Jane Lynch is one of those actors that didn’t get a big break until her late 30s, the first thing I remember her being in was Best in Show (when she was 40) even though I’ve seen her actual first movie role- The Fugitive- a dozen times. This whole book is basically the story of her growing up and hustling her way into pop culture permanence as Sue Sylvester from Glee.
Lynch was brought up in a suburb of Chicago as the middle child of her Irish Catholic parents who brought her up in a household full of singing, laughing and booze. Her parents threw parties constantly and didn’t bat an eye lash when their high-schooler joined in. She was caught relighting and smoking a cigarette butt at 12 and was applauded for taking to it so well. Lynch realized at a young age she was gay:
‘Sometimes,’ Jill said, ‘you’ll see boys holding hands with each other on the beach, instead of with girls. It’s because they’re gay.’ They could already procure a tone of scandal and disgust, as if the subject were the sexual proclivities of circus freaks. I just stood there in shock. Oh my god, I thought, that’s what I have. I’m the girl version of that.
Being in the closest was a hardship for Jane, it pushed away friendships and when she finally got to college (where her parents couldn’t see her) she had a relationship with an older woman that eventually led to a series of non-serious, short term relationships. here were no great romances in Jane’s younger years. Jane eventually came out to her parents in a letter encouraged by her therapist, she was in her 30s, and she came out to love and support.
Jane was never a serious student but earned good grades at Illinois State once she switched to an acting major and eventually won scholarships to get her MFA at Cornell. Post-graduation Jane worked at an HSN-style show that really taught her the improvisation skills that would lead her to Second City. She never made it into the main cast, she was an understudy, and she eventually left. There were several jobs and several cities in Lynch’s early years (primarily Chicago, New York and LA)- it would take forever to list them
all and if you’re interested in her early career her book is very thorough and entertaining in explaining all she did to get where she is
now. A lot of it involved never saying no.
One early job was a parody of the Brady Bunch in which Jane played Mrs. Brady. The show was a big success but she was surrounded by 20 year olds (she was in her 30s at this point) and drinking like them too. She realized at this time in her life that she had a drinking problem. She drank Miller Tall Boys every night and partied hard after her Brady shows. She eventually went to AA and has been sober since 1992. Her story of sobriety was probably the most interest to me because it was unexpected, she got sober before she got famous so you never really hear about it.
Once she met Christopher Guest, through two chance encounters, she became one of his more regular fixtures showing up again in A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration, she also became a bit of a Judd Apatow fixture after her performance in The 40-Year Old Virgin. This is when she came in to the collective conscious of my generation.
And then there was Glee.
There was actually some backstage drama leading up to her “iconic” (for some I suppose) role as Sue Sylvester involving her accepting a crappy pilot- because she can’t say no- days before talking to Ryan Murphy about Glee. We know how it turned out, Glee launched ane Lynch into the pop culture stratosphere winning her an Emmy and a Golden Globe. I watched the first season of Glee, Jane Lynch looks like she is having a great time and Sue Sylvester had some great scenes but it admittedly went off the rails since.
The last section in the book details her relationship with the woman who would become her wife. It would have been a lot more romantic if they weren’t already divorced
I read Jane Lynch’s book because it was loaned to me, it’s not something I would have bought myself since I wouldn’t call myself a fan of hers but it was an interesting read. I’d recommend it to someone who was a fan of Lynch’s or not.