A few weeks ago, in an uncharacteristic moment of Being on Instagram at the Right Time, I learned that Mindy Kaling would soon be in SF for a conversation with Michael Lewis. Without hesitation, I bought tickets, justifying the impulse purchase as a birthday present for David (he does love Moneyball and the Big Short!).
Last night, giddy with excitement to see the two writers, we made our way to SF. After some delicious Malbec at Hotel Biron, we settled into our nosebleed seats at the Nourse Theater.
No surprise here-Mindy Kaling is brilliant. It was incredible to watch her quick banter with Michael Lewis, who seemed to struggle to keep up with her wit. She certainly carried the conversation with her sharp retorts and gracious reflections on her career.
Her ability to connect with her audience is remarkable-not many people can generate such intense audience energy and cheers by simply sitting in an armchair, talking about life. A few of her reflections that really struck a chord with the listeners at the Nourse:
1) Stop expecting encouragement. If you expect others to encourage and validate you, you’re wasting your time. You have to have a fire inside yourself that no one can put out. Pretty important advice for us validation-seeking-trophy-for-trying millennials.
2) Before she passed away, her mother shared that she hoped Mindy would be with a man who honored her ambition and was not intimidated by her independence and drive. So important!
3) Mindy’s childhood cultural influences: Roald Dahl, Amelia Bedilia, PBS, and late 90s Saturday Night Live :)
4) Unlike a lot of comedians, she had a pretty solid family life. Her parents worked hard and expected the same from their children. She started writing at 6, when she would go to her mom’s office after school and type plays on the office typewriter. She was good enough at school to get into college and just kept working. Her family had no connections to film or television, she just worked, worked, and worked, to make it happen.
5) Last, loved her answer to one of the audience questions:
“Because I’m Indian, and because I am a woman, I become part of a very small group – at this point, I think there’s about three of us who have big shows, which is in itself something that needs to change. But the issue, and the reason I say things like that, is that I believe I can compete with white men. Nothing makes me happier than feeling recognition from people who are my demographic; I cherish that, and I think it’s to be welcomed.” via
As their conversation started, I whispered to David that I felt like I had seen Mindy before, but I couldn’t remember where. Later, I realized I had seen her before–nearly twelve years ago! Before The Office, Mindy and her friend co-wrote an off-off Broadway play, Matt and Ben. As a freshman, writing for my college newspaper’s Arts and Entertainment section, I volunteered to write a review of the play. Turns out, I was just as impressed by Kaling’s writing an acting as a 19 year old college student as I am today. She’s the coolest!