Mindy Kaling is getting ready to share the answers of a question she’s long asked: Why Not Me?
The Mindy Project creator previewed her upcoming book at BookCon on Saturday morning at New York City’s Javits Center. Her second collection of comedic essays zooms in on now being “a tiny bit famous,” and figuring out her own work-life balance, especially after watching friends start their own families.
The Hollywood Reporter recaps 6 things to know about Kaling’s upcoming book, as discussed in a BookCon kickoff panel moderated by B.J. Novak:
The title has two meanings. “The first one is the wistful meaning where I’m at an age where a lot of my friends are getting married, and I have a sense of a feeling of being left out,” she explained. “Another side is the ambitious side of me that for my entire life, though no one has ever bared a passing resemblance to me in television or film, why not me? Why can’t I do that?” The voiceover actress of Inside Out then “acted” the title’s dual tones — the latter also being, “Why the F— Not Me?” she joked.
She’s still coming of age. Kaling discusses family, heartache and sorority memories, but it zooms in on her second coming-of-age. “I had a lot of fun in the first book telling people who I was — I wrote it at The Office and it was largely about introducing the world to me and differentiating me from the character in my show,” she said of her 2011 bestseller, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). “I was just excited to be writing a book. … I wanted people to like me, I was excited about the medium.” This time around, “I know now that people like me, so I’m incredibly honest and vulnerable in this book. It’s a little scary, actually, but I think it makes it funnier.” Largely, it’s about the recent times: “It feels like more has happened to me in the past five years than the preceding thirty.”
Hollywood beauty and body image are discussed. One chapter is called, “For the Ladies: How to Look Spectacular, A Starlet’s Confessions.” She explained, “I’m a regular-sized woman who wants beauty secrets like anyone else. … On the show, I am lit like Ingrid Bergman!” For those who “can’t get a cinematographer to light you all the time … I wanted to peel back the phony stuff in Hollywood on why women look the way they do, while also giving practical tips.”
The TV jabs’ timing are all too ironic. “My TV show, which is the love of my life, has been through a lot of changes,” she said of The Mindy Project, which began with NBC, lived for three seasons on Fox (which got boos) and just got revived at Hulu (which gathered cheers). “It’s like being in a really rocky relationship — it’s been more dramatic than any love life has been, this show that’s about romance and dating.” Written before the show’s Fox cancelation, there’s a chapter called “Coming This Fall,” a hypothetical lineup of the “new types of TV shows they try to debut every fall,” like “the hot serial killer who is also a little bit literary, where prostitutes are murdered and Shakespeare quotes attached to their body. It’s your mother’s favorite show, starring a British actor with an American accent.”
Friendship is also a big focus. One chapter is called “Player”, about “a female friend I had in my mid-twenties when I was in New York who — I never experienced this before — seduced me as a friend and dumped me,” she said. “It’s hard to make friends as an adult woman. … In LA, the only people you meet are women in your spin class. And you have to wonder, if a woman seeks you out at spin class, you wonder what the motivations are! But you’re so desperate for friends. … It’s much harder to find someone you want to talk to than a man you want to sleep with.” She also noted that the topic will be a major focus on the upcoming Mindy Project season, since Mindy Lahiri doesn’t have notable female friendships — “The writers’ room is starting up on Monday!” she rejoiced — as well as her personal life. “The only thing I want to do in the next five years is make a good friend.”
Greg Daniels makes a cameo. Daniels wrote an essay about what it’s like to be a mentor, which she didn’t understand until she started running her own show. Kaling and Novak reminisced about the comedy of The Office, on and offscreen. “I can’t complain about the hours because [the staff] will just say, um, you set the hours.” Some other chapters in the book: “Hello,” “Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities,” “Take This Job and Love It” and “A Day in the Life of Mindy Kaling.”
Why Not Me? hits shelves Sept. 29 via Crown; Archetype.