Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (audio)

This book hit a sweet spot for me, which is always great. Based on what I'd heard about this book, and the popularity of it when it was new, I was pretty sure I'd like it. But it's also great, when you're not in a very sure place yourself, to read about a successful celebrity who also is unsure of herself, who has screwed up, who will never be as thin as Hollywood wants, who's had to write a lot of her own roles if she wants to have any role at all, and who has had a couple of big flops. It's reassuring to read about a real, relatable, flawed person, rather than the shiny, perfect veneer many celebrities try to convey. Even better when it's also funny.

And Mindy Kaling is of course, quite funny. We all know this from her role as Kelly Kapoor from The Office. But did you know she was also often a writer, producer, and director on the show? (And no, those weren't shows that were Kelly-heavy but the opposite in fact—if you're acting a lot in an episode you can't also be directing or producing.) I haven't watched her new show but now I'm really tempted to search it out.

As a traditional memoir, the first half of the book was about her childhood. Her parents were strict but not overly so, she had good friends, she was pudgy even as a kid, she got teased, and she found her love for comedy (not necessarily in that order.) Then halfway through, she moves to New York City (in a chapter hilariously—to me— titled "I Love New York... Which Kind of Likes Me Back.") where she had an internship on Conan O'Brien's show when she was in college but was disasterous at, and it took years for her to get anything off the ground. Eventually she and a friend wrote a play based on Ben Affleck and Matt Damon which they starred in, which won a bunch of awards and was wildly popular. She got an agent, got some meetings, and finally moved to Hollywood where she was friendless aside from the transvestites in her neighborhood. Her first big break ended up failing in a big way. She and the same friend wrote a script called Mindy and Brenda that was supposed to be a riff on Lavergne and Shirley, and much to her shock she was then expected to audition for the role of Mindy... and didn't get it. Brenda didn't get cast as Brenda either. When the show failed, she was relieved, even though that was bad for her career.

But she kept plugging away and she got on The Office as a writer. She also became a writer on Saturday Night Live where she got to meet Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. And things finally started going well. She nearly got fired one day from The Office after she wouldn't back down on a debate with her boss about an element of the show, so it's kind of nice that even after she became successful that didn't suddenly mean she suffered no missteps, and no stumbles of her own doing.

I will be definitely getting her follow-up book! This was a lot of fun and exactly what I was looking for. Her narration was also excellent, although it's another example of a book that had photos that were not given to the audiobook listeners. Tina Fey's book managed to get that right (with a PDF download of the photo insert) so I don't really understand why other publishers can't do that. But it sounds like they were on the silly side, so not a big deal to miss.

I downloaded this eaudiobook via Overdrive through my local library.

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