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Jane Lynch knows her TV game shows.
The Glee star, currently starring in Annie on Broadway, will look to the game show hosts of yesteryear as she hosts NBC’s Hollywood Game Night, a competition series featuring teams of celebrities and contestants competing for prizes and bragging rights. Whether it was the wit with which Bert Convy hosted game shows including The Match Game, Password or even Win, Lose or Draw or the snark that made Hollywood Squares‘ Paul Lynde so amusing, Lynch remembers watching her predecessors walk the fine line between letting the players shine and maintaining order.
Here, the former host of the Emmys and Do Something Awards talks with The Hollywood Reporter about bringing a bit of the past — and Glee‘s Sue Sylvester — to the game show based on Sean Hayes‘ popular game nights.
The Hollywood Reporter: What have you learned from your previous hosting gigs at the Emmys and Do Something Awards that you’ve brought to this?
Jane Lynch: They’re different animals, but hosting is incumbent on you to allow everybody to have the freedom to express themselves and have a good time, just like you would do at a party. This is a party atmosphere, so really all I’m in charge of is making sure that the rules are followed and moving the games along and allowing those wonderful moments of the life of the party, but not me explaining the rules but what happens between the contestants and the celebrities. Letting them have their way with the game and staying the course within the bounds of the rules. Which I enforce.
THR: We’d expect no less from someone who plays Sue Sylvester.
Lynch: (Laughs) Exactly! I’m not blowing whistles, and although it doesn’t look like I’m in control, I am in control of all of it.
THR: What cues have you taken from other TV game show hosts?
Lynch: I remember Gene Rayburn on Match Game, Bert Convy on Tattletales, Super Password and Win, Lose or Draw being very appealing people who really allowed the celebrity players to have fun. Match Game‘s Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Riley and Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares and when you have your host who is the person who makes sure the game doesn’t get too off the rails but allows everybody to have their comic moments and great interaction between the funny people. That’s what my job is. I’m the game show’s Bert Convy.
THR: Have you participated in Sean’s game night before?
Lynch: I have. It was a blast and I loved being a contestant, but I liked hosting even more. I’d go to his parties and Sean would be the host and it was always meticulously controlled and the movement of the night was very choreographed; he left nothing to chance. All that planning made it one of the most fun game nights I’ve ever gone to. He’s really good at being a host and very charming, so when he told me he was doing this, I asked, “Think I could be you?” And before you knew it, I was hosting Hollywood Game Night.
THR: Which celebrity surprised you the most?
Lynch: Martin Short‘s flouting of the rules was fun. He always said something crazy no matter what the rules were, and he always made up his own. Jason Alexander and Josh Gad were rather spirited and together were crazy. Fred Armisen was very quiet and didn’t compete for any attention and just sat in the back and would just out of nowhere say something hilarious. He’s wicked smart and knew the answers to everything. The most gratifying was how everyone showed up to win. No one wanted to lose, no one was a good sport (laughs). Everyone was jumping up and down and high-fiving and throwing failures into the face of their opponents. There is real booze in those drinks of theirs!
THR: Who was the most competitive?
Lynch: The first show we shot was with Dax Shepard, Amy Poehler, Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph and Sean Hayes — the veterans all came together, and it was hilarious and high-spirited and a great way to kick this off. There was a little bit of Parks and Recreation vs. The Office with Angela Kinsey, and Ellie Kemper had a little good-natured run with Amy about how many seasons the shows have had.
THR: Of the games featured, which is the one you wished you could play?
Lynch: I love the game “Do-Do,” where you’re only allowed to use the lyrics “do” in a song and have to guess it based on that. I’m a big “Celebrity” fan and player and am quite good and aggressive, so I get very excited when we play Celebrity, and wish I was playing.
THR: Of your recent work — hosting Hollywood Game Night, doing Annie on Broadway and Glee — which has been the most challenging? Most rewarding?
Lynch: It’s hard to say; they’re all different animals. Hollywood Game Night was such a joy to do, it was easy and ran itself; it was an exercise in surrender and trust, everything just worked beautifully. Annie, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was laid at my feet to rehearse, figure it out so I could just be plugged in without disrupting the whole show. That was really gratifying that I was able to hopefully, seamlessly get into that show and bring something to it and be part of a wonderful ensemble.
THR: How big of a presence will Sue have during season five of Glee? What have you heard about her arc for next season?
Lynch: No idea. We never know anything. We all just either got our contracts modified or picked up. I’m still a regular, yes.
THR: Have you heard from Michael Bolton about what he thinks about being Sue’s baby daddy?
Lynch: I haven’t! I’m not sure he even knows about Glee, but who knows. I hope he’s flattered because that’s what it was meant to be.
Check out an exclusive clip from Hollywood Game Night, below.
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