It’s hard to choose a favorite supporting character on The Office, but I consistently enjoy the self-absorbed airheadedness of Kelly Kapoor, played perfectly by writer and actress Mindy Kaling. So imagine my excitement when I found out that Mindy was about to release a book of humorous essays called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns. In the book, Mindy tells stories about her childhood, how she dealt with living in New York in her 20s while trying to get discovered, and what it’s really like to work on The Office. There are also a lot of funny and seemingly-random chapters on things like “karaoke etiquette”, why she likes guys with chest hair and her top eleven favorite comedic moments in film and TV. By the end, despite the fact that I was thoroughly entertained, I was mostly sad that Mindy and I aren’t best friends. She writes in such a laid-back, conversational tone and is so relatable despite her fame that it really feels like you’re chatting with one of your good friends.
I find it hard to summarize books like this, so instead, here are a few of my favorite parts and things I learned:
- Mindy wrote my two favorite episodes of The Office: The Injury and The Dundies. If you haven’t seen these, go watch them as soon as you finish reading this so that you can be even more impressed with Ms. Kaling.
- Her views on romantic comedies: “I enjoy watching people fall in love on-screen so much that I can suspend my disbelief for the contrived situations that only happen in the heightened world of romantic comedies….I simply regard romantic comedies as a sub-genre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
- One of my favorite chapters was the incredibly truthful “Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities”, a list of things your best friend is expected to do for you and vice versa. For example, “I will try to like your boyfriend five times” and “I must be 100% honest about how you look, but gentle”.
- Her big break was when Greg Daniels saw her perform in the off-Broadway play that she and a friend wrote called “Matt & Ben”. Mindy played Ben Affleck.
- On being a chubby girl when she was young: “My mom’s a doctor, but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids. In fact she and my dad didn’t mind having a chubby daughter. Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like ‘Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?'”
- And finally, to get herself through a workout on the treadmill, Mindy has to come up with elaborate revenge fantasies to pass the time. I won’t spoil them here, but trust me when I say this chapter is just as funny as it sounds.
This book inevitably gets compared to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (another excellent book that you can read more about here), and while Kaling and Fey are very different women, both have written laugh-out-loud books that I highly recommend.