The Literature of Comedy: Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me?

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The Literature of Comedy

Mindy Kaling
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
(And Other Concerns)
United States: Crown Archetype, 2011.
222 pp. $25.00
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is comedienne Mindy Kaling’s first book. The book is a mix between Kaling’s autobiography and a collection of essays on things she finds herself thinking about in her daily life. The first half of the book reads more like a humorous autobiography, detailing her childhood as an overweight Indian kid avoiding sports, her teenage years as an intelligent and quirky girl obsessed with comedy, her college years leading up to her first real jobs in New York, and her rise to Hollywood and her job on The Office. The second half of the book focuses more on her thoughts regarding romance, men, diet fads, her appearance, and, of course, her legacy. Mindy Kaling is best known as the Emmy-nominated writer, producer, and actress on NBC’s The Office, playing Kelly Kapoor and co-writing many of the shows episodes. Kaling grew up in New England and was raised by her immigrant parents. Throughout high school, she was obsessed with comedy, writing and performing her own comedy sketches for the show In Living Color with her friend Mavis. She attended Dartmouth College where she was a member of the improv comedy group, created a comic strip for the college’s newspaper, and regularly wrote for the college’s humor magazine. After graduating in 2001, she moved to New York where she and her friend Brenda Withers wrote and starred in the movie Matt and Ben, a retelling of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck writing Good Will Hunting. This film won the Fringe Festival in 2002, and the notoriety she gained from its success led to her being offered a job as the staff writer for The Office. Since then, Kaling has continued to write for the show and has also acted in several movies and television shows. Her success in Hollywood inspired her to start a blog, which led to her decision to write her first book. Mindy Kaling’s first book, though unconventionally written, is a valuable contribution to the celebrity memoir genre. Rather than just ‘getting her story out there’, Kaling has succeeded in writing about the important moments of her life and manages to make them humorous. The book also offers comedic insight into the history of comedy from the 1980’s to present, discussing her inspiration and how it affects her contribution to modern comedy. The unique writing style she employs, such as writing much of her book like a blog entry, magazine article, detailed lists, and even a eulogy, opens the door for a new style of writing, a style that is more relatable to the reader. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is not like every other celebrity memoir being written today. Rather than telling her life story in a linear fashion, Kaling focuses on the humorous aspects of her life and offers her opinions on whatever seems to be on her mind. She also uses a lot of different writing styles. In addition to narrative story-telling, Kaling employs an incredibly conversational tone which allows her to deviate from her main idea and introduce side stories or insight on ideas related to what she is talking about. For example, while writing about an accident she had at a summer camp, she distracts the reader from the main storyline and discusses how the accident must have looked to an outsider, “a seventeen-year-old boy exhorting a disoriented, bleeding six-year-old ‘not to tell her parents’ something” (28-29), which leads into her telling the reader how she one day plans to raise her children. By writing this way, the reader not only gets to hear about Kaling’s experiences, but they also gain insight into how her mind works and how she interprets information. Kaling also directly addresses her audience through footnotes, often explaining her sense of humor. For example, she tells the reader that she had been “hired as a staff...
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