Mindy Kaling: An in-depth interview about her book, childhood, shoes, and homemade sashimi

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The chapter “Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities” … totally refrigerator door and email friendly.
Oh, good! I’m hoping that a legion of girls will print that out and give it to their friends who are going off to college. That would be a joy.

It’s like your best friend version of “A Mother’s Prayer” by Tina Fey.
Yeah, that was so great!

The parts about the little things guys have to do to become great is fantastic and instructive. Do you think the world would be a better place if guys just followed those rules?
[Laughs] I don’t know if the world would be a better place, but I think there would be more, like, superficially awesome guys. Those are just like, to me, very no-brainer things, but you know, those are supposed to be semi-tongue-in-cheek. I sort of was like worried that the book would have this tone of condescending, sassy advice-giver. I barely have my shit together, so for me to be telling guys how to be … I did think that there are enough guys on my staff who ask me questions about, again, superficial stuff. I mean, this isn’t what makes a person good, but I felt like, you know, I could probably impart at least my point of view of what makes an outwardly pleasing guy. [Laughs]

I’m wearing Chuck Taylors right now so I feel good about myself.
You are? So am I!

You inspired me to throw out my old ones, because you say to replace them every year.
Mine just start smelling bad. They’re not even dirty. When Chuck Taylors start to smell, it’s just all over.

Yeah, and I have those laceless ones that you’re not supposed to wear socks with, so those get super-funky.
Yeah, I love those. But those do get gross, my brother has a pair of those.

I love the concept of “Irish Exits” — when you leave a party without announcing your departure — that you introduce in this book. It’s such the noncommittal sort of thing people of our generation do. I’ve done it.
Oh, good! I’m so happy. I always feel so bad for when I leave a place. I feel like it’s rude, what I’m technically doing is rude, but everyone should be doing this. You should never have to say hello or goodbye. Even at work sometimes, and I know this is very unpopular, is that if I’m going to work every single day, I don’t think you should have to hug people hello every single day when you come to work. I saw you Monday! We said hello and talked about our weekend. We don’t have to say hello every morning.

I love that you point out that guys put on shoes slowly, including myself. It’s not something I’d ever think of, but it’s so true.
Are your sisters or mom ever like, “Come on, are you kidding? Why is it taking you so long to go?” I found it to be true. Every man I’ve ever known in my life. I wasn’t sure if that was going to be true with other people.

Let me give you my reason. Honestly, for me, I think it’s like super-laziness. There are so many things that girls have to do to get ready that could take a long time, but they’re used to it so they just do it quickly, but for guys there’s so little we’re required to do that we’re spoiled. Even putting on your shoes can be a nuisance: leaning down, sitting down and lacing them up. I kind of procrastinate doing it sometimes, and that’s why I do it so slowly. It’s really sad but true.
That’s really interesting. It’s like a relaxation time for guys?

I honestly feel like when I’m lacing up my shoes, even though it should take one minute, I’m like, “Oh, I should be entertained right now. Maybe I can watch a YouTube clip while I’m doing it.”
That’s so funny. That’s hilarious. So you like settle in when you’re doing your laces. You’re like this is a chunk of your day.

Sort of. It’s sort of the same reason guys feel the need to do something else while sitting on the toilet. Otherwise, it’s like wasted time. But one thing I noticed while getting lunch at the salad bar just now: Women are really slow about choosing food. They really need that one far-away piece of chicken, even if they end up ripping it apart with the tongs by the time they get it back to their plate.
I’ll use the disclaimer of this being sexist, just the way I did in my book about the guys and shoes, that women are the same way with ordering food at restaurants. It’s like an epidemic. I don’t think this used to be the case, either. I don’t think it used to be fine to spend like 15 minutes ordering food and to ask questions. There’s been a change about what’s acceptable when you’re ordering food. Especially in L.A., you’re considered weird if you eat from the menu as presented.

I loved the chapter about your revenge fantasies while jogging, the stories you make up in your head to motivate you. That made me laugh out loud.
Music alone won’t do it anymore. I have to like get lost in my run because I kind of don’t love exercising, so I really do need to trick myself.

Is that what gets you going in general? Pulling stories out of nowhere?
Completely. I’ve always just gotten lost in things like that. I really do have a big chip on my shoulder, just as a writer and as a person, so those kinds of stories, revenge fantasies, those Kill Bill type things, that especially resonates for me because it’s so theatrical and it’s so over-the-top. It’s very little kiddish of me, but I feel a lot of people are like that, though. We always invent these things where we’re the protagonist in the story and we’re being mistreated, and it motivates us. I think you don’t even have to be a comedy writer or an actor. That’s a big motivation, when everyone is not believing you or the chips are down, it’s like Friday Night Lights. At least it works for me, to motivate me to do anything.

Even though you have different styles, you do cover some of the same topics as Tina Fey does in Bossypants: body image, roles for women in Hollywood, being an assertive female in a very male-dominated field, loving Amy Poehler. Do you think those similarities are inevitable, since you guys are in a very rarefied group of comedy writer-performers?
I definitely think that one of the main reasons that Tina’s book resonated for me and so many other people who read it is that she just writes about being herself as any creative person would, but then also to be a NBC actress and television writer [laughs] there’s such a huge overlap in terms of our actual jobs. So yeah, we’re both in a very small group of writer-performers on NBC [laughs] who are writing for their own characters who are also like, homeowners or whatever — I don’t know what else there is. We both went to an east-coast college, were raised by strict but loving parents. Our experiences on paper … aliens wouldn’t be able to tell us apart. [Laughs] But I think that we’re just going to be kind of seeing more and more of that. You would look at Ed Helms and Steve Carell and see the same thing, you know? You’re just seeing a whole lot more female writers who are writing for themselves. Like Lena Dunham also, a performer in her own web serial and stuff. I am hoping that Tina and I seem similar, but that it’s kind of just a beginning of an enormous flow of people who are. Even like Whitney Cummings for Whitney, she is the EP and she wrote the pilot. I was 24 in 2004 when this started, but I think I’m at the beginning of a wave of a lot of people who are coming up in Hollywood as writers-slash-actors.

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