Stand-up comic and actor Lenny Clarke has carved out a career as a Northeastern everyman — a wise-cracking, self-deprecating, heavily-accented jokester with an appealing obnoxious streak.
He is best known, perhaps, for his role as Uncle Teddy on the FX series Rescue Me, which starred his friend Denis Leary as a New York City firefighter navigating a turbulent post-9/11 life.
But he's also been on a number of short-lived television shows, including Lenny, in which he starred as a blue-collar Bostonian. He currently has a role on the NBC sitcom Are You There, Chelsea?
Clarke will headline a night of stand-up to benefit his sister, who has multiple sclerosis, on March 31 at Venus de Milo in Swansea, Massachusetts, just over the border. Cocktail hour is at 6 pm, followed by dinner at 7 and the show at 8.
Steve Sweeney and Frank Santorelli of The Sopranos are among the other performers. Clarke promises some surprise guests, too. Call Venus de Milo at 508.678.3901 for tickets, which cost $50.
The Phoenix caught up with Clarke for a Q&A by phone. The interview is edited and condensed.
COULD YOU GIVE US A LITTLE TASTE OF YOUR ACT? Pretty much about growing up, going through the trials and tribulations of show business. I've had more failed pilots than the Iraqi Air Force. I've been really close, a few times, to syndication, I've had a great run on Rescue Me, which we did seven seasons. I'm blessed, right now, to be working on Chelsea Handler's show [Are You There, Chelsea?] and we've got three or four more shows to run before we find out if it gets picked up. I mean, I wish it was doing better in the ratings, but we happen to be up against Idol and Survivor, which are two Top 10 shows. So, it's a tough spot to be in.
I've been a stand-up comedian for 35 years, an actor for 20. People say, "well, can you act?" I remember one night, I got called in to a president — I think it was Paramount Studios — I was so excited. And they had offered me a three-picture deal. The money was better than my dreams and the guy said, "I have one question: 'Can you act?' " And I said, "Hey, I'm making believe I'm having fun with you, aren't I?" And he said: "Get out of my office." And I said: "I'm just kidding!" I thought that was a pretty quick answer. So now, when I go in, I am a very, very humble, quiet guy.
I've made some mistakes in my life. I'm one of those people — people say, "Would you change anything in your life?" Yeah, I'd change a lot of shit, are you kidding me?
YOU ONCE RAN FOR MAYOR OF CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS UNDER THE SLOGAN "FUCK THE KENNEDYS." I'M WONDERING HOW THAT WORKED OUT. Yeah, that didn't work out too good — especially when I stole the bus to try to pick up some elderly voters. I like to say I would have won if I was drinking just a bit more.