This weekend, actress Jane Lynch is coming to town. Best known to tweens as Sue Sylvester in Glee—and to everyone else as part of the comedic genius of such gems as A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin—she’s showing fans another side of herself with her new musical comedy show “See Jane Sing,” a combination of cabaret, comedy, and show tunes, on Saturday, May 9 at the Palace of Fine Arts. We caught up with Lynch about her Broadway run in “Annie,” her trademark humor, and food worthy of the f-bomb.
Liam Passmore: Folks may know you from Glee, but your resume is really varied, and includes appearances at the famed Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago. Given that Glee filmed its final episodes, was there something in your actor DNA telling you to “get back out on the road?”
Jane Lynch: Oh yeah, I think so. It felt like the next right thing. An opportunity for a fast, funny, and musical hour and a half with some amazing friends: Kate Flannery, who plays the drunk in The Office; Tim Davis, who was the vocal arranger on Glee, and a wonderful crooner, and a five-piece band, The Tony Guerrero Quintet.
LP: You were in "Annie" on Broadway recently, as the evil Miss Hannigan, who seems like she could be related to Sue Sylvester on some level. I read once for the film, that John Huston gave Carol Burnett the note, “Play it sloshed,” which is just such a cunning thing to whisper in an actor’s ear. You’ve been candid about your relationship with alcohol over the years (as has Carol, actually), what do you see as Miss Hannigan’s—and Sue’s for that matter—motivation for making the lives of those around her so hilariously miserable?
With Sue, it is all about ultimate power. She comes from the smallest place in a person. She is about world domination. She loves and despises in extreme ways. Miss Hannigan on the other hand, is trying to get out of her circumstances. Anywhere else but where she is, is where she wants to be; she drinks to numb the pain. There is definitely hopelessness and desperation to her that Sue would just not be capable of.
LP: What drew you into doing a cabaret performance? It’s a bit of a lost art, no?
JL: I was reluctant because the creative process can be so fraught for me. And cabaret is such an intimate form, which is why it works so well in small venues. I’m looking forward to the Palace of Fine Arts, because, though it’s a fairly large space, it feels so intimate.
LP: There are some real chestnuts in the show by the sounds of things. What are your favorite numbers to perform?
JL: It all revolves around the songs. I started by picking music as well as asking [fellow Glee cast member] Matt Morrison for advice based on his experiences doing his cabaret act, as well as his tour. Brad Ellis—who is both a composer and an arranger and part of the Glee music production team—and I would go into a rehearsal room for hours on end. We ended up with a list that contains all songs I love, but here are a few that I really enjoy peforming:
- "Slapping the Cakes on Me" from Dave Frishberg, who also wrote "I’m Hip," a song that Blossom Dearie did. I might do that someday too.
- "If Wishes Were Rainbows, So Am I" is a song by Faith Soloway that I adore; Faith’s sister is Jill Soloway, the creator of "Transparent."
- "Mister Monotony," an Irving Berlin number that was cut from Glee, where I was originally going to perform it.
- "Far From the Home I Love," from Fiddler on the Roof. Kate and I do a balls-out version inspired by Barry Sisters, who were a sort of Yiddish Andrew’s Sisters. So fun.
- "Anaconda" by Nicki Manaj!
LP: San Francisco is not only a gay town, but also very much a food town. Have you spent much time here in the past? Any restaurants you’ve been dying to try?
JL: I was [here] recently, and spent some time with a friend who lives in the Castro. It was just 24 hours. But yes, I’m a foodie, and can’t wait to eat!
LP: One of your hallmarks is a delivery as dry as a Martini “passed under the shadow of vermouth”, to quote WC Fields. Is this something that you’ve gone out of your way to hone? Did this start with your improvisation work with Second City back in the day, or just something that came naturally?
JL: Honestly, I don’t know how any of that comes about. If you try, you cease to be it. I always start from the inside of the characters and move out. For me, it just comes down to good old acting 101.
Santa Monica or Malibu?
Yoga or pilates?
Carbohydrate or protein?
Protein. But I’d rather have both. I want a fuckin’ sandwich!
Napa or Sonoma?
I don’t know the difference really, but I’ve been to both and love them equally.
Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge
Can’t say that I know. Oh, god, San Francisco is going to hate me.
Hike or spa?
I prefer the spa, but I hike because it’s good for me.
Starbucks or Philz?
Hands down, Philz! I LOVE that coffee.