11.03.11

Mindy Kaling's Life Outside 'The Office'

As her new book hits shelves, Mindy Kaling talks to Jessica Bennett about the Kim Kardashian divorce, women in comedy, and her next role—as an OB-GYN.

There are certain things that Kelly Kapoor would do that Mindy Kaling would not. A couple: Fake a pregnancy for attention. Write a letter of support to Jennifer Aniston.

Then, of course, there are things that Kelly (the ditzy, pop-culture-obsessed customer-service rep on NBC’s The Office) and Mindy (the 32-year-old Emmy-nominated writer/actress/producer who plays her) would both do. They would both star in a music video. (Most likely something involving Rihanna.) They’d both go to goop.com every day. (That’s the Gwyneth Paltrow site.) And they’d definitely both have something to say about the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries split. “It’s kind of like overwhelming my entire life,” Kaling laughs. She’s been called Tina Fey’s cool little sister. “Like, in a good way and a bad way.”

Boy, she sounds a lot like Kelly.

Kaling’s new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), is a cross between memoir and bite-size Twitter musings, of which Kaling has many. It chronicles her lifelong weight-loss battle, why being popular in high school doesn’t matter, as well as why she doesn’t have a sex life (because of Law & Order SVU). It’s funny, witty, and, as the New York Times put it, Nora Ephron-esque. It also might remind you a lot of Kaling’s denim body-suit wearing character. As the book hits shelves, the author talked toThe Daily Beast about the real Mindy Kaling. Excerpts:

TDB: So, seriously. What do you mean the Kardashians are overwhelming your life?

Kaling: I went on The View this morning and Kris Kardashian was there, you know, talking about the divorce. My friends, the drivers in my cars, people on the street, my parents, my family, my coworkers, everybody wants to talk about it. I mean, the fact that my parents like maybe know the difference between Kendall and Khloe Kardashian is amazing to me.

They really do?

I think they might.

Do you watch it?

When I work out. It’s like my treat for working out.

Who’s your favorite Kardashian sister?

This is like not an original answer, but I like Kim. But when people ask who your favorite Kardashian is and you say Kim, you like Kim, it’s like saying you like Charlie Brown as your favorite Peanut.

When did you find time to write a book? You write about working 16-hour days.

One of the ways I unwind is by writing—and I’ll often do it in the form of an email to myself. So when I get home at night, I’ll open up an email, and I’ll put the date in the subject heading, and I’ll write myself something funny that happened or an observation I had. And that’s sort of how it started.

What’s your favorite way to waste time when you’re supposed to be writing?

I love online shopping. Online browsing more than anything. I don’t have an iPhone, which is good, because I love apps and games and things like that. Like I know there’s crazy shopping apps, and I’d be bankrupt.

Did you always know you wanted to do comedy?

I was always writing, even as a really little kid, like 5 or 6, I would write little plays on my parents’ typewriter. But I didn’t know it was comedy really until like high school.

Who were your role models as a teen?

I loved Conan O’Brien, Claire Danes, and for some reason was really invested in the careers of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

On the very last page of the book, you answer the question many were wondering about:  why, throughout the course of 240 pages, you didn’t address the women can’t be funny debate. Why didn’t you?

Well, I guess like I write in the book, I just think it’s a kind of antiquated notion. Like even bringing it up, or even discussing it, would be like an approval that it’s a legitimate debate.

Do you think male and female comedy is different?

I don’t think there’s a difference. Funny is funny. I think men loved Bridesmaids even though it was an almost all-female cast.

You have a section in the book on what guys need to do to be great. (Use Kiehl’s, wear a peacoat, do the dishes. In other words, almost nothing.) What do girls need to do to be great?

Oh man, I wish I knew the answers to that. I’d be Oprah and Kate Middleton combined.

You have a chapter on female archetypes in romantic comedies: the klutz; the sassy best friend; the woman who works in an art gallery. What would your archetype be?

Ha! Maybe the girl who goes to sleep in the same clothes she goes to work in, with a can of Diet Coke by her bed?

“It’s kind of like overwhelming my entire life,” Kaling says of the Kardashian-Humphries split.

You write that you love magazines. What’s your favorite?

I read Sassy, and liked it a lot. I mostly read magazines that would come to my mom’s office at work, which, because she’s an OB-GYN, were, like Parenting, Ladies’ Home Journal, Glamour, and Entertainment Weekly.

An OB-GYN! So did you read Our Bodies, Ourselves too?

There’s definitely a copy of that floating around in my house. I didn’t mind the book. But those photographs, oh, God, the awkwardness.

You signed a development deal a few years ago for your own sitcom. Is that still in the works?

I have a new deal with NBC that is to write a pilot for them for me to star in. I’m still figuring it out, but I think I will play an OB-GYN, like my mom.