Book Con 2015: Mindy Kaling in Conversation with BJ Novak RECAP

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief

Book Con 2015 kicks off with a panel in the Special Events Hall dedicated to the fabulous Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak. Discussing her new book Why Not Me? Mindy has gathered a huge amount of fans for this kick off to a fan-favorite event at the Javitz Center in New York City. You have to hand it to Book Con that they know how to keep a crowd entertained, especially a big and diverse crowd like this, which is so important when fans have been waiting since the early morning to wait in a line to get in and wait on a line for the panel itself. No sign of Mindy yet.

Mindy Kaling, author of Why Not Me?
Mindy Kaling, author of Why Not Me?

The panel started with a video reel of Mindy Kaling doing a voice over. She asks “Is Book Con just a con for people too scared to go to a real comic con?” before jumping into her work on The Office and her own series. People cheered her at all turns, especially when mentioning her book Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). When aking herself where are the men of color in her shows, she cut to pictures of Barak Obama and Elmo with her. The comedy between Kaling and and Novak are on point as he enters into the video clip.

Kaling and Novak entered onto the stage with thunderous cheers and applause from the crowd.

Novak came out first to introduce Kaling, running through very quickly her credits and accomplishments with her first book and the upcoming Why Not Me? “Thank you so much for coming!” Kaling says and a fan called out, “We love you!” It’s clear from the atmosphere at the room that the love for Kaling is out of this world.

“I’ve always been really impressed and jealous of people like Hilary Clinton,” Kaling says, talking about her accomplishments and her bio Twitter of just ‘mom.’ “I thought that was very impressive.”

“I chose Why Not Me? for two big reasons. I’m at an age now, where a lot of my friends are having kids and getting married and I’m feeling a bit left out. And then, another side of it, is the ambitious side of me, is why can’t I have that life and career?” Kaling said about the title.

Novak asked about her voice over work, which Kaling interrupted to say how great it was. Her timing is ridiculously on point and has so many points where she makes the audience erupt into laughter. Novak asked her to run through different voice over renditions of her title, the most popular was when Kaling said “Fuck, why not me?”.

“#Blessed, #WhitePeopleProblems, #BlackPeopleProblems, #ThatGlamBookLife, #Family, #Heartache, #GrowingUp, #SecondComingofAge” are all hashtags Kaling would use to describe her book on Twitter.

“I think I had a lot of fun in the first book telling people who I was,” Kaling said after Novak asked what’s different in this book. “I think that my first book… I was just excited to write a book. The difference between then and now, I wanted people to like me. The thing with this book is that I know that people like me and so I’m incredibly honest and vulnerable in this one. I think that actually makes the book funnier. There are some references to my time in college–I was in a sorority.” Novak agreed that college was a fun time for his as well and noted that that chapter was very well written. “This book is mostly about the last five years, and I feel like those last five years have had more stuff happen than the thirty before it.”

Novak read off some chapter titles for the audience: “It Begins Hello,” “Coming This Fall,” and “Take This Job and Love It.”

“If I was reading a book like this, all I would want to know are the secrets of looking good. One chapter is all about tips, like lurking in the shadows. On the show, it’s so unfair because I’m lit like a beautiful angel and it’s just impossible to look like that in regular life. They put Christmas lights in my bra so I have this glow about me. I think the book was fun to write because I go to pull back the curtain about how women in Hollywood get to look the way they look on TV.”

“The television show that’s been the love of my life has had a lot of changes. We lived at Fox for three years and then we were cancelled by FOX, and then we were picked up by Hulu for more episodes than we’ve ever done in a single year,” Kaling added, which prompted boo’s for the cancellation and cheers for the Hulu pick up. “It’s like being in a rocky relationship.”

“I wrote this essay called Coming This Fall and it went through different tropes that’s often in television,” Kaling said about her chapter “Coming This Fall.” “It covers new types of TV shows we see every fall. One is hot serial killer who’s also a little bit literary! Like, Shakespeare quotes are attached to their body and it’s played by a British actor with an American accent.”

Kaling talked about her experiences on television shows and how close the cast bonds. “It’s so much harder to find a woman you want to be great friends with than find a man to sleep with. Everyone comes to LA with a drive to be successful, so we don’t get to have that too often.”

Novak added, “There’s so much creative collaboration, which is how people connect. And we worked as equals on The Office. Is it hard to be in a situation where you’re someone’s boss but also their friend?”

“I actually love it a lot,” Kaling said, laughing. “The best thing about being the boss is you get things done the way you want it to be done. There’s so much fun in a job–especially one with long hours like we were on–is much more fun to complain about the boss. Which is pretty much what we did on The Office with Michael Scott. I do miss that aspect is that I can’t complain about the hours because I set the hours! I don’t work with BJ anymore on our shows, but this is so fun for me because I actually get to spend time with him.”

Novak asked about the crushes Kaling has had, calling them ecclectic and telling of her values. “My very first crush that I can remember–the one that keeps you up at night–was when I was 11 on Dana Carvey. Dana Carvy was like the Bill Hader of 1992 SNL, which some of you probably don’t even know. Anyway, I had an enormous crush on him.” Novak asked about fantasies Kaling has had, which seemed incredibly out of place and crossing a boundary. The discussion veered off to more of Kaling’s crushes.

Mindy Kaling would love to see Idris Elba as James Bond. Novak asked after noting he found it strange Kaling never crushed on a Bond.

When asked about advice for the people in the audience, Kaling says, “When young women ask for advice or why not me… It is very important to be expressive and no one should ever stop you from saying what you need to say. However, it’s equally important if not more important to be sensitive and perceptive. We don’t talk about that a lot because I feel like we talk about empowerment as speaking up. I was listening and paying attention to what everyone was saying to have a good social IQ for later in life–I think that’s really helped me with a writer.”

The audience lined up for questions.

Fan Question: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

Kaling: The biggest compliment I can get about writing is if it sounds like talking to a friend. So, I would record myself talk and write that. When I would transcribe it, it would have something on the page and it helped because there was something on the page.

Novak: My favorite writing advice was “If you can talk, you can write.”

If you had a week to spare, would you want to host SNL?

Kaling: I actually loved to write for SNL for two weeks. I learned so much. If I was there, which I would love to host SNL, I would love to do Cookie from Empire as a celebrity impersonation. I would want to do all the characters from Empire.

Have you learned anything new about yourself playing your characters?

Kaling: It’s been interesting fake dating so many guys. It’s been weird to see what actors’ courtship tactics are like. The character of Mindy in the show is so much smarter than me in some ways, like she’s a surgeon and OG/BYN. She’s a narcissistic and smart twenty-five year old women and I’ve learned so much about having dials to turn back and flip them back and learn how to do that in real life.

Could you tell us something about the project you’re working on together?

Novak: Well, it’s very early in the creative process and we just met yesterday. That book won’t be out for quite awhile. It’ll go through many conversations and directions.

Kaling: Will our fighting stop the production of this book? It’s actually really awesome, we just started to really work on it. I love working with him, so the ideas we’ve had so far are super excited.

Now that The Mindy Project is on Hulu does that mean we can get more risque shots?

Kaling: When you find a platform like Hulu, which is looser with what you’re allowed to do… You have that feeling after working on network television of “Oh, what can we do now!?” We decided that we definitely want people who tune into the show for two reasons: doing cool new things and not giving up the basics of the show. I think that a major thing about romance is restraint. A little goes a long way. But I do think we’re going to expand in more ways than before.

You’ve talked about how you want to get married and have kids, but how you don’t have many female friends. Do you think that you’re still incorporating aspects of your real life into The Mindy Project?

Kaling: It’s so funny. My favorite people in LA I’ve met are also really successful people. One of them is Lena Dunham! These are people personally who I adore and before I can ask them to be on my show, they have their own! Nothing would make me happier than finding a great and worthy and funny person to sit across from and talk about my problems with. The writers room is starting up on Monday and this is something we’re actively thinking about.

Who’s your favorite guest star and who would you want on the show?

Kaling: Kerry Washington is great, especially on Scandal. I love working with BJ and Stephen Colbert. The fact the only acting gig he did between jobs was for our show was amazing! It was wonderful to act with him and it felt cool for the show. Guests I would love: Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, Dave Chapelle.

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