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‘Community’ Star Gillian Jacobs on Christian Ska and Dolly Parton

Gillian Jacobs

Unlike the self-righteous former anarchist she plays on NBC’s meta-comedy Community, Gillian Jacobs maintains a pretty tame lifestyle, heavy on mom-friendly tunes and early bedtimes. But she’s got an eclectic musical past. Jacobs rang up SPIN from Los Angeles, where she is currently working on the show’s fourth season, to reveal the soundtrack to her life. 

What was the last concert you attended?
I saw Wilco at the Wiltern [in Los Angeles] a couple of months ago and they were awesome. I love Wilco. I don’t go to concerts often, so I’ll probably be giving you the dorkiest answers ever. I impressed my mom recently because she heard of Big Freedia and sissy bounce on NPR and she asked if I knew about it. I told her I had been to a Freedia show and it blew her mind! When you can impress your mom by saying you’ve been to someone’s concert you know you’re pretty lame.

What was the first concert you went to?
When I was in junior high my aunt offered me tickets to a Sarah McLachlan concert and I was scared to go because I was afraid that people would be doing drugs. So I turned them down. Then I decided I could make it through a Barenaked Ladies show. I remember wearing overalls and it being very uncomfortable.

Growing up, did your parents object to anything you listened to?
There were definitely bands and musicians I liked that drove my mother insane. I probably liked them all the more for it! Björk drove my mom nuts. What I listened to was actually pretty mom-friendly for the most part. I wasn’t very rebellious. 

Do you remember what you were listening to the first time you smoked pot?
I’ve never smoked pot in my life.

Yes, seriously. See, I told you I’d give the lamest answers! This is going to be one palette-cleanser of an interview.

Well, how about the song you associate with your first kiss?
Oh, God. He was like, a fundamentalist Christian during middle school. He was really into Christian ska at the time. So yes, I associate my first kiss with Christian ska.

Was there skanking afterwards?
That’s the dance with the kind of kicks and throwing your arms back and forth? No skanking — just getting down with some ska for the Lord.

If you were to curate a festival, who would be on the bill?
It would be a weird festival that I would make sure was over early at night. I love Robyn and definitely some Stevie Wonder. Probably Wilco and I’d put Donald Glover [a.k.a., her Community costar Childish Gambino] in there. Oh, and I’d have a Pharcyde reunion and everything would be wrapped up by 7 p.m.

Speaking of co-workers, who has musical taste similar to yours on-set?
Definitely Danny Pudi. Sometimes we go in his trailer and listen to ’90s rap, especially when our energy levels are really dipping. We’ll put on Biggie or N.W.A or Public Enemy. It’s just us two, dancing and rapping.

Whose music has helped you over a breakup?
I used to like to make myself sad so I would listen to Bill Callahan as Smog. I listen to a lot of Smog and Robyn. “Dancing on My Own” is actually a really sad song! It has totally made me cry.

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
Probably something like Dolly Parton, even though she’s got crazy range and I have none. I’d do “Jolene” so everyone could sing along and cover the fact that I have a terrible voice.

What song would you want played at your funeral?
That’s a real tough question. I think some Philip Glass. It’s a bit unexpected, so it would stun people out of being sad and they’d just pay attention to the music!