Mindy Kaling has written and staring alongside Emma Thompson in a new movie, Late Night, that chronicles her character’s journey as Indian American woman who aspires to be a late night comedy writer. The consensus among movie reviewers has been positive. As a fellow big comedy fan and Indian American, this storyline of multi-cultural representation in a mainstream American comedy world is right up my alley. Check out her recent interview discussing her career trajectory & the movie trailer for Late Night.
One could argue this film is an autobiographical telling of Kaling’s comedy career. She found her comedy skills early on. In her Vanity Fair interview, she shares her memory of making her father laugh after he read one of her comedic short stories. Encouraged by his response she was bitten by the comedy bug. As she got older she became a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and The Kids in the Hall.
In high school, she wrote a series of regular humor-themed columns for the school’s newspaper. At Dartmouth, she fully submerged herself into the arts. She joined a comedy improv group, created a beloved comic strip called “Badly Drawn Girl” and graduated with a playwriting degree. After Dartmouth, she and her friend and classmate, Brenda Withers, moved to New York and quickly found success in an off-Broadway play called Matt & Ben. It was a quirky play that imagined how Matt Damon and Ben Affleck developed the script for Good Will Hunting.
After some career disappointments and setbacks related to Hollywood fickleness, Kaling created her own path in Hollywood. One silver lining from the Matt & Ben play was that producer Greg Daniels had seen the play and invited Kaling to a meeting. He offered her a role on the writing staff for an upcoming sitcom called The Office.
Kaling played Kelly Kapoor, the lovable if delusional customer service representative in the office, over the show’s nine seasons. Kaling was one of the few initial hires to be a part of the series through its full run and served as producer for the series. The Office’s wild success (garnering 42 Emmy nominations and a slew of other accolades) was Kaling’s ticket to Hollywood stardom. Kaling was the only female and person of color on the writing staff during the first season. Here are some of her funniest moments from the series.
In next series, Kaling pulled double duty as showrunner and star for her own series, The Mindy Project. Kaling played a rom-com obsessed doctor in this series that ran for six seasons between FOX and Hulu.
Kaling was so used to resistance of her own rise to success that she didn’t realize she had become a beacon of hope for others like her. In a full circle moment, Kaling talked about her Late Night film on Lilly Singh’s late night show “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” (the only network late night show currently hosted by a woman and minority), Kaling reflected on how seeing no one like her in late night, “Was like loving something that didn’t love me back.”