Long before she played Sue Sylvester on Glee, actress Jane Lynch was a kid growing up in the South Side village of Dolton who really, really loved Christmas.
Lynch went on to land career-changing roles in films like Best In Show and the 40-Year-Old Virgin before Glee came along in 2009.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Lynch teamed with longtime friend Kate Flannery (who played Meredith on The Office), to join a quintet led by jazz trumpeter Tony Guerrero, and Tim Davis, the vocal arranger on Glee, to record A Swingin’ Little Christmas, a retro collection of new and classic holiday songs inspired by Lynch’s longtime affection for Christmas music.
Much to everyone’s surprise, it landed in Billboard’s Top 10, and has spawned an annual tour.
Post-Glee, Lynch has worked without pause, doing voiceovers for animated films like Ralph Breaks The Internet, singing in cabaret shows, guest-starring on Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and hosting the series Hollywood Game Night (she was nominated for Emmys for the latter two).
“I really enjoy the immersion in a project,” Lynch says in a phone interview, at home on a break from her Christmas tour. “Every part of me being used.”
Are you a big Christmas person?
Yes. I grew up in Chicago, and nobody does Christmas like Chicago.
We would play the same albums over and over every Christmas. They were those beautiful late ‘50s, early ‘60s arrangements that Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the Andrews Sisters would do.
Our album and our show are right in the pocket in terms of style of music.
It’s reminiscent of those sentimental Christmas songs.
You and Kate Flannery met in Chicago, when you were both starting out?
We were at Second City at about the same time, but we really cemented our friendship and our working relationship when we were at the Annoyance Theatre.
We got to know each other a little better there, and started singing together there.
We both moved to LA with (the stage show) The Real Live Brady Bunch, and continued doing sketch comedy together, and Kate and I would always find a way to do a song.
Around 2014, when I was offered four nights at (a cabaret space), I called her and said, “We have to do this together.”
When you’re on tour and hanging out in a city together, do people go, ‘Wait, that’s Sue Sylvester from Glee, and Meredith from The Office’?
It happens all the time, absolutely, because our shows were popular at the same time, so people recognise us a lot.
We have fun in airports, that’s for sure. I get recognised all the time.
Are there still are lot of people who’ll say, ‘I didn’t know she could sing’?
It’s funny, when you get up in front of people and you do what you do, they just accept it right away. Nobody says, “Oh, I didn’t know you could sing.”
There haven’t been any new classic Christmas songs in such a long time. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s the whole idea of Christmas, and the whole feeling of Christmas summed up in those songs that were recorded in the ’50s and ’60s. That cemented Christmas sentiment in our heart.
Some new songs have come along, but rock ’n’ roll never really lent itself to Christmas music. We really do like those lush orchestral arrangements of Christmas carols.
That whole idea of Christmas albums and playing Christmas music didn’t even start ‘til the ‘50s and ‘60s, and it kind of stopped there, too. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service