A Swingin' Little Kitsch-mas
Jane Lynch and Friends Deck the Festive Halls with Music and Comedy

By Lee Valentine Smith

Actress Jane Lynch may be best known for her role in the popular television series Glee, but she's also a busy, multi-tasking singer-dancer-comedian. Currently on tour with Kate Flannery (The Office), Tim Davis and the Tony Guerrero Quintet, her Swingin' Little Christmas tour is on the road with a bus-load of kitschy goodness, corny jokes and heartfelt holiday tunes.

Based on her 2016 album of the same name, released on the upstart Kitschtone Records label, Lynch is crisscrossing the country with an impressive itinerary that includes two stops in Georgia.

Recently, as the troupe headed by bus from Kansas City to Chicago, Lynch checked in with INsite by phone from her cozy bunk.

Last time you were in town, you were on the "See Jane Sing" bill at Symphony Hall. Was that cabaret show the catalyst for the current "Swingin' Little Christmas" album and tour?

Yes, we were doing that and then the amazing Tony Guerrero [musician-songwriter, Kitschtone Records label mogul and musical director for the tour] had an idea to do a Christmas album. We put it together and released it in 2016. It did really well that year, then again in 2017 and it's still doing fantastic now. So here we are, touring the music. We've made a little show out of it and we're on the bus with shows all over the country.

Now you're living like a rock star on a ten-hour, cross-country drive.

We are! I'm in my little bunk with the curtains drawn. We just had lunch at Cracker Barrell and now we're on the way to Chicago.

Talk about road food - and kitsch!

It was delicious, though. There's nothing like their gravy. It's such a throw-back place.

Do you enjoy bus life? Some people hate it.

It's a novelty for sure. I don't think it'll be my favorite thing in the world, but I love these people and we're all having fun. We've been doing this since 2015, so we know each other pretty well by now. And Tony is the most creative person I've ever met. We've been "taking meetings" about what else we can do with this idea because it's so right for other expressions in other platforms.

Since the album continues to build interest annually, where do you see the concept heading?

The great thing about Christmas music is that it endures. If you embrace a particular arrangement of a Christmas song and it becomes part of your life, then you'll come back every year for it. That's the potential of it. Christmas albums do come and go, but I think ours will endure because of the style it was created in. Hopefully it'll endure as strongly as something Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, Rosemary Clooney or Perry Como did. That's the hope anyway.

This show would be great for a television special. Have you explored that idea?

We did try to do that, but we didn't get any nibbles, so we kind of let that go.

In the Christmas vein, there's also a great holiday video of you and Dick Van Dyke from last year. A new holiday song.

Yes! It's another composition by Tony, called "We're Going Caroling." I sang back-up. We did a little video for it. It's on the Kitschtone You Tube channel and I think it's very sweet.

What was it like working with such a cornerstone of television and entertainment in general?

He's such a great man. He's alive and thriving and he just loves performing. I grew up with The Dick Van Dyke Show. That was my first conscious memory of a television show.

Did you mention that to him?

(Laughs) I probably blurted that out at some point.

Have you expanded into merchandise for this tour? I'm hoping you have some appropriately kitschy ornaments for sale at the table.

Right now, the merch we have is the CD and we're selling a lot of them after the shows for sure. I had to call my partner and have her ship a big box of them via cargo because we ran out! But we're kinda zen about it. You might be the only person who'd want an ornament with our faces on it.

You never know. But Christmas can be kitschy without even trying sometimes, and you're probably examining that side of it during the live show.

Oh, you mean like can it be corny? Yeah, that's pretty much inherent in it. And for that we've got Kate Flannery. She's our corny. She's like all of your dad's jokes.

You and Kate work so well together as a team. You're turning into a modern-day, cabaret style Hope and Crosby.

Thank you for saying that! We do have our particular ways of doing things. But I think I'd probably be Crosby and she'd be Hope.

You and Kate are obviously best-known by many from your various television roles. I was talking with your former Glee co-star Matthew Morrison a while back about the whole 'familiarity of TV' syndrome. Once you've been on a popular show, you've achieved a rare intimacy with people. People feel like they know you. There's a bond from TV that film or even live performances just can't equal.

Exactly, yeah. You've basically been in their homes. I remember I've felt that way, too. When I first got to L.A., I'd be at a party, sitting next to somebody and I'd go, 'Hey, did we go to high school together?' They'd be like, 'No, I'm on Knott's Landing.'

Since they think they know you, do people come up and share things that maybe they shouldn't?

I haven't experienced much of that. But you know who does get that - and is so good with it, too? Carol Burnett. Everybody feels like they know her. I did a movie with her and she played my mother on Glee. I've seen people come up to her and she ends up holding them in her arms as they're crying while they tell her a story.

Besides television, you're covering a number of media platforms with your current work.

It's all over the place. "The Marvelous s Mrs. Maisel is on Amazon, The Good Fight is on CBS All Access, Hollywood Game Night is network and "Wreck It Ralph," of course, is an animated theatrical movie. Everybody's hungry for content and there are just so many platforms now.

Is that the biggest change you've seen in the industry?

Yeah, and I can't even keep up with it. I'm to the point where I just don't watch anything. But it is a golden age. People like Reece Witherspoon and Julia Roberts are doing limited series shows. I think it really speaks to the quality of the product; a lot more people are doing television now. Movies, you know, they can come and go and at this point-in-time, instead of going to a movie theater, we can just open our computers and binge watch things on HBO or Netflix. But I'm not throwing away movies or anything like that, because I do still love going to a movie theater.

Nothing beats that moment when the lights go down and the big screen comes alive. You can't get that experience while looking at a laptop or a phone.

I love it! I don't do it enough but every time I go, every trailer that comes on, 'Oh I want to see that!' I love getting the giant Diet Coke and popcorn and Raisinetes or something. And I love going alone, just as a spur of the moment thing. 'Ah, I'm gonna go see a movie.' It's still an event. I don't want to see that on my phone.

You can't see your Swingin' Christmas show on the phone.

That's right, it's all live on stage and it's all us. We have the same cast of characters as before, but this time we're doing a Christmas show with all-new outfits and all-new jokes.

In addition to all of your film, TV and live work, you've done a few cool short films. That's also a popular format right now.

Yes, short film festivals are all over the country now. I just did a couple recently. I did one called "The Play." I have a very small part in it; it's my friend Paul Witten's short. It's being submitted to festivals now, I think. It's about a friend going to see another friend in a play and it's all very avant-garde and weird and it's about how hard it is to say you actually enjoyed it afterwards. Then it turns into a horror film. They end up killing everybody!

Jane Lynch and her Swingin' Little Christmas troupe arrive in Atlanta for two shows at City Winery on Saturday, December 22. Showtimes are 7 and 10 p.m. The night before - on Friday, December 21 - they'll do one show at 7:30 p.m. in Athens at the UGA Performing Arts Center. For more information, please visit citywinery.com/atlanta.

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