by Samantha Rullo
Known to most as Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s “The Office,” (as well as a writer and executive producer to the show), Mindy Kaling has now become an honest-to-God author. In her first book, Kaling not only recounts how she got to her current job, but shares some of her own insights, advice, and random musings.
“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” begins, after a very clever FAQ-style introduction, in Kaling’s childhood, immediately bringing up some of the book’s themes, including her constant weight struggles, social life, and experiences with comedy. She effortlessly weaves modern comparisons and hilarious pop culture references with embarrassing tales from her childhood, instantly making it clear that while she may be more confident and successful now, she really hasn’t changed too much.
The book is split into sections, each focusing on a specific theme or time in her life. Her remembrances are funny mainly because they are filled with such truth—anyone who has ever struggled while living in New York can relate to her apartment issues and observations of city life.
Throughout the book, Kaling occasionally takes a break from the narrative of key points in her life to offer a sort of list. For example, in the New York chapter, we are presented with an index of “Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities.” As entertaining as stories from her life are, these lists are welcome interruptions; they are short, quick sections that easily make the reader laugh with each new item.
The book is filled with these quick interjections, on topics from imagined TV show premises, to tips for guys on how to be attractive. One of Kaling’s best is “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real,” a hilarious take on the common characters found in classic chick-flicks.
After regaling us with tales of her New York days, Kaling goes on to discuss her more recent life in Hollywood, sharing her experiences on “The Office” and a guest writing stint on “Saturday Night Live.” The last few sections of the book deal less with Kaling’s life, as the author provides more general observances on life for a girl living in today’s society. For instance, she takes time to discuss the issues of dating and appearance, and muses about what it’s like to be a normally sized woman in an industry that wants only the thinnest—a refreshing take on a popular topic.
The book ends far too soon—indeed, it would be easy to go on reading many more of Kaling’s insights, as they are all relatable and funny, even as they present an earnest message of self-confidence.
What with Kaling’s status as a female comedy writer quickly rising to prominence, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” will inevitably be compared to Tina Fey’s “Bossypants.” While there may be some general similarities, it would not do justice to either to simply lump them together as “funny women writers.” These two leading ladies each shine individually, each comfortable in their own realm of comedy.
Kaling isn’t afraid to poke fun at her own life, and her book serves as a combination of advice and encouragement, sharing the lessons that she has learned so far in her career—and as a bonus, it will make you laugh. While the main audience may be women, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” can be enjoyed by anyone who likes comedy. Kaling’s goal with her memoir—as with most of her work—is to entertain, and this book, hopefully the first of many, is no exception.
Samantha Rullo is a contributing writer. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.