Friday, December 2, 2011

"Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" by Mindy Kaling

Fair or not, Kaling's book is bound to be compared to Tina Fey's Bossypants. In fact, I'm going to compare them. It's hard not to--both women are television comedy writers and actors for popular quirky shows that appear on the same night on NBC, and their books address similar topics (childhood, the entertainment business) through a similar structure. In the end, I enjoyed Fey's book more, though that's not to say Kaling's work is not enjoyable.

Kaling had a reassuringly "good" and average upbringing (nice to be reminded that celebrities tend to start as "one of us"), though her stories of post-college life are funnier. She describes trying to make it in New York (I especially enjoyed her description of her audition for the musical Bollywood Nights) and her recognition with the creation of the play Matt and Ben, which landed her the Office job. She spends a lot of time on her female friendships, relationships which are so close as to have made me a bit jealous.

Kaling and Fey are both willing to make fun of themselves, which I think is essential for any kind of celebrity writer. Nevertheless, you come away from Fey's book thinking, "Damn, that woman is scary competent." On the other hand, I found myself periodically thinking "Wow, Kaling's so lucky to have stumbled onto this Office gig" and then having to correct myself. Obviously Kaling is an intelligent and talented writer who earned her place, but she's so self-deprecating that you begin to doubt it. I think this is a shame.

Kaling is on one of my favorite television shows, and she has written some of its best episodes, but for me, the book only elicited the occasional chuckle. Kaling felt more like a very open friend than a professional comedian (though she'd probably denounce that title), though even so the book left me a bit cold. Nevertheless, the book is slim and a quick read, so I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying it.

P.S. Something I learned from Is Everyone and Bossypants (and everything I've ever seen her in): Amy Poehler is awesome. Where's your book, Amy?

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.

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