Living & Entertainment

Jane Lynch to bring the Christmas glee without Sue Sylvester’s grinch

Actress Jane Lynch poses at an event supporting a nonprofit in October in Los Angeles.
Actress Jane Lynch poses at an event supporting a nonprofit in October in Los Angeles. Invision/Associated Press

It might be hard to imagine a “Merry Christmas” coming from the lips of Sue Sylvester without “is for losers” following close behind.

Then again, Jane Lynch is not the character she played for six seasons on the comedic musical Fox TV series “Glee.”

She might owe much to the track suit-wearing, acid-tongued cheerleader coach who propelled the actor to superstardom. But the character has little in common with the person.

“I was a big Christmas lover as a kid,” Lynch said in a recent phone interview. “It was a magical time. I couldn’t wait for it. Then, as happens in life, I turned on it. I wanted nothing to do with it. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over.”

OK, maybe Lynch has a little of Sylvester in her.

“And then in the last 10 years or so I’ve been enjoying it again,” she said. “I love Christmas now. I adore it.”

In 2016, Lynch produced an album of Christmas classics with a couple of her friends. On Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 29 and 30), she’ll bring that songbook to the Triple Door in Seattle.

“A Swingin’ Little Christmas” features Kate Flannery and Tim Davis, along with a five piece band led by Tony Guerrero.

Flannery played Meredith on “The Office” and Davis was the vocal arranger for “Glee.”

Lynch and her co-horts launched the show for the 2016 holiday season. Their album and show cover Christmas classics, a genre she acknowledges hasn’t changed much in 50 years.

“That’s one of the things that makes Christmas special: We just play the same stuff over and over,” she said.

The 1940s and 1950s were the golden era for Christmas music from the likes of Bing Crosby and others.

“They started interpreting them and putting them on albums,” Lynch said. “And it was so revolutionary and uplifting, that it has become Christmas for us. That’s what our album is.”

The show’s songs are jazz renditions of traditional carols.

“We are performing (the album) song for song with our little buffooneries in between,” Lynch said. “Anytime you have Kate on stage you’re going to have comedy.”

Lynch modestly leaves herself out of that assessment. But it’s comedy that propelled Lynch’s career. The actor rose to indie stardom in Christopher Guest mockumentaries “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind.”

Mainstream stardom came with “Glee.” Lynch’s acerbic character brought narcissistic self-obsession to new comedic heights. And it brought her new success.

“It blew the doors open in terms of visibility, recognizability, fame, and it provided me with funds that I never had before,” Lynch said.

But she calls the success anticlimactic. She was 50 at the time and mature enough not to be too impressed with parties, awards or herself.

“But what was really great was the public role I got to play and how (“Glee”) affected kids and I was part of this movement of embracing people for exactly who they are,” Lynch said. “It reinvigorated music in public schools. It was so gratifying. It was one of the best roles I’ve gotten to play. I fall at the feet of (producer) Ryan Murphy and (writer) Ian Brennan.”

Lynch will wrap up her tour Dec. 20.

“For the first time in 30 years, I’m going to be staying in L.A. (for Christmas),” she said. “We’ve ordered a silver aluminum Christmas tree. We’re going to put up lights and have some of my family come out and see how Christmas goes in L.A.”

The tour represents a break in her acting career — not counting the aforementioned onstage buffoonery.

She recently played a gay-to-straight conversion camp counselor on the rebooted comedy “Will & Grace.”

“If you look up a lot of these conversion camps and the people preaching that you can change (orientation) … they are so clearly gay themselves,” she said. “The writers of ‘Will & Grace’ just took that and ran with it.”

Lynch has played characters who are at ease with their sexuality in movies from “40-Year-Old Virgin” to “Role Models” to “A Mighty Wind.”

“I think it’s a response to — because I’ve actually looked into this for myself — I was very uptight sexually as a young person,” she said. “I was embarrassed easily. Then, of course I’m gay, and I was hiding that. Any talk of sex made me so uncomfortable.”

Lynch has long gotten over that shyness and now finds people who are sexually uninhibited to be fascinating character studies.

“I gravitate toward those large displays of sexual confidence,” she said.

Audiences in Seattle won’t be hearing the “Guatemalan Love Song,” sung by her sexually aggressive character to an uncomfortable Steve Carell in “40-Year-Old Virgin.”

But she will be performing it at a concert in Nebraska in 2018.

Lynch said she pulled the song’s lyrics from a Spanish lesson she recalled from high school.

“I just lifted those lines as if my character understood what they meant which, obviously, she does not,” she said. “It’s about a son being told by his mother to clean his room. And he says no, I have to go to a football game.”

Lynch’s repertoire isn’t limited to comedy. She tackles the occasional drama. Earlier this year, she played Janet Reno on “Manhunt: Unabomber.”

Lynch had long admired the former attorney general, who died in 2016.

“I thought she was really straightforward and functioned completely independently,” Lynch said of Reno. “She had so much on her desk at that time. She had Whitewater, she had the Oklahoma bombing, the Branch Davidians and then Ted Kaczynski. I thought she was remarkable.”

In addition to her acting and stage gigs, Lynch is the host of “Hollywood Game Night” on NBC. The secret to getting celebrities to loosen up? Ply them with alcohol.

“In the beginning, we ran into some issues,” Lynch said of the cocktail-infused guests. “People got loaded. Which came back to bite us in the butt.”

The never-ending alcohol was slowed down.

“Now, if they ask for another drink, we’ll give it to them,” Lynch said. “And it does help to be a little lubricated.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

‘A Swingin’ Little Christmas’

Who: Jane Lynch with Kate Flannery and Tim Davis accompanied by the Tony Guerrero Quintet.

When: 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 29 and Nov. 30).

Where: The Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle.

Tickets: $55-$80.