Mindy Kaling turned an internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien into a production assistant job on Crossing Over With John Edward into a writing and starring role on The Office into creating her long-running sitcom into two New York Times best-selling memoirs into a successful film career, including A Wrinkle in Time, Ocean’s 8, and Late Night, which she also wrote. Not too shabby! Just about the only comedy milestone that Kaling hasn’t accomplished is becoming a cast member on SNL, and even that nearly happened.
While appearing on the Daily Beast’s The Last Laugh podcast, Kaling revealed that midway through season two of The Office, she was invited to audition for the sketch series. There was one problem, though: she was under contract. “I sat down with [showrunner] Greg [Daniels] and I said to him, it would be my dream to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live,” she said. “And he’s like, you have a job here, I don’t understand why you would want to leave. And I said, I know, it’s just this is my childhood dream. And he said, OK, if you go there and get cast on Saturday Night Live, I will let you out of your contract.”
Kaling auditioned, and creator Lorne Michaels offered her a gig as a writer, not a performer. “There was some hint at that point that if I stayed on long enough, like Jason Sudeikis, that I could maybe graduate to be a performer,” Kaling said. “That was dangled to me, so I thought, that’s pretty exciting.” But when she told Daniels what happened, “he said to me, no, that’s not the deal we made. The deal we made is that if you get cast as a cast member you can go.”
So, Kaling stayed on The Office (good call!), which turned into a “life-changing thing. I think the course of my career would have gone really differently had I left The Office and done that instead.” SNL is impressive, but it’s not “one of the biggest shows on Netflix, even though it’s been off the air for six years.”
You can listen to the entire podcast interview below.