one big event to publicize the foundation. In the beginning, we were trying to raise money to build the Neely House, but we didn’t think about it long-term. We just took it year by year. We’d say, “Hey, man, what do you think about next year?’’ And people would be, like, “Yeah, man.’’ By the sixth or seventh year, we had the thing built.

Q. Jimmy Fallon is taking part this year.

A. Yeah, Fallon’s father was treated at Neely House.

Q. I didn’t realize he had a personal connection.

A. It’s just one of those things. His father went through there a few years ago. It’s kind of strange and remarkable, actually.

Q. How do you decide who performs?

A. People are banging the door down every year to do it, but it depends on schedules. It’s like a big party, not just for the audience but for the guys involved. Sometimes they’re traveling or, thank God, working. Sometimes we lose guys like Jay Mohr or Dane Cook because they’re successful and their schedules are crazy, but that’s a good problem to have.

Q. You’re a busy guy, with a great place in Connecticut and the TV show. Why are you still doing it?

A. Cam’s not only a close friend of mine, he’s also big. But to tell you the truth, watching Cam’s best friend Michael J. Fox, and how he’s accepted his situation and used it to raise money, there’s a lot of inspiration there.

Q. Are we going to see you at the Bruins game at Fenway?

A. Oh yeah. I couldn’t miss that. If I could find a way to get onto the ice, which I’m not ruling out, I’d do it. Hockey at Fenway Park? It’s unheard of.

Q. Were you one of those kids who snuck into Fenway.

A. No, but Lenny [Clarke] claims he snuck in so many times between 1967 and 1972, that they had a picture of him up inside the park. In ’67, he jumped out of the stands and got [Jim] Lonborg’s rosin bag off the mound. He used it in some sandlot game in Cambridge and lost it. Dumb [expletive].

Q. Does it bother you to watch the Yankees in the World Series again?

A. I wanted the Yankees to win the first three games so the Phillies could win the last four, just like the Red Sox did in 2004. I’m the kind of guy who wears a Red Sox hat and sweat shirt in New York. People scream at me, and I just give them the finger. I love it.

Q. What’s up for you after “Rescue Me’’? Sox bench coach Brad Mills just took the manager’s job in Houston. You could sit next to Terry Francona.

A. I should put my name in for that. I could sit there with Terry and smoke.

Q. You don’t see that much anymore.

A. No, you don’t. They kind of retired that after Earl Weaver left the game.

Digging in
The Perkins School for the Blind had plenty of help at the ground-breaking for its Lower School renovation project on Monday. One of the many helpful folks in hard hats was Corinne Grousbeck, the wife of Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck.

An Eck of a contest
Shrewsbury-bred comedian Mike Birbiglia has two sold-out shows at the Wilbur Theatre this weekend - but Wilbur marketing guy Andrew Mather says he has two tickets to spare. Mather told us yesterday that he’ll give away a pair of seats and dinner-for-two at Jacob Wirth to whoever can post the most creative picture of themselves with Dennis Eckersley on the Wilbur’s Facebook wall (www.facebook.com/wilburtheatre). “I expect there will be a lot of Photoshop going on,’’ Mather said, laughing. We also hear that when Birbiglia is in town, he may reenact “Make Way for Ducklings’’ in the Public Garden with his opening act, Joe Wong. So if you see two men quacking, that’s why.

Obama taps locals
President Obama has appointed Boston University alum Alfre Woodard and locals Yo-Yo Ma and Teresa Heinz to his Committee on the Arts and Humanities. In case you don’t know, Woodard is an Oscar-nominated actress, Ma is a world-famous cellist, and Heinz is a philanthropist and wife of Senator John Kerry. Other familiar names on Obama's Arts and Humanities list include Sarah Jessica Parker and Edward Norton.

Wolf replaces Nelson
Portland-bred "Breakfast Club" star Judd Nelson was supposed to be in Maine to serve as the Portland Symphony Orchestra's guest narrator on Sunday. Sadly, the real-life John Bender will not be able to attend. The PSO released a statement yesterday saying that because of an injury, Nelson - whose father once served as the president of the PSO's board of directors - will be replaced for the concert by Peter Wolf, of J. Geils Band fame. Wolf will help the orchestra and the Portland Ballet Company with Stravinsky's "L'histoire du Soldat," the story of a soldier who gives his fiddle to the devil in exchange for secrets about the future of the economy. How timely. Wolf was most recently seen jamming with Bruce Springsteen at the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show at Madison Square Garden over the weekend.

Making the scene in Wayland
We ought to be able to recognize Wayland in the movie “Girlfriend.’’ Justin Lerner, the film’s writer and director, grew up there, and he wrote the script around the local businesses that gave him permission to shoot on their premises a few weeks ago - places such as the ever-popular deli Caraway’s and State Road Auto Body.

“Girlfriend’’ is about a young man with Down syndrome who develops a relationship with a woman who has an abusive ex-boyfriend. The film stars Evan Sneider, who worked with Lerner on a short film a few years ago; the two are 1998 Wayland High grads. The cast includes Shannon Woodward, who was on the FX series “The Riches’’; character actress Amanda Plummer; and Jackson Rathbone, who plays Jasper Hale in the “Twilight’’ movies. Jerad Anderson, who plays with Rathbone in the rock band 100 Monkeys and produced “Girlfriend,’’ said having Rathbone on board has given the indie film a higher profile. More than a few “Twilight’’ fans have been hanging around the set, hoping to get a glimpse of their vampire crush. “He doesn’t get creeped out by it,’’ Anderson joked. He said it was rewarding to work with a director filming in his hometown. Thanks to Lerner, Anderson got to know the local shops and restaurants. “Shoppers World - that was kind of like the weekend hangout.’’

Lerner, who will spend the rest of the year editing “Girlfriend,’’ promises that Wayland and Boston will get first dibs when the film is ready for an audience. “We are hoping to actually do a Boston premiere. Maybe rent out the, what is it called, the Brattle Theatre?’’

He’s top gun in Eastie
Crews with “Knight & Day’’ - the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz movie that’s still filming around town - were shooting in East Boston yesterday. Folks at the pizza place Dough on Maverick Street said Cruise was seen just a few blocks away, as confirmed to them by some talkative Teamsters. Tom Cruise on Maverick Street. Makes us want to sing “Danger Zone.’’

Beckett honored
Sox pitcher Josh Beckett was honored at last night’s Champions for Children’s annual dinner for his work with Children’s Hospital. The 1,000-person guest list for the night, which was held at the Seaport World Trade Center, included Kevin Youkilis, John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, New England Revolution player Taylor Twellman, and a number of other athletes.

Big man wanted
New Hampshire gal Sarah Silverman to OK magazine about whom she hopes to date, now that she has officially called it quits with Jimmy Kimmel: “I would like a man bigger than me - preferably someone who can lift me over his head.’’

Party on the 13th
Looking for something weird to do on Friday the 13th? How about spending some quality time with Kim Kardashian. The reality star and on-again girlfriend of Reggie Bush has signed on to host Gypsy Bar’s anniversary party next Friday. Past visitors at the Gypsy Bar, which likes to bring famous people to town to sit in its VIP lounge, have included Pete Wentz, Kevin Federline, and Tommy Lee. Kardashian was there as recently as last year.

Read the Names blog at www.boston.com/namesblog. Names can be reached at names@globe.com or at 617-929-8253.

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