If the name Mindy Kaling rings a bell, you’re likely a fan of “The Office,” where she plays ditzy Kelly Kapoor. What I didn’t know until recently is that Kaling is also one of the show’s writers — in fact, she’s behind some of my favorite episodes, including “The Injury,” where Michael Scott burns his foot on a George Foreman grill. Last fall in The New Yorker I read an excerpt from her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), and immediately put the book on my to-read list.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is primarily a collection of personal essays, some short, some long. Kaling shares memories of showing Monty Python to her uncomprehending high school pals, tells us about her years sharing a tiny apartment with her two BFFs in New York, and explains how she landed a junior writing job on the unpromising-looking reboot of a beloved British sitcom. I would like to send her essay on why it’s OK to be overlooked in high school to every teenage girl I know. She also tells us a lot about her love of shopping, an annoying incident at an LA cupcake bakery, and why she’s avoided one-night stands (she’s afraid of being murdered, like all of those people on Law & Order: SVU. I can relate).
The book is a lot of fun and I laughed out loud at least once per chapter. However, I finished Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? wishing that it had just a little bit more depth. I think I was unconsciously comparing Kaling’s book with another recent memoir/essay collection by a TV writer: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which I read last year and loved. Kaling saw the Bossypants comparison coming, as we can see from this fake Q&A in her Introduction:
This sounds OK, but not as good as Tina Fey’s book. Why isn’t this more like Tina Fey’s book?
I know, man. Tina’s awesome. I think she may have every major international trophy for excellence except a Heisman. (She might actually have an honorary Heisman. I should check.) Unfortunately, I can’t be Tina, because it’s very difficult to lure her into a Freaky Friday-type situation where we could switch bodies, even though in the movies they make it look so easy. Believe me, I’ve tried. (5)
Like she said, Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey are very different people, and I suspect that each author achieved exactly the tone she was going for. Regardless, Bossypants set the bar pretty high. While Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? made me giggle and want to call my best college pals, Bossypants made me howl with laughter and then want to go out into the world and kick ass. Kaling’s book is entertaining; Fey’s both entertained and inspired me.
But don’t let the comparison dissuade you from checking out Kaling’s book. If you’re looking for a light, entertaining read, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a great choice. It won’t change your life but it will make you laugh.
Rating: Library Loan