Comedian Denis Leary confessed that his sense of humor often has gotten him into trouble. The first time he was only 6.

"I specifically remember the first day I went to school in the first grade. And we were out in the yard. Right before school started, you were allowed to play around in the yard," he recalled.

"And all these kids were out in the yard, and when the bell rang, this really mean-looking old nun came out and started yelling at us to go inside. My house is only about four blocks away, so I took off. I thought, 'I'm not doing what SHE tells me.' So I got detention my first day of first grade.

And it never stopped. "I don't know why, but very quickly I realized that I was more interested in making the other kids laugh than actually doing what the nuns told us to do. That was my talent," he said with a laugh. "So I went with it. And it paid off."

It paid off, all right. Since then Leary has tackled myriad projects, from writing to producing to starring in TV series such as "Rescue Me," "Sirens" and "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll."

In his latest, "The Moodys," Leary plays the put-upon patriarch of an unruly and zany family. The series, which returns Thursday for its second season on Fox, is not so far from his own rowdy clan, Leary admitted.

"I grew up in a house that whatever your feelings were, everybody knew them because we were all yelling and screaming all the time," he said. "That part of [the show] spoke to my heart."

Dysfunction is normal

Despite their foibles, he regards his TV family as perfectly functional. "Coming from a working-class Irish household where everybody wore their feelings on their sleeves, I don't find it dysfunctional. I think it's dysfunctional based on what people consider the 'perfect family.' But I don't know a perfect family. I've never met one. I have a feeling it would be pretty boring."

It took a while for Leary's brand of razor-edged comedy to catch on, but he wasn't troubled by the wait.

"When I was young, I was trying to act in the theater, that's where I came from, the theater. I wasn't making any money, but I didn't have a credit card, didn't have any debt, didn't have a car, my rent was really cheap. And I actually didn't have any other talent, so it didn't bother me. I just loved waking up and doing comedy."

Once he became a father, Leary was determined to learn as much as he could about his chosen field.

"Looking back on it in terms of show business, I was always thinking about the long haul. I learned about filmmaking and television and writing to make sure I had a career that lasted because I had to feed two kids now. I had enough life experience when I got famous that I knew I wanted to be in it for a long haul instead of being a flash in the pan."

Leary said he has few regrets. "I think about things I did wrong and try to learn from them, but I don't dwell on the past, I just move forward," he said, "Sometimes I wish I hadn't tortured those nuns. But by torturing those nuns, it made me funny. And that sort of got me where I am, so I can't really regret it."