- Amazon Prime's hit series,
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,
has delighted audiences with its glamorous set pieces,
stunning cinematography, and comedic monologues
that are as thought-provoking as they are hilarious.
- Like a Jewish Dorian Gray.
- The show explores the culture of Jewish comedy,
brilliantly showcasing the protagonist's journey
of self-actualization through the medium of stand-up.
Viewers have fallen in love with the familiar
yet fantastical world of the show,
but how much reality is behind this marvelous fantasy?
So, here are 10 facts behind the fiction
of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
First up is Midge Maisel herself.
Though Midge Maisel is a fictional character,
the actress who portrays her, Rachel Brosnahan,
has cited many remarkable, and real-Jewish comedians
as influences for the character.
one such inspiration is Jean Carroll who in the 50s and 60s,
established a powerful media presence
with her cutting and clever material.
Carroll was all over the late night scene,
appearing over twenty times on The Ed Sullivan Show,
and even briefly starring in her own sitcom.
Another influence for Midge's comedic style is Joan Rivers.
An iconic Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian
who began performing in the late 1950s,
she became the first woman ever
to host a late night television talk show,
Late Night with Joan Rivers.
Ranked number six on Rolling Stone magazine's
top 50 best stand-up comics of all time,
Rivers was an edgy and provocative performer
whose irreverent, self-deprecating humor
earned her an induction
into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2017.
Other Jewish comic influences include Don Rickles,
Elaine May, and Phyllis Diller,
whose absurdist stylings seem to be an influence
for another character on the show; Sophie Lennon.
The show's creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino,
also cites her father, Dan Sherman,
as a major influence for Midge.
- So I had to turn a six foot two Bronx Jew
in to Rachel Brosnahan.
- However, despite these influences,
Brosnahan views Midge as a unique character,
saying, "I later learned that Midge is just Midge."
While Midge may be a composite of different comedians,
the character of her friend Lenny Bruce is based
on the real-life Lenny Bruce.
The portrayal of Bruce as a dark and cynical troublemaker
is true to his real-life exploits:
the foul-mouthed Jewish comic often found himself
on the wrong side of the law, even going
as far as being banned from England in 1963,
after a string of controversial performances.
Midge and Lenny's relationship
may also have some truth behind it,
mirroring the real-life friendship
between Bruce and Joan Rivers.
After Rivers bombed on stage one night,
Bruce gave her a handwritten note that said,
"you're right, they're wrong."
The gesture changed Rivers's life,
and she kept the advice close to her heart,
tucked in her bra, to be exact.
The locations of the show are
just as important as the characters,
and even the most outlandish setpieces
are actually based on some very real places.
Midge's first comedic outing is at the Gaslight Cafe,
a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village
that operated from 1958 to 1971.
The Gaslight was known as a venue for poetry readings
and folk music, with performances
from the likes of Alan Ginsburg and Bob Dylan.
Midge's journey takes her
to historic New York establishments like B. Altman,
a luxurious department store in Midtown Manhattan
and the iconic nightclub, The Copacabana,
an establishment with a rich history
of legendary performers including Marvin Gaye,
Sammy Davis Jr., and Barry Manilow.
In the second season, The Maisels and Weissmans embark
on a three-episode trip
to perhaps one of the most culturally important locales
in all of Jewish American culture: The Catskills!
- We're going to the Catskills!
- Every summer for nearly a century,
the gorgeous mountain range has played host
to millions of Jews, so it's no wonder
why the area has been nicknamed "The Borscht Belt"
after the classic Russian meal enjoyed
by generations of Ashkenazi Jews.
Jewish comedians often traveled across the Catskills,
headlining shows for packed ballrooms
at the many kosher resorts and developing a style of humor
which would come to be known as "Borscht Belt humor",
known for its self-deprecation,
references to marital bickering,
hypochondria, and Yiddish wordplay.
You can see the phenomenon for yourself
in Billy Crystal's hilarious film, Mr. Saturday Night,
in which the protagonist, Buddy Young Junior,
performs at such resorts, and even meets his future wife
in the process.
Talk about a classic Jewish story!
During her trip, Midge performs at the Concord Resort Hotel,
a lavish and sprawling kosher establishment
that was the largest resort in the region.
In season three, Midge takes a trip
to my hometown, Miami Beach,
another historic Jewish vacation spot and cultural center
which even today hosts thousands
of Jewish vacationers for the holidays.
The trip features the iconic Fontainebleau hotel
which during the Passover holidays is two thirds kosher!
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's tremendous commitment
to authenticity in this loving homage
to the culture of mid-Century Jewish comedy
exemplifies the Jewish value of connecting to our roots.
This fictional story of a Jewish housewife
who discovers her own power through the world of stand-up
pays tribute to the very real Jewish tradition
of exploring our past for inspiration and empowerment,
while most importantly, getting a good laugh in the process.
- My name is Mrs. Maisel.
Thank you and good night!
- Thanks for watching.
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