Read an Excerpt From Ann Leary's Book That Made Husband Denis Leary Laugh 'So F---ing Loud' (Exclusive)

The bestselling author's new essay collection, 'I've Tried Being Nice' spans family, fame, recovery and learning not to be a people-pleaser

<p>Angela Weiss/WireImage; Marysue Rucci Books</p> Denis and Ann Leary and her new book,

Angela Weiss/WireImage; Marysue Rucci Books

Denis and Ann Leary and her new book, 'I've Tried Being Nice'

Lots of husbands would be embarrassed to read a book their wife had written that covers — among other things — that time they almost got divorced, disastrous ballroom dancing lessons and their social snafus as they learned to navigate fame, family and all that comes with it.

But Denis Leary isn't that kind of husband.

His wife Ann Leary is brutally honest in her newest book, I've Tried Being Nice, out June 4 — but not at anyone's expense.

"Anything that I write about my family, they get to see before it's published anywhere, because if they don't like it, I don't wanna publish it," the author, 61, tells PEOPLE in a joint interview with Denis, 66. "Writing essays, you have to be so careful about people's feelings, like your husband's and your children's and your parents'. You have to tell your truth, but I like to be mindful of the privacy of people in my life."

The book spans a range of topics from serious to borderline-slapstick, mostly centered around the author's family, marriage, their life together and trying to be less of a people-pleaser.

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"I do touch on my childhood a little bit in one of the early essays, but most of it is about our family, being married to Dennis, having our great children and trying not to embarrass them too much by describing our lives," the author adds.

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Running like an undercurrent to the laughs, as happens in so many of Ann's books, comes a sneaky dose of wisdom.

"I kind of explored the difference between being nice, which is actually a very good trait, and being a people-pleaser, which is more of like being insecure," she explains. "And it doesn't really come from a place of of altruism or kindness, or a higher level of emotion. It comes from selfish angst and fear."

Her husband, who Ann calls "my kindest critic ... and my biggest cheerleader-fan," says that it's "always exciting when I get to read whatever draft I'm allowed to read of something." He got an early look at these essays before publication, in pretty much the same form the reader will see them.

"I'm proud of her, but it's not the kind of writing I can really do, so a lot of times I'm just sort of in awe of how she could take something and turn it into something so funny or beautiful," Denis says. "I was laughing so f---ing loud at so many things, especially in the newer essays that I didn't know. But, man, this book! It really made me laugh."

The couple, who share children Jack, 34, and daughter Devin, 32, have always liked to laugh — together and, occasionally, in good-natured fun at each other.

"You have to laugh," Ann says, of what gets her through the tough stuff. "I'm actually annoyed when people don't have a sense of humor, I actually find it personally offensive."

Below, in an exclusive excerpt shared with PEOPLE, read a case of mistaken identity with endearing results.

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<p>Marysue Rucci Books</p> 'I've Tried Being Nice' by Ann Leary

Marysue Rucci Books

'I've Tried Being Nice' by Ann Leary

Years ago, at a dinner party, I was seated next to a very sweet, nebbishy-looking guy who seemed a little out of his element. Ali Wentworth and George Stephanopoulos were also at our table. They had been dating for less than two weeks. Now their daughters are in college, but how can that be? This party seems like it was yesterday. The thing about humiliating situations is that they always seem so fresh. Memories of my finer moments such as … well … none come to mind right now, but they all seem to fade. Shameful moments have a way of crystallizing in my memory, perfectly intact, forever.

My shy dinner companion at that party was concerned that there wouldn’t be anything for him to eat, as he was vegan. He was so quiet and unassuming. He didn’t seem to know anybody, and I assumed that he was somebody’s plus-one. A famous actor’s cousin, maybe visiting from out of town. 

I realized he was overwhelmed by the dazzling luminaries in the room, so I decided to take him under my wing. I asked one of the waitstaff to prepare him a salad, and then I explained to him who all the important people were. On his other side was a very famous actress. I told him that he shouldn’t be shy—he should introduce himself to her. He told me he already had.

At one point I asked him what he did for work. He told me that he was a musician. 

“Wow, that’s really cool,” I said, imagining him in an orchestra pit, his upper lip quivering above a flute, or perhaps on a subway platform strumming on a mandolin. 

When we left the party, Denis and I shared a ride with Jon Stewart and his wife, Tracey

“What was Moby like?” Tracey asked me when we were all in the back of the car. Denis and Jon leaned in toward me with expectant smiles. 

“Moby was there?” I asked. “I love Moby!” 

I’d been listening to a Moby playlist all summer; it was pretty much all I listened to that summer. I guess I’d never seen his photograph, because — yes, Moby had been my sweet, shy dinner companion. 

Related: Moby Recalls Abusing Pills and Drinking 20 Beers a Night at the Height of His Fame: 'I Was Miserable'

I began confessing to the others, in a voice rising hysterically, that I had just schooled Moby on the ins and outs of fame. I had just promised Moby that if he had a sample CD of one of his songs, I would personally make sure my husband Denis listened to it. 

“Denis Leary,” I’d said to him, with a humble little laugh. I don’t like name-dropping. 

Then I said, and my face is flaming now just typing these words: “I can’t promise anything, but if he likes one of your songs — who knows, maybe he’ll use it on his show.” I think I even offered some wisdom about how, in show business, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. 

God bless Moby. He didn’t laugh in my face and tell me he’d never heard of Denis Leary or his damn TV show. He thanked me for my thoughtfulness. He asked me about myself. 

This reminds me of something else I’ve learned on the sidelines of fame. Famous people have an undeservedly bad reputation as a group. They’re always accused of being entitled, stupid, selfish and narcissistic. Many are.

But the most entitled jerks at the Emmys or the Golden Globes or even celebrity-filled dinner parties tend to be actors who people besides me don’t recognize, along with lawyers, agents and certain publicists. These jerks will snatch a seat away from an elderly woman with a walker because she doesn’t belong in the VIP area. They push and shove their way to the front of the press line where nobody wants to take their picture. 

The most talented celebrities, in my experience, tend to be the most generous and kind. I’m talking about Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, now. I’m talking about Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro — and all the other gentle giants of the celebrity kingdom. They’re thoughtful and kind, they wait their turn in line. They offer their seat to the pregnant or elderly. They turn away from the famous actress at a dinner party to say to the awkward, bumbling actor’s wife — the nobody seated next to them —“Tell me about yourself.” 

Excerpted from I’VE TRIED BEING NICE: Essays by Ann Leary. Copyright © 2024 by Ann Leary. Reprinted by permission of Marysue Rucci Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, LLC.

I've Tried Being Nice: Essays by Ann Leary is out June 4 from Marysue Rucci Books, and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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