Writer, Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Kaeling discussed on Fresh Air

Fresh Air


Subscribe to shortwave from NPR. Let's get back to my interview with Mindy Kaeling. She Co created and is the main writer of the new series. Never I ever which has now streaming on net flicks. She got her start on the series. The office playing Kelly Kapoor. She was also a writer and producer on the series so last year you had a movie called late night in which you played an aspiring comic who gets a job basically. She's the minority higher for late night. Tv show tonight show. Connor show that that's been hosted for thirty years by a woman played by Emma Thompson and Emma. Thompson's character has become kind of out of touch with what people especially younger people find funny She's very arrogant But she's told by the executives than the the show becomes more relevant in the ratings pickup. She's out so to shake things up a little bit figures okay. We'll do a minority hires. She hires us. It's not like she has any faith in you. It's kind of like you're hired. And then you have to deal with an all white male writers room and a host to is pretty condescending. Were you a diversity higher when you started working on the office. Yes yes proud diversity higher and do you think like that was a successful diversity? Higher like you were hired to add diversity. Diversity was needed and you turned out to be exceptionally talented. So it was kind of I mean. Do you see that as a win win. Win for the office and a win for you definitely. I think the program was invaluable and I think that. Nbc was at that time. The only one of the major networks. That was doing something like that at the time. I didn't think so At the time I thought it was really humiliating. Actually because the way that that works is a diversity. Higher is no cost to the show so when you get hired And you're a minority and through the NBC Diversity Hiring Program you know that the NBC is paying the cost of your salary. Not The show. So that's why the show is incentivized to hire minorities and What ends up happening. There's this phenomenon that would happen there. Is that a writer get hired for a year and then they only pay your salary the first year so if you are going to continue on for second year. They won't pay her salary anymore. So you'd have this phenomenon on these shows because other network started doing the same thing where you'd have a minority writer who is a staff writer. Which is the entry level writing job? And then the next year there'd be a different staff writer because it to promote them the show would have to take on the cost of staff so everybody knows that this is the case so when you go into a show your biggest sensitivity is that everyone thinks the only reason you were hired is because you were free whereas everyone else had. They had to pay good money for them. And I don't know whether how much people are actually thinking about that or whether that was just in my head but it was just one of these subtle ways that I felt that I was a little bit less than the other writers. But it's tricky right because the programs incredible and it got me into the business and many other people who now have have nice careers in Hollywood. Yeah it's it's a complicated thing I that's why I wrote the movie late night because I wanted to talk about it. The office is having this huge resurgence. Misuse Renaissance. It's I think. Sound like three different channels including comedy central. There's like marathons. What impact is that having on a new seeing that security is like not only back on TV. But it's pretty popular you know. It's incredible it's funny. How many fourteen fifteen year old kids will come up to me at the airport? Because they've been cheated on net flicks and they've seen everything I mean. I remember about three or four years ago. I got a call from one of my agent saying hey this young singer. Songwriter would love to sample a section of one of your episodes. I think you wrote it in your voice in it as Kelly demand if they do that she's like an l. a. based indie singer Songwriter. And I said yes. Sure that's fine. She and I just assigned something and it was Billy Bush and she wrote a song called. It was called my strange addiction. Which is one of her big hits and the song samples different parts of the office because she loves the show so much in fact she would even say it's not love it's like she's obsessed with the show and she seen. I think she seemed the entire series from season one to season nine all the way through like four or five times and so she wrote a song about it and I'm sampled in it and I didn't. I didn't understand who she was at the time. So attack this real impact on this this younger generation. It's been great because that's not a show that I think could be made now or not. I think there's just a heightened sensitivity now to viewers. That wasn't there when the show came out. But it's it's strange right because the show is more popular now than it was. I think even than when we first certainly the first season of the show where we really struggled I think that network executives the way that Michael Scott behaves in the kind of stuff that he says. I think they would have a real fear that there would be blogs and articles and petitions written against them. I remember in the first season of the office. There is a joke where diversity day where Michael is talking to a Mexican American character named Oscar and he says you know Oscar. You're Mexican in an Oscar. Says he has no pride Mexican says well. Is there a term you would like to use it less offensive? And then he's like then Mexican and he's like there isn't anything offensive. And it's this. It's this big it's a it's a very like icon. Michael Scott Joke. But I can't see you know I'm creating shows now I can't see that being okay with a lot of heads of studios and networks to have that kind of show and the reason why the joke is funny because this character has this is so sweetly bigoted you know and I think. That'd be hard to reconcile. Now how can you care to be so bigoted but you still cheer for him and you still want him to become a better person. And I think there's so much fear now of a bad reaction from people that they don't want to take those kind of creative risks and do you think that that's a shame I do i. I'm not offended by very much. But then again I have also not been marginalized a lot of ways that people are so it's tricky. I grew up loving comedy. I give people the benefit of the doubt so general. I'm less offended but at the same time There are people who are you know? I'm I think I'm very lucky. But it's too bad because I I do think the show is very funny and I don't think you know having been there. I do not think it was made by people who are trying to be offensive or push forth you know bad a- bad agendas so it. I think it's too bad jokes about how clueless Michael is. It's it's yeah it's it's not an insult against Being Mexican I. It's it's a joke about how Michael never gets it right but Michael is also the lead of the show and the person who's point of view or often the one you hope finds love and and I think that would maybe be problematic now whereas if he was a side character that was supposed to be like the racist guy that would be a little bit easier to stomach but he was the person in power but in madman wrong. You know I'm often surprised at what's on. Tv and I just think that sometimes network since studios underestimate what Americans can handle and how sophisticated they are what they watch and has a fear that people will misinterpret a joke or you know. Be like very sensitive in a way that you hadn't expected. Has that been inhibiting your writing in any way. That's such a good question you know we. There's so much in. Never have I ever. That could be construed as offensive but because I think the lead is what people would call like marginalized person like a young Indian American girl. I think we're able to get away with stuff. Because of certain powerlessness that that demographic hasn't society honestly so I think it's easier for our character to lash out or her mother to say things that could potentially be offensive. Because it's like okay. Well you know they don't have a ton of power in this country right now and in terms of other shows I think with why I think students in our could be shy about doing that as I think honestly getting cancelled like. I'm not getting handled like in terms of TV terms but the cancel culture and litigation And fearing that. We're going to be you know the networks going to be the next woody allen getting dropped by His Book Publisher. Tina like for for something that they did. So I do think there's a lot of fear about that stuff that was not there in two thousand four when we started the show. Let's take another show break here. If you're just joining us. My guest is Mindy Caling. She Co created and is the main writer of the new series. Never have I ever which just started streaming on net flicks. We'll talk more after we take a short break. This is fresh air. The world is in a dark place. Find a light with. Npr's hidden brain stories and long-form interviews to brave uncertain times insights to understand yourself hidden brain. Listen and subscribe support for. Npr comes from whyy presenting the podcast. Eleanor amplified and adventure series. Kids love here reporter. Eleanor Atwood crafty villains and solve mysteries as she travels the globe to get the big story available where you get podcasts. Or at WHYY DOT Org. This is fresh air. Let's get back to my interview with Mindy Kaeling. She Co created and is the main writer of the new series. Never have I ever which is now streaming net flicks. She got her start on the series. The office playing Kelly Kapoor. She was also a writer and producer on the series. When you are on our show in twenty twelve your mother had died within the previous year and we had talked about that. A little bit and you. You had mentioned that when your mother was dying. She had pancreatic cancer and the cancer really changed her. And that nearly a year after her death you were still having trouble remembering your mother from before. She got sick as the memories of her being sick. We're still so vivid in your mind and I knew exactly what you meant because I went through the same thing with my mother when she was very sick with cancer. And I'm wondering if the images of your pre-cancer mother have come back to you as vividly as the post cancer images while I am..

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