Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling at the 92nd Y. (Photo: Michael Priest Photography)
Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey have a lot in common — they’re both successful actors and writers in comedy, they run their own shows, they’re both role models to many young women and men, and they’ve both written memoirs about growing up as clever outsiders. But onstage at the 92nd Y in New York City last night, Fey and Kaling discovered one more thing they have in common: they’ve both kissed perpetual heartthrob, Paul Rudd. He was Fey’s romantic interest in the film Admission, and he kissed Kaling during a script reading. While last night was about promoting Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?, it was also an intimate, hysterically funny conversation between Fey, Kaling and 800 fans.
Kaling didn’t need Fey or anyone else to make an introduction for her — she did it herself via a pre-recorded voiceover video with clips of her work and a shout out to McDonalds where she eats breakfast thrice a week. And that’s what Why Not Me? is all about: making sure that you are the one who tells your story.
Mindy Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me? (Photo: Crown Archetype)
Kaling and Fey talked about the vulnerability of writing a book. (Fey published Bossypants in 2011.) “We’re both comedy writers and we work in teams. When I was finishing up the book, I felt incredibly vulnerable because it’s about my experiences and it’s written solely by me, and I had a real panic of, like, if this doesn’t go well, this is a complete rejection of me,” Fey said. Kaling commiserated and deadpanned: “For better or for worse, when you have a group of writers, and something sucks, you can blame it on them. This is all on me.”
Kaling’s second book is more confident and personal. “A lot of things happened to me in the five years since my first book [Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?] came out,” she said. “The first book, when I wrote it, I was a little shy, I felt like I really needed to prove myself to people through that book.” There are many stories that did not make it into the Why Not Me? though: “One time, at a Golden Globes party, a very famous A-list actress got a tear on the side of her gown. And no one else was in there. And she was freaking out because she was about to present, and she asked me if I could move the dress over, which required me to unzip and then shift the dress over so that you wouldn’t see the dress from the front,” Kaling shared. The actress was completely nude under her gown. “I had like, five layers of Spanx on,” Kaling added. “She was completely at home in her body. I can’t even imagine it! And this is what I had wanted to write about.”
Fey, who created and produces Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, also spoke with Kaling about what it’s like to dream big. “We have a similar path to being on TV, which is that we shouldn’t have been,” Fey said, noting that she was always visualizing positive outcomes. “If I have to run more than 10 feet, I have to pretend I’m winning the Olympics. My fantasy tonight is that someone will tweet, ‘Why doesn’t she have a late-night talk show?’” Kaling credits her drive and success to having supporting and encouraging parents — and her ability to hold grudges forever. “When someone would call me fat, I would remember the person. I would remember every slight. It’s a wonderful fuel, I think.” Fey agreed: “Sometimes when I’m kind of content with my life, I’m like, now what will I be mad about? How will I go on?”
Mindy Kaling in conversation with Tina Fey. (Photo: 92nd Street Y)
They also touched upon sexism in the comedy industry. “I have to wear a girdle and Spanx every day while [Steve] Carell wears a track suit,” Fey said. “And that’s an extra impediment to my work.” Kaling also wishes that comedy writers would be more open about their salaries, because income inequality is not an issue that is discussed enough. Fey also lamented the early call times for women because they are required to spend so long getting ready for television: 4:45AM for her, 8AM for him. Kaling, however, adds that she feels very lucky to have always worked with men and women in comedy who are outspoken feminists.
Towards the end of the 90-minute chat, Fey announced, “I’m trying to help you get more press and sell more books. So what’s your opinion of Donald Trump?” Kaling paused. “His turns of phrase are amazing: ‘You’re a loser! Everyone’s a loser!’” The conversation shifts into rapid fire questions and answers — time was running out on this Wednesday night. For those who were hoping for more Fey and Kaling in the future, they are not doing any television projects in the planned future, but Kaling did announce onstage, “I’d do a Bollywood movie with you, Tina.” That sounds like something we would definitely want to watch.