Mindy Kaling’s Harvard Law School Speech: Just the Jokes
Mindy Kaling, star of FOX’s The Mindy Project and a Cambridge native, spoke at Harvard Law School’s Class Day on Wednesday afternoon. Her address included one-liners about Harvard stereotypes, a Legally Blonde reference, and quips about being Indian American. Her fellow speaker, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, also delivered some pitch-perfect Indian jokes on Wednesday.
Here’s a rundown of jokes from Kaling’s speech, which might as well be a transcript of the entire thing since her address was funny throughout, never dull, and contained just the right mix of biting zingers and sincerity.
(Full video below.)
Graduates, parents, faculty, this is really such a remarkable day—obviously for you, but also for me, because after spending a life obsessing over true crime, the impossible happened: I was asked to speak at the Harvard Law commencement and accept an honorary legal degree. Yes, isn’t that the American dream? Me, Mindy Kaling—
[Kaling is interrupted, and informed that she was misinformed.]
OK, um, so apparently there was a little miscommunication. I am no longer Mindy Kaling, esquire-attorney-at-law-comedian-actress. That’s cool, I’m just supposed to stand up here and give funny remarks, and then I’m supposed to sit down… That doesn’t seem fair, but that’s OK, I’ll do that.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Mindy Kaling, why did they ask her? She’s just a pretty Hollywood starlet. What does that quadruple threat know about the law?
Sure, she seems really down to earth and pretty in a totally accessible way. And, yeah, she was on People magazine’s Most Beautiful People list this year—and also in 2008—but what intelligent remarks could she possibly make about the law? She’s probably too busy doing shampoo commercials.
But I’m not too busy. In fact, I would kill to do a shampoo commercial. So if anyone from L’Oreal is out there, please just Snapchat me after this.
I’ll have you know, I do know a ton about the law…because I sue everybody.
I graduated in 2001 from Dartmouth College, an academic institution located in lawless rural New Hampshire, where when you arrive, you are given a flask of moonshine and a box of fireworks, and you are told simply to, quote, “Go to town”—except there is no town, there is only a forest and a row of frat houses that smell like urine.
Actually, little know fact, Dartmouth has a law school—it’s just one semester, and its coursework is entirely centered on how to beat a DUI.
But I am not here to extoll the virtues of the Dartmouth Red Bull School of Law.
I prepared a speech very carefully the way that any good Dartmouth-educated graduate would. I drank a 40 of Jagermeister. I called my dad to see if he would get me out of it—he could not… I tried to hire a college freshman to write it for me in exchange for a $200 gift card to Newbury Comics—that didn’t work out.
Finally… I rolled up my sleeves, sat down at my computer, and tried to buy a commencement address off of movingcommencementspeeches.com. My credit card was declined.
According to Time, [Preet Bharara] has battled terrorism… He has crippled international arms dealers, drug traffickers, and dealt with financial fraud. Clearly, Harvard wanted you to see the full range of what India can produce here.
Mr. Bharara fights finance criminals and terrorism. I meet handsome men in cute and unusual ways on television. And next season my character might get a pet puppy!
[Breaking news, Mindy Project fans: Dr. Lahiri might get a puppy.]
Dean Martha Minow is here… She has published over 15 books… Dean Minow and I have a lot in common. I too wrote a book. It was called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? You can buy it right around the corner at Urban Outfitters next to a book called The Marijuana Chef’s Cookbook.
With this diploma in hand, most of you will go on to the noblest of pursuits, like helping a cable company acquire a telecom company.
You will defend BP from birds.
You will spend hours arguing that the well water was contaminated well before the fracking occurred.
One of you will sort out the details of my prenup.
A dozen of you will help me with my acrimonious divorce.
And one of you will fall in love in the process—I’m talkin’ to you, Noah Feldman.
And let’s be honest, Harvard Law is the best of the Harvard graduate programs… The Business School is full of crooks, the Divinity School is just a bunch of weird virgins, the School of Design is like European burnouts, and don’t even get me started on the Kennedy School. What kind of degree do you get from there, Public Policy? You mean a Masters in Boring Me to Death at a Dinner Party… The med school is just a bunch of nerdy Indians—I can say that! Preet can say that. The rest of you, you are out of line—that is racial, how dare you.
Actually, in my mind, law is that pesky thing that often gets in the way of justice. I believe in the Clint Eastwood School of the Law. An eye for an eye? I don’t think so. That solves nothing. You take my eye, I take your life, my friend, in a duel, Aaron Burr-style…
Duels are the first thing you learn when you enter my graduate program, the Harvard School of Vengeance.
The Harvard Law School crest has the word “Veritas”… Under this hallowed word, there are three… bunches of… asparagus. Because asparagus is the tallest and the proudest of the vegetables, the pillar of the vegetable kingdom, and it’s like, it’s like… OK, that is not asparagus, that is wheat, which makes also not a ton of sense either. OK, that was three pages of my speech…
Harvard Law has an incredible number of illustrious alumni.
President Barack Obama attended Harvard Law—OR SO HE SAYS!
Elle Woods went here, from the trenchant documentary Legally Blonde. It’s a very moving film. Dean Minow, you should check it out after you read my book.
Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are graduates of Harvard Law, the other three—I don’t know where they went, I think it was University of Phoenix, not sure.
No, no, no—as we all know, they attended your friendly rival, Yale Law School.
I know that you have a chip on your shoulder. Yale Law is always number one, and you are always number two. Sometimes Stanford comes in there, bumps you down to number three, but listen, let me tell you something—from where I stand, from an outsider’s perspective, here’s the truth: you are ALL nerds.
Except here’s the difference: you are the nerds who are going to make some serious bank, which is why I’m here today—to marry the best-looking amongst you.
You can do whatever you want now, and this institution will follow you everywhere.
If you kill someone, you are the “Harvard Law Murderer.”
If you are caught in a lewd act in a public restroom, you’re the “Harvard Law Pervert,” my friend. And then you can represent yourself, and you’ll probably get acquitted because you went to Harvard.
In fact, the only downside of this degree is when you run for Senate, you will have to distance yourself from it to seem more like a regular person… Mitt Romney? He preferred to be known as “The Mormon Guy” to distract himself from his Harvard past.
I’m afraid a couple of you are probably evil—that’s just the odds.
Across the campus, Harvard Business School graduates are receiving diplomas, and you will need to defend them—for insider trading or narcotics, or maybe both if Wolf of Wall Street is to be believed.
You are responsible for the language of justice, for the careful and precise wording in all those boring contracts that I sign while I watch Real Housewives.
You wrote the Terms and Conditions that I scroll through quickly while I download the update for Candy Crush. Terms and Conditions are the only things keeping us from the purge, everybody. I don’t read them—I just hit Accept. iTunes may own my ovaries for all I know.
“Employees must wash their hands before returning to work.” A lawyer wrote that.
“You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” A lawyer wrote that.
“Mindy Kaling may not come within 1,000 feet of Professor Noah Feldman.” A lawyer wrote that.
Watch Mindy Kaling’s full speech at Harvard Law’s Class Day here: