Mindy Kaling is in that group of comic writer-actresses (with Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, etc.) who are constantly asked the most mundane, yet incendiary questions about women in comedy. “Can women have it all?” is the most mundane while “Are women funny?” is the most incendiary. Good lord.
Luckily, it seems as though Kaling is able to keep perspective; at The Hollywood Reporter's recent roundtable for comic actresses, which also included Edie Falco, Zooey Deschanel, Taylor Schilling, Emmy Rossum, and Kaley Cuoco, we got a lot of insight from Kaling about acting, comedy, the reception of women within comedy. She was also just hilarious. While the other actresses were polite and upbeat, Kaling was the one who took time to enlighten us. Here are her five best insights:
1. On a particularly funny and character-revealing moment from “The Mindy Project”:
In one episode, Tim Daly, who is so funny, was on the show. And he's very angry at me for prescribing his daughter birth control, and I'm like, 'How dare you come in here with your outdated views on birth control? Who do you think you are? Rick Santorum? Obviously not, because you're not hot.'”
2. On the supposedly complimentary yet actually insulting things journalists say to her:
“'You're ugly and fat, and that is so refreshing to us.' I'm like, 'What are you saying to me, sir?' 'Well, we're used to skinny people, and you're so ugly and refreshing.' That's not a question, sir. (Laughter.) And people who actually identify as feminists will say stuff like, 'Are women funny?' Sorry, you can't ask that question again. It's so insulting and outdated. They like getting us riled up, as I am getting now!”
3. On being a perfectionist:
Sometimes the way that you think you're presenting is not at all how it's coming across. I'm an A student, and I want to nail it, and we have on TV the luxury of trying to nail it. And so you get this great benefit if you're watching, and you're like, 'Oh, I thought when I was giving Messina sh*t in that scene that it was adorable, but really it comes off a little harsher because of the way that my hair was pinned straight.' Also, our wardrobe. Does it connote something different to wear a suit when I'm trying to be flirty?”
4. On sexist commentaries of her show:
When I originally wrote the character, she was not named Mindy. But [former Fox entertainment chairman] Kevin Reilly said — before he picked up the show — “I think her name should just be Mindy,” and I was like, “OK, yeah.” But the character has also lost several handguns and says stuff like, “I think recycling makes America look poor.” Then pieces get written about me that say, “Mindy Kaling is a Republican,” because they can't separate the two. But no one ever thought [why] Alec Baldwin's character on '30 Rock' said things like that. I think it's sexist, that there's no way that I could write a character who's so different from me. Why would I want to do my own show and be a cool, liberal Westside person who lives in Brentwood? Let me live that life and let the character be wild.
5. On how Puerto Rican women can be better at being Indian than she is:
“When I was still in New York, I auditioned for this Bollywood musical. I was like, “Oh, I'm going to clean up. How many Indian girls are there?” I said I could sing and I could dance — neither of which I can do — and I sang, 'Somewhere Out There,' which anybody sounds good singing, and then I had to go to the dance part of it. And of course, it then ended up a huge embarrassment. There were Puerto Rican and Asian girls who tried to look Indian and they crushed it.”