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.

You might remember him as the sidekick from King of Queens or the voice of Ratatoille. If you’re really on top of it, you recall last year when our fair city was the epicenter of a national stand-up comedy debacle when a community theatre hack mindlessly regurgitated his bits verbatim for profit under the presumption no one would notice.  Or, from a commentary in the last issue of Wired Magazine pronouncing the geek fringe as the status quo.

Patton Oswalt is a genius, master comedic manipulator of the spoken word, dilletante, and highly sought-after nerd-culture commentator.

His NYTimes bestselling latest effort,  Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, features childhood reminisces of Dungeons and Dragons and youth mired in suburban DC no-mans land, custom-crafted in his own inimitable style.   It is a rare feat how he wields his half-orc comedic pen with 20+ melee damage so effortlessly and without the pretension of his contemporaries.

You may also consider checking out any of his spoken word albums.

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson isn’t really a celebrity memoir about the Hollywood life.  It’s the story of a young man, struggling with addiction, who wants nothing more than to get to America.  Beginning with his childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, Ferguson describes the events of his life that made him who he is today, including dropping out of school at age 16, working in construction, becoming a drummer in various bands, and finally making his mark in the acting and comedy worlds.  It was through his career as a drummer that Ferguson first developed a problem with alcohol, which he recounts with much painful detail.

This book is a powerful story about overcoming addiction and working hard to make your dreams come true.  Since he was a child and visited the States with his uncle, all Ferguson wanted to do was move to the United States, and anyone who has seen The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson knows that he did indeed make this happen.  Though he tells a serious story, the book of course has lots of humor and funny moments in it.  I would recommend this book not just for people who enjoy celebrity memoirs, but also for anyone looking for an inspiring story about overcoming the odds and making a better life for yourself.

Sarah Silverman has found herself in some fairly high-profile tussles over the years regarding ironic portrayals of discriminatory language in a comedic setting.  Instead of more of the same, Silverman’s first book recounts these public drubbings over taboo subjects, as well as showing some of her more vulnerable and hurtful formative experiences.  It is refreshing to see what shaped the comedienne so often portrayed as the cruel bully.  But, fans of her show might find the ribaldry stops with the book’s off-color title.

nortonAs a follow up to His #4 New York Times Bestseller Happy Endings, Jim Norton’s latest, I Hate Your Guts, takes the caustic comedian/radio host’s comedy to a simpler and deadly accurate level.   Norton levels the barrels at various public figures with the kind of invective that would make most people blush. Look out Hillary Clinton, Keith Olbermann, Jesse Jackson and Derek Jeter!

If this were a film it would be about two off-ramps past rated R.  Each victim gets rended limb from limb with a several-page salvo of crushing analysis/insults.  Part of you feels badly for them, but when he’s done, you’re pretty sure they must deserve it.