This is a seriously funny book.
It really is.
There are few comedic writers that I can think of that can weave painful stories about their past in with pithy, hilarious observations about those experiences and salt and pepper them with pop culture references that don’t just make sense but add to the richness of the story.
You’re feeling bad for Mindy Kaling, one of the stars of the US-version of The Office as well as a writer and executive producer (not that one single word is asking for any kind of sympathy) at the very same time that you are laughing at the way she can take that pain and make it sound like the funniest thing anyone has ever had to go through ever.
Which of course it isn’t, but the really emotionally gifted and articulate people have a way of taking the painful parts of life, or even the parts where you are geeky, not accepted, or just plain unsure of what to do next, and stand back and look at them, and then talk about them in a way that others can relate to, while simultaneously sorting out what it really means to them.
Admittedly Kaling had it pretty easy on one sense with parents who loved her, worked hard to put her through a prestigious school, and encouraged the intellectual curiosity and sense of humour that would lead her first to New York and then to Los Angeles. In chapters that sometimes read, in the best possible way, like snapshots from a particularly insightful and funny stand up routine, Kaling talks about how that sort of charmed upbringing still carried with it the sorts of insecurities and issues we all grapple with, but even so, allowed her to believe she could become a famous comedy writer and performer pretty much overnight in New York.
When it didn’t happen quite as quickly as she had envisioned, she began to wonder if she would be the subject of a reverse riches-to-rags story:
“I was worried I would be the subject of a reverse kind of book: a pathetic tale of a girl with a great education who frittered it away watching syndicated Law & Order episodes on a sofa in Brooklyn.”
Of course she did make it and has built a stellar career as part of one of the most successful TV comedies of recent years. And while the book doesn’t recount the events of her life in a strictly linear biographical fashion, which leads to the impression that all joking aside about her struggles to make it in the entertainment industry that it happened overnight, you are very much left with the impression of someone who has feet firmly planted on the ground, a wry knowing smile on her face… and a deep abiding hatred of bikes.
Yes bikes. It’s those kind of offbeat candid admissions that pepper this book which also frankly details her struggles with weight – she entitled her first chapter “Chubby For Life” which gives you some idea of the honesty she brings to the book as a whole – navigating the bizarre political maze of high school friendships, and her great love of comedy which began as a teenager when she and her best friend would work any and every comedy on TV, many, she admits, of dubious quality.
It’s rare to read a book by a celebrity that manages to be as authentic, and consistently humourous, as this one. Clearly not everything she’s ever done is included – the lady isn’t a fool and wants to keep some things private as is her right – but she reveals just enough of her journey through life from chubby teen to successful TV writer and actor that you get a feel for the realness of life behind the celebrity curtain.
Oh, and if you should happen to ever be in the position of planning her birthday party at any point, she loves karaoke. A LOT.
Just so you know.