Review: An Evening With Jane Lynch In Conversation With Adam Scott
Audience members at L.A. Live’s Club Nokia played witness Sunday night to what might be this reviewer’s fantasy pick for an episode of “Inside the Actor’sStudio.”
Alas, James Lipton and his dry wit sat this one out. Instead, Adam Scott eased into the interviewer’s chair in a conversation with former “Party Down” co-star Jane Lynch, who is undoubtedly having her “moment.”
Fresh off of hosting the Emmys last month, Lynch is riding a wave of success forty years in the making. Now an award-winning fixture on Fox’s hit show “Glee,” the actor began her pursuit of a career at 12, when she started writing cold to agents on the advice of “Happy Days” star Anson Williams (Potsie to most). She hasn’t stopped working since to “be in the game.”
Scott’s line of questioning flowed chronologically through Lynch’s life and drew heavily from her just-released memoir, “Happy Accidents.” A number of his questions directly referenced anecdotes detailed in the book, to great effect. The audience was treated to more in-depth accounts spanning her childhood in Chicago with an idiosyncratic family to her futon-surfing travails in the world of theater.
To be perfectly honest, the billing of the host initially drew this particular reviewer in, but Lynch won me over as she told her story. Most notably: her father’s absurd vernacular; her adolescent scrapbook of mediocrity, featuring report cards littered with Ds, consolation award ribbons and self-deprecating commentary; and endearingly, her self-sabotage of an early foray into acting at 14, in which she claimed not to “get” her character so that she could drop out of a show. She later attributed the decision to a fear of failure.
Fear became a running theme in the discussion of her “evolution as an actor and person.” Lynch frequently chalked up more successful experiences to the aforementioned “happy accidents,” while most of her challenges were the result of a steadfast need for rules and deep-seated sense of self-loathing. She touched on her trials as a discontent alcoholic in an entertainment culture that reveled in days-long hangovers and “orphaned vomit.” More poignantly, she discussed her struggle to come out at age 32, a positive experience with her at-times lovably insensitive family that she said may have ended differently had she made the announcement at 18.
Both Lynch and Scott were striking in how down-to-earth they seemed, even while riffing on acting advice from Harrison Ford. There was an obvious level of respect and sincere caring between the actors, but it never devolved into sycophancy. When discussing her realization that a character will always come from an actor’s own understanding rather than external influences, Lynch noted Scott likely had a similar epiphany “because your work is always so good and so honest and I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass.” Exchanges of this kind are easy to fake among the showbiz set, but the pair’s lewd tempering did little to cover their genuine admiration.
Crassness proved to be a welcome third party to their conversation. Providing a quick deviation from the family and showbiz anecdotes, Scott brought up fabricated rumors that Lynch had plagiarized portions of Jane Fonda’s latest book, “Prime Time.” He asked her to read an excerpt describing the types of vibrators available to Fonda’s repressed readership, a gag he later credited to “Parks and Recreation” co-star Amy Poehler. Even at his friskiest, James Lipton steered clear of self-love.
Balancing out the bawdy fare, Lynch seemed to speak from the heart about personal growth since her days as an arrogant, classically trained young actor. During the Q-and-A, she said what drew her to “Glee” was the element of refuge and acceptance she remembered from her own high school choir. She said it was similar to what she still loves about ensemble work, including her work with director Christopher Guest and her 10-episode run on the prematurely cancelled “Party Down.” “I think we’re all in high school in that regard,” she said. “We’re all just looking for our people.”
With a message like that, it’s no wonder the star and her misfit-centric vehicle have gathered such a following. “Glee” fans filled the theater Sunday night, using the evening as an opportunity to reach out and show their appreciation. Most were lovely and respectful, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the clearly inebriated stage-crasher who stole the show. The slurring devotee expressed his gratitude with a brief toast and awkward kiss on Lynch’s cheek before actor Ken Marino, also of “Party Down,” vaulted from the audience to escort him swiftly from the stage. Throughout, Scott and Lynch acted as though the interruption were a bit, another stunt they’d planned all along.
The incident somewhat illustrated Lynch’s balanced approach to her success as an actor. Despite frequent exclamations of what a long time coming this validation was, she eventually said her “moment” had come at the perfect time. “Because I was 49 when it happened, I had a bit of equanimity in my life,” she said. “I think had I had that kind of fame come to me when I was even 40, my sense of self would have blown with what I perceived as public opinion. I know who I am at the end of the day.” It’s an enviable security to which the rest of us can aspire.
Without dwelling on the personal and professional challenges she’s faced, Lynch came across as both relatable and authentically hilarious during Sunday’s chat. Her spot-on timing while riffing with host Scott cemented her status in the bona fide comedy crowd, that small cohort of actors today who time after time deliver solid, worthwhile material. “There’s a lot of career left for me,” Lynch said early on in the interview. One certainly hopes so.
The conversation between Jane Lynch and Adam Scott was a one-time gig, but Live Talks Los Angeles has a fairly buzz-worthy lineup of events in the near future, including an evening with John Lithgow on Friday and a discussion between NPR personalities Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne Oct. 24. For tickets and more information, check out http://livetalksla.org.