The Parks and Recreation star talks about growing up as Hollywood royalty, hanging with Michael Jackson and going nude in the Apple store.
Q1PLAYBOY: You star on Parks and Recreation and have roles in three movies this year, including this season’s The Big Year. And didn’t you go to Harvard? We’re all slackers by comparison, you realize.
JONES: It’s just who I am, I guess. I came out of the womb reading books and thinking about my next project. I’m a born nerd. There’s also this thing of wanting to make your parents proud.
PLAYBOY: But with parents like Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton, shouldn’t you be lounging around your pool all day?
JONES: Look, I have parents who have accomplished so much. I have a father who came from nothing and conquered the world. The last thing I’m going to do is sit here and spend his money and try to look pretty. That’s not interesting to me at all. I’ve been acting professionally for 15 years, and I’ve had to prove myself. Someone may think, Oh, everything was handed to her, but it doesn’t really work that way. The nice thing about comedy in particular is that it’s a meritocracy. Funny people aren’t going to have you around because you know other people. You have to make people laugh.
PLAYBOY: Who makes you laugh?
JONES: Aziz Ansari is so funny, though nobody thinks he’s funnier than Aziz. He’ll ruin a take because he’s laughing at himself. I love that man. The Inappropriate Yoga Guy from YouTube is such an asshole in the funniest way. I also love the guy behind the My Son Is Gay? video. Crazy fun.
PLAYBOY: With all the improv on Parks and Rec, does the comedy tend to devolve into we-can’t-say-that-on-TV territory?
JONES: Often. We do something called fun runs. Once we have the scene in the can, we get an opportunity to do whatever comes into our heads. My patented move is to do a penis joke. In an episode of Parks and Rec last season, Amy Poehler’s and Adam Scott’s characters are going on a road trip together, and she wants to make it as unsexy as possible so she can avoid having feelings for him. I say, “Why don’t you make him a mix tape with, like, German glockenspiel music and Roosevelt’s great speeches on it?” Then I say, “Why don’t you ask him about his penis?”
PLAYBOY: Wait. What’s unsexy about a penis?
JONES: Well, A, everything, and B, it’s the last thing a guy wants a woman to be talking about when they’re on an awkward business trip together. They ended up keeping the line in the episode.
PLAYBOY: You’re single. Do men constantly hit on you?
JONES: On New Year’s Eve this guy came up to me really drunk and was like, “Oh my God, I love you. This is the best night of my life. I can’t believe I’m seeing you. This is amazing.” Then he goes, “What’s your name?” So that didn’t work out. We’re not getting married.
PLAYBOY: You’ve said in the past you’re not a big fan of marriage. Do you still feel that way?
JONES: This whole marriage-monogamy thing, in some ways, hasn’t worked for everybody. Statistically it’s pretty clear, since half of couples stay married. And then, of the people who are married, at least 25 percent have admitted to cheating. I think in the next 50 years relationships and intimate relationships will be redefined, because they have to be. I don’t know about polyamory and polygamy, but something’s going to shift. There are so many options now, so many outlets for people to meet and get together, so many distractions. I imagine we’ll get to a point where we can have meaningful relationships that are finite. We don’t get married till death do us part.
PLAYBOY: You play a bird-watcher in The Big Year. Did that require special training?
JONES: I had a bird-calling coach because I had to learn birdcalls. Turns out it’s one of those weird gifts that come naturally to me. It just came chirping out of my throat. I was hitting all these crazy Minnie Riperton high notes and started making all these shrieking sounds. If you can squawk into that two-octave-up, Mariah Carey range, which I somehow managed to do, bird callers think you’re some kind of god.
PLAYBOY: Any other secret talents?
JONES: I don’t know. Something that’s not completely nerded out? Not really. My activities tend to revolve around crossword puzzles, reading and playing piano and games with my friends. I enjoy traveling. Oh my God, I sound like Miss September. Turn-ons: crosswords and long walks on the beach. That’s hot!
PLAYBOY: You seem so wholesome. Were you ever really bad?
JONES:Well, in high school I never drank, I never smoked, I never smoked weed. I was president of the varsity club and was on the math team and then student government. I was in every activity. I saved all the bad stuff for college.