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Jane Lynch on Balancing Wit and Insults While Hosting Weakest Link

Jane Lynch on Balancing Wit and Insults While Hosting Weakest Link

Chatting with Jane Lynch about The Weakest Link, I set myself up for a dose of the biting humor that keeps audiences tuned in to the NBC game show week after week, when I ask an unfortunately cliché question. “Is there any celebrity guest you’re dying to have on the show?” I quiz. “Not dying to have — I don’t think I’d die for that, Brande,” Lynch says with a hearty laugh.

Sean Hayes is her answer, the actor and friend of Lynch’s responsible for her foray into game show hosting. From 2013-20, she presided over Hollywood Game Night, which Hayes created, at his request.

Hollywood Game Night was a boot camp for game show hosting,” Lynch explains. “I learned how to be pretty good on my feet, pretty nimble, and keep a lot of facts in my head at the same time. Also, you have great writers and a great teleprompter person running your lines. You can depend on the people who are behind the scenes, which is key.”

In September 2020, Lynch began hosting the revival of the American adaptation of Britain’s The Weakest Link — the first U.S. version premiered in 2001 and lasted two seasons — in which contestants attempt to chain as many correct answers together as possible for a cash prize.

“Anne Robinson set a fantastic prototype for me to follow,” Lynch says of the woman who hosted the long-running BBC original and the first U.S. edition. “I just brought my own version of what she does, which, nobody can do what she does. She was such a master.”

Lynch says her approach to running the show, of which she is also an executive producer, is like being a party host, though one you have to stay on your toes around — to a degree.

“None of them are really afraid of me; it’s not like I’m Hannibal Lecter,” she says of the guests. “They know the drill. I’m probably going to say some insulting things, but I think it’s all in good fun. I’ve never seen anybody take it personally.”

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Lynch would also never push the comedic boundaries too far, she notes. “I like making it a safe space for the players so all they have to worry about is playing the game well. I have such adoration for the contestants, too. I don’t know how they do it. I wouldn’t be able to come up with those answers while the clock is ticking and all of America is looking at you. I think it’s a pretty herculean task on their part, and they always step up so superbly.”

Lynch does the same. “What I love about hosting is that it’s about moving the game along,” she says. “I’m a controlling person. I like being in charge.”

This story first appeared in a June standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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