Mindy Kaling Spoke to Stephen Colbert's Female Writers to Research 'Late Night'

The Late Show Stephen Colbert Mindy Kaling - Publicity - H 2019
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

The writer-actress also revealed how an early mortgage joke got her mother's approval and teased the 'Late Show' host when his Apple Watch went off during their interview.

Mindy Kaling may star as a writer on a late-night talk show in her new film Late Night, but she appeared as a guest on Thursday's episode of The Late Show.

In preparation for writing the film, Kaling spoke with the female writers from the Stephen Colbert-hosted CBS late-night show to get an understanding of what it is like to be a woman in the industry. "I actually talked to a lot of female writers on your staff and it was great to research that because all of my experience is in the scripted half-hour world, so it was really nice," she said.

The writer and actress added that it's "really hard" to work in the late-night world. "It's so amazing what you do," she told Colbert. "I did so much research and I watched so much old — I watched Dick Cavett, Johnny Carson, Leno, Letterman and everyone. It's amazing. It actually made me have a real newfound respect for you."

Kaling also spoke about how her character is the only female writer and a diversity hire for the staff. While she was the only female and diverse writer on The Office, she said she had a very different experience on the NBC show than her character in Late Night.

"If you watch the movie, they're very unwelcoming to my character, but at The Office those guys were welcoming," she explained. "But I was the only woman and I was the only minority on the staff when I started there and it was terrifying."

During her research for the film, Kaling found that both late-night and half-hour scripted shows share a similar love for lunch. After Colbert agreed that food is important on set, Kaling shared that the writers on her projects choose where they get lunch from based on the "wheel of lunch."

"We spin this wheel, and that wheel decides where we go to lunch," she said. "You can pay a dollar to veto the spin and the dollar goes into a pot and then you can spin again." She added that there is also an option on the wheel to win the pot of money, so "it's Wheel of Fortune, but for lunch."

Earlier in the appearance, Kaling shared her first successful joke, which she made up when she was about six or seven. "I would write these little one-act plays — one-page plays — and then between my mom's patients I would run over to her office and be like, 'Read this.' She was always very, very hard on things that didn't make her laugh. She would not laugh if she didn't think it was funny," she said.

"I wrote a play about a haunted house where a mummy, a witch and a Dracula — a vampire — lived together in a haunted house and the witch thought that the house was kind of run down and she said to the mummy and the Dracula, 'How much are we paying in mortgage on this haunted house?'" she recalled. "I showed it to my mom and she didn't laugh out loud because literally who could laugh out loud at that stupid play? But she smiled she was like, 'I like this.'"

She added that her parents did not have a specific career in mind for her, though they wanted her to be "extremely successful" so that they could brag. "I remember when I slapped Steve Carell on the second episode of The Office. They were like, 'That was cool,'" she said of the first time she impressed her parents. '"You're slapping really funny people.'"

Kaling later praised her Late Night co-star Emma Thompson, though she was interrupted when Colbert's Apple watch went off with a phone call from the Marriott Hotels Rewards Program.

After she called out the host for "interrupting her touching story about Emma Thompson," she asked Colbert about his financial situation. "You are rich! Why do you need a rewards program?" she said. "He has the number one show on TV and he's like, 'I got to make sure if I travel that me and my wife and my three children are being hosted in an economical way.'"

"I'm in a movie with Emma Thompson. Like who cares, whatever," she said.