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Jane Lynch on Breaking Through in ‘Best in Show’ and How Her ‘Glee’ Character Reminds Her of Trump

By matt.wilstein@thedailybeast.com (Matt Wilstein)
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photo Getty

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Jane Lynch spent years as a struggling comedy actress before landing her big break at 40 as dog trainer Christy Cummings in 2000’s Best in Show. Nearly two decades later, she’s a household name.

These days, Lynch is hosting what she describes as the most fun party on television, NBC’s Hollywood Game Night, which just launched its sixth season this month. “I think we kind of started this fire,” she says of the current celebrity game show boom, which has found Alec Baldwin hosting Match Game on ABC and Rob Lowe hosting Mental Samurai on Fox, among others.

On this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Lynch talks about how she got there, from a fateful Frosted Flakes commercial directed by Christopher Guest to her Emmy-winning portrayal of the deliciously evil Sue Sylvester on Glee and most recently as a comic foil to Rachel Brosnahan’s Midge on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, in which she will be playing a much bigger role in season three.

“I’m in almost the whole season,” Lynch reveals. She won’t give away much, but does promise “some fun stuff in store for Sophie Lennon.” 

Highlights from our conversation are below and you can listen to the whole thing right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, the Himalaya app or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On working with Christopher Guest for the first time in ‘Best in Show’ 

“There’s no script, there’s an outline. And there’s no rehearsal. So we show up and shoot. So any work you have to do for yourself you do ahead of time. He said to me, ‘Look, I just kind of let the camera roll and I do what I do.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to be a little more prepared than that.’ And I spent a lot of time working on this character. It turns out I love working this way. I have never prepared for a character the way I prepared for this. In order to improvise something you have to be very, very familiar with the person you’re playing and their relationship and how they view the world and their opinion on things. I used to read the paper to myself in the mirror as Christy Cummings. And then I’d opine about what I’d just read.” 

Kathy Griffin Calls CNN’s Jeff Zucker a ‘Pussy’ for Caving to Trump

How ‘Glee’ transformed her career 

“I didn’t exactly know what it would be or mean, but I knew it would be a hit. I didn’t think it would be huge. But the power of music and musical theater cannot be denied. It’s a passion for people. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who’s like, ‘I kinda like musical theater.’ It’s either I don’t care for it or I looove it. So I thought we would corner the market on people who looove it and indeed we did and then some.”

On the similarities—and differences—between Sue Sylvester and Donald Trump 

“You know, Sue Sylvester is very much like Donald Trump. She just fights, to the point where it’s one indignity after the other, breaking a law over here, breaking a law over there, you can’t keep up with it. And then she gets forgiven and does the same thing over and over again, but she does have some redemptive moments that Donald Trump doesn’t have. I think that’s the difference between just plain narcissism and sociopathic narcissism.” 

On acting opposite Meryl Streep in ‘Julie and Julia’ 

“I was so nervous. I was really thrilled, of course, to be asked to play Meryl Streep’s sister. And to work with Nora Ephron too, who was just an amazing person and I miss her, she was just so great. I remember the day before my first day of shooting, Nora asked me to come to the set and said, ‘I want you to see where Meryl is in terms of the character, the world she’s living in.’ And I had been working on it, so I was like, ‘Oh God, I hope it matches up.’ Because they are big characters. And I was like, I wonder how big she’s going. And she was big. But that’s what Julia Child was like. Not only big physically, but oh, she was effusive! She had passion and her sister was that way as well. And together, the decibel levels go off the charts. After the first take, you’re hoping it doesn’t just look like a bad SNL sketch. I hope I don’t look like Dan Aykroyd, who in that context was really funny. And Nora said, ‘I love what you’re doing,’ so that was such a relief.” 

Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Former Daily Show correspondent and host of ABC’s Holey Moley, Rob Riggle.

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