Before there was The Mindy Project, there was Roseanne. And, Mindy Kaling hasn't forgotten that. "This sounds trite, but Roseanne fought a lot of fights so that people got accustomed to a strong kind of woman," Kaling recently said during a TV titan power lunch with Ms. Barr.
The New York Times had the brilliant idea to get to the two category-defying, cross-generational comedy pioneers together for a conversational interview that, it turns out, was long overdue.
On breaking into the boy's club, Kaling said, "I think I’m lucky to come at a time when women with their own shows are probably writing them and producing them, like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler."
Barr sees the chain of female TV comedians stretching back long before Fey's arrival, or even her own career. "I had support from other women in Hollywood, specifically Marlo Thomas," recalled Barr. "Marlo and Lucille Ball, they were the first women. Marlo told me that Lucy came to the set and laughed at everything Marlo did. And she told the network: This girl is it! And coming from Lucy, who pretty much invented the sitcom, it really made a difference. We had amazing women in TV before me."
Barr and Kaling both claimed that because no one really wanted to develop their TV shows (Roseanne and The Mindy Project, respectively), they were forced to take matters into their own hands — and show people what they didn’t know they were missing. As Kaling put it, “It’s hard enough to make it if you’re a thin, conventionally attractive woman." She added, "Sometimes when you have a show and you’re a trailblazer, people say: 'Oh, she’s not a stick,' or 'Oh, she’s not rich.' People forget to say: 'Oh, and she’s also really funny.'"
Barr could relate to the narrow-mindedness. "Way back, when I was in the comedy clubs, I’d be introduced as: 'Now we have a woman comic.' I always despised that — like I was a freak. I wasn’t the funniest woman in the club, I was the funniest person. Period. And I think every good comic feels that way."
The women admitted that the frenetic pace of the industry takes its toll in other ways. Like dating. Barr wearily retraced the standard industry work/life conundrum: “When you’re working and your career’s happening, your relationships suck. It’s kind of the rule, I think. And when you’re not working, you can have a good relationship. But when you try to mix the two, something loses.” Kaling added: “You have to be selfish to get things done in this business, and that can be hard, too.”
But, Barr rounded it out on a high note. Not being afraid to put yourself first can be pretty damn satisfying. “I don’t imagine it gets any better than waking up and doing exactly what you want. It’s pretty awesome.” Amen. (NYT)