Until earlier this month, Denis Leary’s edgy, critically acclaimed FX drama “Rescue Me” had been off the air for nearly 19 months, save for a few Webisodes last summer. Blame the writer’s strike.
But like Fox’s “24,” another strike victim, “Rescue Me” fans didn’t forget.
On April 7, the season five debut brought in 2.3 million viewers, on par with the 2007 season four average. As an insurance policy, Leary has been doing a multi-city comedy tour with two of his “Rescue Me” castmates Adam Ferrara (Chief Nelson) and Lenny Clarke (Uncle Teddy). All three have standup comedy backgrounds.
The show stops at the Fox Theatre this Saturday.
“We come into your town and through an evening of very fun live entertainment, get everyone excited about ‘Rescue Me,’ ” Leary said in a phone interview last month. “We have fun as opposed to coming into town and boring everyone.”
Leary, based on performances in other cities, will play a few songs with his band the Enablers, many with song titles we can’t print here. He will also throw off plenty of dirty jokes and profane rants against celebrities.
For Leary, who used to do standup before his movie and TV careers took off, this is a way to go back to his roots.
“Standup is the most democratic form of expression,” he said. “There’s no denying the audience likes what you’re saying or not.”
Leary’s genuinely excited about the current season of “Rescue Me,” which will have 22 episodes, an output more typical of broadcast than cable TV, where 13 is the norm. “It’s really got a lot of energy this year,” he said. “The actors are making it kick.”
The show was created in 2004 as a way to chronicle the post-9/11 lives of New York City firefighters. It hits that theme much harder this season than in the recent past.
The justification: a French journalist comes to the firehouse and interviews the guys. Of course, she looks a bit like Catherine Zeta-Jones, which mesmerizes many of the men, especially Lt. Lou Shea (John Scurti) and Leary’s character Tommy Gavin.
“It’s always interesting when a women comes into their midst,” Leary said.
Another manifestation of 9/11 gets addressed as well: one of the younger firefighters will face a nasty medical diagnosis that could be connected to the toxic haze he breathed in the weeks after the World Trade Center collapse.
“It’s a big story, a real story that inspires us,” Leary said.
The actor is also buds with Michael J. Fox and convinced the comedic icon to join the show as his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, an irascible, pill-popping parapalegic confined to a wheelchair. “He’s a total pro, a great dramatic actor,” Leary said.
Despite his Parkinson’s disease, Fox in the real world is not confined to a wheelchair. “At my annual charity benefit, he jumped up on stage and played the Who’s ‘Teenage Wasteland’ [“Baba O Riley”],” Leary said. “He’s staying busy.”
“The Rescue Me Comedy Tour with Denis Leary”
660 Peacthree St., NE, Atlanta
8 p.m. Saturday April 18
$49.50 to $99 www.ticketmaster.com, 404-249-6400