Mandi Bierly
April 03, 2009 AT 12:00 PM EDT

To promote the April 7 return of FX’s Rescue Me after a 19-month hiatus (and to raise money for The Leary Firefighters Foundation), Denis Leary headlined a comedy show and hosted a screening of the drama’s season 5 premiere at Radio City Music Hall Thursday night. Foolishly, I took notes, as if I could actually print half of what was said.

I’ll let EW’s Ken Tucker cover how great this season of Rescue Me looks: He gives it an A in the new issue of EW. (FX president John Landgraf actually read the first paragraph of the review to the audience last night.) I’ll handle the stand-up. Leary, backed by the band the Enablers (featuring the Rehab Horns and the backup singers the Codependents) performed a few of his NSFW songs: “At the Rehab,” “F— You,” “Traditional Irish Folk Song,” and, of course, “A–hole”. Seeing that last title on multiple giant screens in Radio City Music Hall could’ve been the highlight of the night, had Rescue Me cocreator Peter Tolan (pictured, far left) not asked Leary if he could say a word. Tolan walked out to the center of the stage, stood alone, looked out into the crowd, said “Chlamydia,” and exited. A beautiful moment for everyone.

Also contending for the night’s biggest laugh that I can print: Leary’s reenactment of Brad Pitt telling his children to go to bed in all their native languages and his story of being caught naked (and aroused by a jet stream) in a hot tub at a spa. (He had to leave, so when the two women who’d surprised him asked if he was Willem Dafoe, he said yes, stood up, and got out.) All the performers who helped Leary bring the hall to what he described as a “new low” — Lenny Clarke (Uncle Teddy), AdamFerrara (Chief Nelson), and Nick Di Paolo — pushed the envelope, which Rescue Me fans are clearly comfortable with. But Leary’s the only one who made the audience truly nervous. He asked us to close our eyes while he said a prayer for Natasha Richardson. No one was sure where he was headed, so he had to ask us twice. He asked God to keep her soul safe — and why he (meaning God) couldn’t send a few people skiing or snowboarding in Montreal before the helmet law is changed. (He suggested Sharon Stone, Bernie Madoff, and Madonna.) Leary’s delivery and the evening’s irreverent vibe won the crowd over. Too soon?

addCredit(“George Napolitano/FilmMagic”)

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