Actress Jane Lynch works hard to be funny

The actress snaps when asked if she thinks comediennes like her face double standards at work

Jane Lynch does not like talking about being a comedienne. While others such as Amy Schumer and Amy Poehler fly the feminist flag high on stage and off, Lynch loses her sense of humour if the subject is broached.

At a press conference for her new sitcom, Angel From Hell, where she plays a well-meaning but annoying woman who believes she is a guardian angel, she surprises everyone when she snaps at a reporter who asks if she thinks comediennes face double standards, compared to their male peers.

"I don't ever even think of giving consideration to any of that stuff," says the 55-year-old, looking displeased. "I don't even talk about it ever or even think about it.  I have bigger fish to fry in this life."

The actress, who won a Golden Globe and Emmy for her role in the musical comedy series Glee, would rather talk about her latest project. Her new show debuts in Singapore on Feb 5 (RTL CBS Entertainment HD, StarHub TV Channel 509, 9pm). 

She describes her character on the show,  which has earned solid ratings in the United States despite being panned by critics, as a "loud- mouthed, liquored-up angel".

The show will suggest that the character, Amy, could just be crazy.

Jane Lynch says she did not receive many offers when Glee ended. PHOTO: RTL CBS ENTERTAINMENT

Lynch says: "There'll be a question, like, is this woman crazy or is she is a guardian angel or is she both?"

If she is an angel, she is far from a perfect one. "She is an angel because she is a being of great compassion, but she is also flawed and in the corporate hierarchy of angels, she has been told, 'This is your last chance.  You are really good, you are really talented, but if you blow it this time, you are not going to be an angel anymore.' "

Amy's problem is that she tends to become "too attached to the person she's supposed to be guiding", in this case, an uptight dermatologist named Allison (Maggie Lawson), whom she has been watching over since birth.

"She's a little overzealous. She's just there to help Allison, but she does get into trouble with that because she is clumsy. But her heart is in the right place."

Lynch says that if she were a guardian angel, she would be just like the character, although she adds that, unlike the perpetually drunk Amy, she herself has been sober for 25 years.

"So I used to be a liquor-lover too. Amy doesn't have any shame about it, I had tons of shame around it. I suffered over how much I drank and my life suffered too."

Things seem to be going well for Lynch lately.

Her scene-stealing turn on Glee (2009 to 2015) was a late-career success for the actress, whose role as Sue Sylvester, the brash and bullying cheerleading coach, was her big breakout moment.

She previously had guest roles on TV sitcoms such as 3rd Rock From The Sun (1996) and Two And A Half Men (2004 to 2014), along with supporting parts in comedy films such as Best In Show (2000), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) and Talladega Nights (2006).

Since Glee, she has been hosting gigs at events such as the recent People's Choice Awards and Hollywood Game Night, where celeb- rities compete to play party games.

Lynch, who has won two Emmys for Hollywood Game Night, says it works because the stars are willing to make fools of themselves.

"What's great about it is the guys and girls show up to do the show to have fun. So they know they are there to have a party and there is a 99.9 per cent chance of looking like an idiot and they do it anyway.

"I love that about actors. I love that kind of mining the moment for the most fun you can have."

On being a comedic actor, she says the knack has to be innate but she, like others, works hard at her craft. "I think it's instinctive, but I will practise a moment and sometimes, I almost go too far and I have to bring myself back.

"But I love experimenting with timing and how long you can hold something until you shift to the next beat.  I think anybody who does comedy is, but when you are out there and the camera is rolling, you are basically in your instincts."

Yet despite being a respected comedienne and award-winning actress, she says she did not receive many offers when Glee ended.

"No, the offers were not coming.  Angel From Hell, I think, was the first," says the actress, who divorced her wife Lara Embry, a psychologist, in 2014.

She is not alone in experiencing this; other well-known actresses have described how hard it is to get decent roles in Hollywood, especially after they turn 40.

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood, 2014, and CSI: Cyber, 2015 ), 47, has spoken up about the ageism and sexism that women face in the industry, saying she struggled to find work even after winning an Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy.

At this point, no one dares ask Lynch if she thinks her gender or age may have had something to do with the lack of offers post-Glee.

But she believes there are forces helping her and her career along, even though she does not believe there is an actual guardian angel watching over her.

"I can point to people in my life and moments when they told me something very important, even if they didn't know it on a conscious level," she says.

"So I don't necessarily feel like I need to have a guardian angel. I believe we get all sorts of love and assistance from vibrations we can't even see or feel."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Lynch is no angel'. Print Edition | Subscribe