Denis Leary Explains the Enduring Popularity of Comics Come Home

The comedian opens up about hosting the annual event for the Cam Neely Foundation.

It’s hard to believe that over two decades have passed since Denis Leary started hosting the Comics Come Home charity concert for the Cam Neely Foundation.

The annual event has become a Boston comedy tradition and will celebrate its 21st year when the show returns to the TD Garden on November 7. Leary will once again be bringing a stacked lineup of stars to Boston, including Jimmy Fallon, Louis C.K., Steven Wright, and Ray Romano.

The Worcester-born host says the event’s success is all due to local comedy fans who keep coming back year after year to support the foundation.

“It’s really not about us, it’s about the Boston comedy audience that started out coming to see this thing two decades ago,” Leary says. “Now, there’s just no end in sight. We can do the greatest show in the world, but if there’s no audience, we really accomplish nothing. So really it’s a tribute to how great the Boston comedy audiences are that this thing has been such a huge success.”

Back in the 1980s, the comedian become involved with the Cam Neely Foundation after meeting the former Bruins star through fellow comic Lenny Clarke and his brother Mike. Neely was looking for a way to honor his parents, who both died of cancer, which eventually led to the creation of Comics Come Home.

Leary says he initially thought they’d only be doing the show for a few years until enough funds were raised to build the Neely House, a cancer patient care center at Tufts Medical Center. However, the event’s enduring popularity has kept the show going and growing since its inception.

According to Leary, Comics Come Home is above all just a great evening of comedy for both the comedians and the fans.

“For a number of years now, people will call me to say, ‘Hey, can I come back,’ or ‘Can I come for the first time,'” Leary says. “It’s gotten a reputation among comedians as being a great gig. Obviously it’s a great cause, but the crowd is so electric and fantastic that comedians actually look forward to doing the gig.”

Looking back at all the great memories, Leary admits that his favorite one came a few years ago when he was sitting backstage with Jimmy Fallon’s father, who was treated for cancer at the Neely House.

As a leather-clad Fallon writhed on stage impersonating The Doors frontman Jim Morrison, the Tonight Show host’s dad joked with Leary about how weird his son was back in the day.

“I go, ‘You must be really proud of him,’ and his dad goes, ‘He used to do this in his room when he was 14. We thought there was something wrong with him,'” Leary says. “Well that sums the whole thing up right there. His father, who survived the disease, is sitting there talking about how weird they thought their son was. Now he’s become a gigantic star for doing something he used to do in his room that his parents thought was weird.”

This year, Leary is looking forward to reuniting with a few of his old comedy pals that he hasn’t seem in a while like Romano and Wright.

Most of all, he’s excited for the annual song and dance number with Fallon.

“The most excited thing is always when I turn to introduce Jimmy Fallon and we have a musical number coming up and I maybe have half of an idea of what we’re supposed to be doing,” Leary says. “Like last year, he ended up running out into the crowd during our song and started doing a James Brown, Bruce Springsteen dancing in the crowd routine which was fantastic.”

Comics Come Home returns to the TD Garden on November 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at