Table For Three: Roseanne Barr and Mindy Kaling: Funny Women, Serious Talk

Arriving a few minutes before the noon reservation, Ms. Barr excused herself to walk around the recently renovated property. (“The regulars hate it,” a woman sniffed as Ms. Barr passed.) Ms. Kaling arrived shortly afterward, and as the two headed to the dining room, they passed a swarm of giddy young women with large fancy-dress bags slung over their arms, none of whom seemed to recognize the celebrities in their midst. “Someone’s getting married,” Ms. Kaling said.

As they took their seats, the two were informed that their table was one usually reserved for Nancy Reagan when she dined there, an observation that prompted a brief discussion about whether either had ever harbored a desire to be first lady. “I’d rather be president,” Ms. Barr said. (In fact, Ms. Barr ran for president in 2012.) Then, over loup de mer (for Ms. Barr) and steak frites (for Ms. Kaling), they chatted about women in comedy, their romantic relationships and a shared obsession with true-crime television.

PHILIP GALANES: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the “Roseanne” show, with 22 million people watching every week.

ROSEANNE BARR: Excuse me! It was 40 million people. But there were only four networks back then.

MINDY KALING: And no reality shows.

PG: I saw Roseanne for the first time on Johnny Carson, doing your “Domestic Goddess” routine. It was so fresh and funny about women and family. Were you surprised when a network wanted to make a sitcom about your life?

RB: Well, first of all, nobody wanted it.

PG: What?

RB: Nobody wanted the “Roseanne” show. I heard from agents that there was no interest in a show about a fat woman and her family. It wasn’t until [the producers] Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner got involved. They wanted to do a show about a working mom, and they were the ones who sold it to ABC.

PG: And you started as a writer for “The Office.” Correct, Mindy?

MK: Yes, I wrote a play [“Matt and Ben,” about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck], and then I was a writer and an actor on “The Office.” But I knew if I was going to have my own show, I’d have to do it myself. Because no one is going to write a show for a chubby brown woman. It’s hard enough to make it if you’re a thin, conventionally attractive woman. I also knew I was only going to be good at certain things.

RB: Like what you think is funny.

MK: So I just thought: I’ll do it myself.

RB: Can we get some coffee? I need to wake up.

MK: Were you out partying last night?

RB: No! I’m too old for partying. My partying is sitting around, eating these awesome See’s Butterscotch Lollypops and watching forensic murder shows for 12 hours a day.

MK: I love murder shows.

PG: Like “CSI”?

RB: No, I like true crime, the ID channel. I’m a complete ID addict. They’ve got a new show called “Elder Skelter.” It’s about old grandmas that kill their families. And the one before that was “Wives With Knives.” That was unbelievable.

MK: I also go to TruTV.com because I love reading about true crime. There must be some connection between women in comedy and true crime.

PG: Like what?

MK: For me, it’s a little narcissistic. All I do is work, so I have this narcissistic idea that somebody is thinking about me and wants to kill me.

RB: I have that, too.

PG: Have you ever pitched a sitcom about a crime solver?

MK: I wouldn’t want to see that as a comedy show. I think the reason I like it is that it’s the opposite of my skill set.

PG: I bet you could make that funny.

MK: I couldn’t. Roseanne could. She can do anything.

RB: I almost pitched a “Columbo”-like thing because I thought it would be fun to play a character that everyone thinks is dumb, but in the end, you’re as smart as Columbo. But I don’t have great follow-through.

PG: That surprises me.

RB: Well, after “Roseanne,” when I pretty much lived in a big concrete building for 10 years, I needed to get used to the world again. And I’m reluctant to be so consumed again.

MK: Could you ever go back to that rigorous network schedule?

RB: I don’t think so. The ideal thing for me would be a show with just six or eight episodes. Like Jennifer Saunders does in the U.K. But nobody wants to do that here.

PG: You also had to fight for your voice on “Roseanne.” Is that another reason it was so draining?

RB: Not really. My big fight ended after the first 13 episodes, and I did 222 of them. I had no real problems after that initial one.

PG: Because the show was so successful?

RB: No, because the person I was fighting with [head writer, Matt Williams] left. And I’m sure it was made easier by the show’s being No. 3 [in popularity] in its second week, then No. 1.

PG: Do you have to fight a lot, Mindy? It’s hard to imagine fighting on top of writing, producing and starring.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Source Article from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/fashion/roseanne-barr-and-mindy-kaling-funny-women-serious-talk.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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