Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015)

I have the opposite of a dry sense of humor. My sense of humor is wet and loud and risque, like topless day at the water park.”

Mindy Kaling’s second book is every bit as charming and enjoyable (and of course, funny) as her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I spent the better part of my Friday reading and laughing over her hilarious stories. While her books are often compared to the memoirs of Tina Fey (Bossypants) and Amy Poehler (Yes, Please), I much prefer Kaling’s work. I find her sense of humor to be the right balance of insightful and irreverent. She really has perfected the art of laughing at herself without making fun of herself, which I think is critical for female comedians who all too often are overly harsh on themselves in order to get a laugh.

She tells stories about college, work, dating, and show business with her signature style: plenty of pop culture references and unflinching commentaries on how ridiculous we all really are sometimes, herself included. Some of her best stories include glimpses into just how absurd celebrity culture is (and how much celebrities are all lying to us about how effortless their lives are.) She is more than happy to pull back the curtain on all the bullshit and make fun of life in LA, always being certain to laugh at herself as much as she does others. As she points out, we are not that different from movie stars, “most Americans are a treadmill and six laser hair removal sessions away” from looking just like their favorite movie star, only movie stars want you to think it is impossible for you to join their ranks.

Her essays do not skirt around issues of race, class, gender or politics but she always keeps the tone light and the keeps the jokes coming. Her commencement speech to Harvard Law School graduates is absolutely wonderful: poking fun at herself, lawyers, ambitious people looking to get rich, and Harvard University all to great effect. Also a must read is Kaling’s funny but quite insightful essay, “Coming This Fall” which offers readers a funny take into misrepresentations of women and minorities on television. Her essay “A Perfectly Reasonable Request” about what she is looking for in a man is wonderful…one part honest desire for a long-term relationship, one part joke about the absurd number of restrictions we put on who we are willing to date.

There are some more serious moments towards end of the book where she discusses success and confidence without apology. She admits to readers that more than a few people expect her — and all women really — to lack self-confidence and hate herself, an assumption she  she finds outrageous. Her success is due to hard work, persistence, and belief in herself and she refuses to downplay that for anyone. Doing so, she points out, would cheapen all she has done for herself. I applaud her for these sentiments and thank her for giving us such a funny, delightful book to read.

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