Unlike most famous people, Mindy Kaling is quite alright with being known for one thing, and one thing only: Writing for and acting as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. But, with the release of her memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Kaling has shown that her talent is too great to be relegated to just one sitcom. Her life experience coming up in the world of comedy rivals, yes, that of Tina Fey’s (who also has a similar comedic memoir, Bossypants, addressed by Kaling in the introduction when she notes that people will invariably ask, “This sounds okay, but not as good as Tina Fey’s book. Why isn’t this more like Tina Fey’s book?”). The difference is, Kaling is actually a bit more cutting edge because 1) She doesn’t talk about “being a woman” in the world of comedy and 2) She wants a family, but she doesn’t prattle on about “balancing it all.”
Like any denizen of the east coast/comedy writer aspirant, Kaling headed for New York City after attending Dartmouth. The chapter in which she discusses the highs and lows of this particular period is entitled “I Love New York and It Likes Me Okay.” Like all fresh-faced inhabitants of the city, Kaling had grand dreams of instant success, but, ultimately, after long stretches of doing nothing, babysitting, and botching a few interviews (chiefly, working as a page at NBC, or TBN, as she refers to it), ended up as a production assistant for the show Crossing Over with John Edward, though, in the book, she politely refers to the show as Bridging the Underworld with Mac Teegarden.
Kaling is both vivid and humorous in rehashing her New York struggles. Describing the apartment she lived in with her friends from college, Kaling delineates,
In the summer, feral cats in heat clung onto the screens of our living room, meowing mournfully until we threw a glass of water at them. When it got cold, the roaches migrated in and set up homes in every drain. Sometimes, when I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I would feel a disgusting crackly squelch under my foot, and I’d know I’d have to rinse off a roach from my heel. That was our apartment. We took the bad with the pretty good. Plus, we could afford it, Prospect Park wasn’t too far, and people already assumed we were lesbians, so we fit into the neighborhood right away. It was all good. Until we tried to pursue our dreams.
The candor of her endeavors to succeed in the entertainment business are among the best anecdotes in the book, second only to her assertion of how easy it is to be a dude in the chapter appropriately titled, “Guys Need to Do Almost Nothing to Be Great.” Kaling, who admits to her share of unpleasant dates/relationships, proffers, “Forgive me, but being a guy is so easy. A little Kiehl’s, a little Bumble and Bumble, a peacoat, and Chuck Taylors, and you’re hot.” The truth has been spoken. But Kaling also addresses more important, less shallow truths throughout the book. Like “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real,” a probing account of all the nonsensical, impossible characters in rom-coms that could not exist in real life.
While at times roaming and random, essentially all of Kaling’s observations about life are either accurate (“Why Do Men Put On Their Shoes So Slowly?”) or at least infused with hilarity (“Revenge Fantasies While Jogging”). The collection of reminiscences detailing the various lives Kaling has led is a strong and determined step in the direction toward life after The Office.