The 12 Most Boston Celebrities, Ranked By Boston-Ness

Give it up for these hometown heroes.

by Josh Gondelman

Anyone from the Boston area is quick to point out when a celebrity is from the city or its surrounding area. Hell, as a Jewish person, I’ll even claim New Hampshire natives Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman as local legends. But who are the most Boston celebrities? It’s a question science has struggled to answer since Paul Revere drunk-drove his horse through the city announcing whether the British had arrived by surf or by turf. Here are my definitive* rankings. I’m sure that Boston natives will be cool and reasonable about them.

*completely subjective

12. John Cena

John Cena was about to be omitted from this list, but then he wore $500 custom Nike Air Force 1 sneakers featuring hand-painted images of Saugus, Massachusetts’ legendary Kowloon restaurant at Wrestlemania, earning himself a mention.

11. Hilaria Baldwin

Honestly it’s a stretch to list her among the top Bostonians, but it’s fun to remind people that she’s from Massachusetts and not Ibiza or wherever.

10. Not House of Pain

As crucial as it is to remember that Hilaria Baldwin is from Boston, it is equally important to remember that House of Pain is not. Though the video for their hit song “Jump Around” featured the group’s members in Celtics jerseys, the trio hails from Los Angeles, New York, and Latvia, respectively. This is, frankly, stolen Boston valor, and it should be treated as such.

9. Amy Poehler

The Burlington, Massachusetts, native has historically brought a wicked convincing accent to her performances, the kind that only comes from growing up calling a water fountain a “bubbler.” A tip of the (Red Sox) cap to fellow comedians Rachel Dratch for co-starring in SNL’s “Boston Teens” sketch and Jason Mantzoukas for serving as the new voice of Dunkin’. They’re also doing their respective Massachusetts hometowns proud and could easily occupy spots on this list themselves, except it’s only 12 spots long and I wasted a couple on jokes.

8. Bill Russell

Eleven-time NBA champion Bill Russell had, at times, a contentious relationship with the city of Boston. Russell was an ardent advocate for civil rights and frequently decried the racism of Bostonians and Celtics fans (and, in fairness, most white people). Later in his life, Russell had somewhat of a reconciliation with Boston and the Celtics; there’s now a statue of him outside City Hall. But his most legendarily Bostonian moment came in 1965 when he negotiated a salary that was $1 higher than that of longtime rival Wilt Chamberlain. That’s some good old-fashioned New England spite right there.

7. Nancy Kerrigan

Technically from Stoneham, the same small town where I grew up, Nancy Kerrigan is an Olympic medalist and a Saturday Night Live guest host. My parents refuse to watch the movie I, Tonya because they think it is unfair to her. Tremendous hometown hero credibility.

6. Keytar Bear

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in Boston, you might not be aware of Keytar Bear, a guy in a bear suit who plays the keytar at various subway stops. He’s a delightful local celebrity who deserves renown at least on par with New York City icons The Naked Cowboy and Filthy Times Square Elmo.

5. Mindy Kaling

People always seem to be making fun of Mindy Kaling even when she hasn’t done anything wrong, which is both an incredibly Massachusetts way to treat people and also the way people from other places talk about Boston. (Her Office co-star John Krasinski is also from the Boston area, but he is married to someone from the United Kingdom, which is still regionally frowned upon post-American Revolution**.) For that reason, he is disqualified.

**unclear if actually true

4. New Edition/The Dropkick Murphys

New Edition is a foundational group in the history of boy bands. (More on this in Maria Sherman’s excellent boy band history Larger Than Life.) The members are literally from the city of Boston, so it’s a shame that their work isn’t always linked to the city in the public consciousness. When people think of bands from Boston, they almost always picture the Dropkick Murphys, which is fair. They deserve to share this spot with New Edition for innovating a genre of music that is perfect to listen to when you are fighting a cop or being a cop, which is why they were such an ideal fit for the soundtrack to The Departed.

It’s also hard to talk about boy bands from Boston without bringing up the New Kids on the Block and by extension Mark Wahlberg, but I don’t really want to align myself with what US Weekly gently refers to as his “controversial” past. One nice thing I will say about the star of Boogie Nights is that I definitely think he earnestly believes he could have stopped 9/11 if he’d been there.

3. Bill Burr

Bill Burr played a career criminal in Breaking Bad and they had to write in a line about him being from Boston, presumably because no one would believe he was a native of New Mexico, where the show took place. Comedy luminaries from Paula Poundstone to Dane Cook hail from Boston’s metro area, but even Conan O’Brien’s Puritan work ethic and sunburnability can’t top Burr’s indelible origins.

2. David Ortiz

Even if he had merely helped lead the Red Sox out of their 86-year World Series drought, the Dominican-born Ortiz would be able to drink for free for life at any bar in Boston. But after his “This is our f*cking city!” speech in the wake of the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, he can probably also eat for free, sleep for free, ride the bus for free, seize any citizen’s home through eminent domain for free, and receive open heart surgery for free as well, should the need (or even just the desire) arise.

1. Ben Affleck

With apologies to Matt Damon, there’s no question about who the No. 1 most Boston celebrity is. Ben Affleck’s Massachusetts roots are so sturdy that there are numerous paparazzi photos of him simply carrying large Dunkin’ orders into his Los Angeles home as if he were cheating on his wife with a lahge regulah. He famously refused to wear a Yankees hat while filming a scene for Gone Girl, causing a standoff with director David Fincher. Affleck also claims Boston with incredible consistency and force despite being from Cambridge (which is not Boston), which is actually an incredibly Boston thing to do. Replace Plymouth Rock with a bust of Ben Affleck.