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Though he entered showbiz first as a comedian in the late 1980s, Andy Ferrara would demonstrate a mercurial set of dramatic chops throughout his career as well. The Long Island-born comic received his major television break by way of "Caroline in the City" (1996-98), and a few years later on the Denis Leary sitcom "The Job" (2001-02), with Ferrara co-starring as a young detective on the straight and narrow. He joined Leary again several years later on the critically acclaimed drama "Rescue Me" (FX, 2006-2010), this time as a Battalion Chief "Needles" Nelson. A national touring headliner and veteran stand-up comic, Ferrara performed across the country and internationally; appeared regularly on VH-1, MTV and Comedy Central; and headlined in his first full-length stand-up special, "Adam Ferrara: Funny as Hell," in 2009. The following year, Ferrara joined the History Channel to co-host the American edition of the BBC's "Top Gear." Though Ferrara consistently relied on his Italian heritage for roles and stand-up material, his talent for playing both meaty dramatic and fast-talking comic characters was anything but typical.
Born on Feb. 2, 1966, Adam Ferrara grew up in the town of Huntington on Long Island, New York. After graduating from Marist College with a degree in finance, he returned to his hometown and performed at his first open mic night in July 1988. An Omnipop agent in the crowd was so impressed by Ferrara's stand-up routine that he signed the young comedian immediately. Ferrara received his first big break after winning the National Lampoon/Gel Comedy Contest and appearing on the contest's Showtime special. Five years after his stand-up debut, Ferrara landed a role in one episode of the short-lived series "Flying Blind" (Fox, 1993). While he continued touring with his comedy act, he did not begin appearing regularly on television until 1996, when he was cast as the recurring character Peter Spadaro on "Caroline in the City" (1996-98). An Italian-American, Ferrara's heritage was often central to his casting, but no more so than when he starred in a series of commercials for the Italian restaurant chain, The Olive Garden.
Ferrara returned to serial television on the ABC comedy "The Job" (2001-02). Created by comedian-actor Denis Leary, the show parodied its cop-drama contemporaries, and starred Leary as Officer Mike McNeil amidst a bumbling detective ensemble. Ferrara played Tommy Manetti, a young by-the-book detective who frequently clashed with the rangy and unorthodox McNeil. The show debuted with six episodes in 2001 and was renewed for a second season; however, after the events of 9/11, the second season's premiere was pushed to the following spring. The show was not renewed, in large part because ABC was rethinking programming to reflect a more family-friendly lineup in the wake of the national tragedy. Despite its cancellation, "The Job" proved to be a great success for Ferrara, catapulting him to national fame and laying the foundation for future work with Leary on his next show.
Meanwhile, Ferrara's comedy career enjoyed a boost after "Comedy Central Presents Adam Ferrara" (2001), his first self-titled special on the network. From there, he scored a guest role on "Law and Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) in 2003 before returning to Comedy Central for his second half-hour special (2004) as well as on the stand-up series "Just for Laughs" (2004-06). After a multiple character stint on "The King of Queens" (CBS, 2004-07), Ferrara went back to work with Denis Leary on his next major television project, "Rescue Me" (FX, 2006-2010). The hit show relied on conceits similar to "The Job" - acerbic tempers, "bro-code" ethics, and a do-or-die commitment to duty - but instead of a police precinct, the series focused on the personal and professional lives of New York City firefighters. Centering on Leary at Tommy Gavin, a veteran firefighter and relapsed alcoholic, the Emmy-nominated hit dealt with real life issues and post-9/11 trauma within the squad. Ferrara, as Battalion Chief "Needles" Nelson, showcased his dramatic chops and was praised for his layered portrayal of the complex and fallible leader.
As the first decade of the new millennium came to a close, Ferrara was cast in a number of small but memorable film and television roles: with Isla Fisher and Ryan Reynolds in "Definitely, Maybe" (2008), Kevin James in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" (2009), and Thora Birch in "The Winter of Frozen Dreams"(2009), as well as two roles in 2009 on "The Unusuals" (ABC, 2009) and "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-2010). He also released his first full-length comedy special, "Adam Ferrara: Funny as Hell" (2009), a chronicle of his youth in Queens with Italian-Catholic parents and the pitfalls of relationships and religion in his adulthood. In the fall of 2010, Ferrara began hosting the BBC import "Top Gear" on The History Channel. The program received rave reviews and was renewed for a second season in 2011.
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