Miriam (Midge) Maisel seems like one of a kind. She is witty, intelligent, ambitious, and approachable, but she has a self-destructive tendency to hurt others by divulging their secrets in her stand-up acts. However, the most intriguing aspect of Midge is that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is partially based on real people and events!
The fourth season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) as she pursues a career as a stand-up comedian following her husband Joel’s (Michael Zegen) abrupt decision to leave her.
Midge navigates the thorny 1960s comedy scene with the assistance of her manager Susie (Alex Borstein), while simultaneously engaging in escapades such as working in a department store and coping with the antics of her tightly wound parents. Midge is constantly attempting to discover her voice, attract the attention of comedy heavyweights, and establish herself as a comedienne.
Inspiration for The Comedians of Mrs. Maisel
Midge’s first inebriated performance at the Gaslight Cafe and subsequent arrest for using profanity in season one, episode one, is the first indication that the comedy is based on actual events. In the police car, Midge meets Lenny Bruce, another comic who has been arrested for obscenity.
Obviously, Lenny Bruce is one of the most famous comedians in history. Bruce was tried and convicted of obscenity in 1964 for his extensive use of sex jokes and obscene language, and the trial became a landmark case for freedom of speech in the United States. In 2003, he was posthumously pardoned.
There is another comic in Midge’s orbit who resembles a famous person. Midge watches a performance by comedian Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) early in the episode and later has lunch with her. Onstage, Lennon adopts the role of a loudmouthed working-class housewife, complete with a handkerchief and a feather duster. Midge is astounded when she discovers that Lennon is incredibly wealthy in real life, wearing evening gowns while lounging in her luxury townhouse and having her waitstaff gift Midge French macarons and a mink coat.
Lennon resembles comediennes Moms Mabley and Phyllis Diller, despite the fact that her likely real-life inspiration did not lead such a dramatic double life. Similar to Lennon, Mabley and Diller integrated housewife and mother stereotypes into their acts for humorous effect, transforming themselves into caricatures. Although Mrs. Maisel’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has not specifically stated that Lennon is based on Mabley and Diller, the similarities are undeniable.
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Who Is Midge Herself Based On?
Sherman-Palladino sat down with Vanity Fair in March 2017, when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel debuted, to explain the source of her inspiration for the show. Sherman-Palladino acknowledged in the interview that Midge is modelled on none other than Joan Rivers.
Midge’s first performance, which lands her in jail alongside Bruce, establishes her comedic style for the remainder of the play. She is feminine, eventually choosing a black cocktail dress and heels as her hallmark appearance, but she is also unafraid to be crass, disrespectful, and explosively angry.
“[Joan Rivers] had that amazing mix,” Sherman-Palladino told Vanity Fair. “She wanted to be accepted on a feminine level, but you can’t have that many balls and be accepted on a feminine level.” It simply does not function that way. It was a fantastic contrast, and she wrote those monster jokes.”
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In fact, Joan Rivers was renowned for her acidic and scathing comedic approach. She, like Midge, was repeatedly in trouble for making jokes in her stand-up performances about the private lives of other celebrities. Rivers was also criticised for making jokes about the Holocaust and the kidnapping of Ariel Castro. Midge’s frequent lack of self-awareness and self-control is easily explained. Also, like Midge, Rivers was frequently spotted at Catskills resorts.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is based on an actual event? No, technically. In the 1960s, there was no Jewish stand-up comedian by the name of Miriam Maisel performing at the Gaslight in New York City. However, Midge’s biography is replete with parallels to actual performers, both their achievements and failings.