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Series / The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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"I’m officially losing my mind, which is perfect. Now I will be alone and crazy, the famous mad divorcée of the Upper West Side."
Midge Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a period dramedy series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and produced by Amazon Studios for Prime Video. The first season was released on November 29, 2017, with the second season following a year later on December 5, 2018. Season 3 was released a year after that on December 5, 2019. The fourth season, which began production in January 2021 after an extensive delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, was released on February 18, 2022. Ahead of Season 4's premiere, the show was renewed for a fifth and final season, which began airing on April 14, 2023.

The series, which is set in New York City beginning in 1958, centers around Miriam "Midge" Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a vivacious Jewish housewife and socialite from the Upper West Side who's put all of her focus into being the perfect daughter, wife, and mother. However, Midge finds her life turned upside down when her husband Joel (Michael Zegen), an aspiring stand-up comedian, suddenly leaves her for another woman. Reeling, she stumbles onstage at the local comedy club and delivers a drunken tirade about her situation, discovering her own skill in comedy. With the help of the club's curmudgeonly manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), Midge embarks on a comedy career while still picking up the pieces of her old life – and hiding her new life from her parents Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle).

The show features quite a bit of detail on the entertainment scene of the '50s and early '60s, as well as a lot of focus on upper-middle-class Jewish culture in the NYC of that era.

Additional characters include Joel's parents Moishe (Kevin Pollak) and Shirley (Caroline Aaron), successful comedian and aspiring thespian Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch), and none other than the great Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby).

This series provides examples of:

  • The '50s: The first season takes place in 1958; it covers the social mores and comedic trends of the time. One episode even alludes to the then upcoming 1960 Presidential election. The second season takes place in the summer and fall of 1959. Season 3 takes place from December 1959 through the end of 1960.
  • The '60s: The third season takes place at the end of 1959 and to the end of the year 1960, even featuring Midge wearing her hair in a Beehive Hairdo.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: While the critics reviewing the show where Midge tears down the fakeness of Sophie Lennon predicted it was the end of her career, they also unanimously praise how funny she is. When Susie uses these reviews to try and explain that she's finished, Midge focuses on the fact they all thought it was funny.
  • Alliterative Name: Miriam "Midge" Maisel and Penny Pan.
  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: Joel's father Moishe seems to embody that stereotype. Despite being a wealthy textile factory owner, he still tries to skimp on whatever he can, such as refusing to pay Abe back for the temple seats they agreed to split, and then later forcing Abe to agree that Moishe already paid him back. In season 2, he reveals that he's been stealing Joel's presents, from his bar mitzvah to his college graduation, to help pay for Joel's expenses. However, a flashback also reveals that he chose an expensive venue for Joel's bar mitzvah to ensure his son has the party of "a conqueror." At the end of the season, he finally fires Joel as his assistant, while paying him a huge severance. Why? Because he wants his son to do what he wants with his life, not spend it working for his father.
  • Alter Kocker: Abe seems to embody the stereotype as an older, cranky Jewish gentleman.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Susie. She's always seen dressed in mens' clothing and is frequently actually mistaken for a man. When Joel is trying to get her to give him a spot at the club by complimenting her blouse, she tells him, "Barking up the wrong tree, pal." In season 2, it is implied that she's shared a bed with few to no other people, which could suggest that she's asexual, in the closet and/or celibate due to homophobia of the time period. In season 3, she knows exactly why Shy and Reggie took Midge saying the latter had “Judy Garland shoes” to mean she was telling the audience he was gay when Midge genuinely has no idea what that meant. However, this could be explained by Susie living and working in Greenwich Village and learning this by osmosis. The ambiguity is gone after she runs into her ex-girlfriend Hedy Ford in the final season.
  • Amicable Exes: Despite the divorce, Midge and Joel remain very close. To the point that at their final divorce proceeding, the judge seems intent on denying their request, necessitating that Joel make up a story about having a string of paramours (with Susie helping him out). And then, just two episodes later, they have a one-night stand in Midge's hotel room in Las Vegas.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: In "Put That on Your Plate", Harry Drake invokes this when he argues that being the opening act for Sophie Lennon is a terrible job:
    Harry: Slot went to Markie Diamond once. You hear of him?
    Susie: No.
    Harry: And to Adam Young once. You hear of him?
    Susie: No.
    Harry: Danny LeMonde? Scoop LeMonde?
    Susie: Brothers?
    Harry: They're in plumbing now.
    Susie: I get the point.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • When Joel is leaving, the cherry on top is that he uses Midge's suitcase instead of his own.
    • Midge says that Phyllis Schlafly is racist, sexist, and uses too much hairspray.
  • The Art of Bra Removal: When Joel and Midge are about to have sex in "Thank You and Good Night", Midge tells him that she didn't expect it to happen, so she didn't have time to do what she had always done before sex: unhook her bra halfway to make things easier for him.
    Joel: (struggling with the bra) Wow, you weren't kidding about this thing. Who the hell designed this, the Catholic Church? (removes it) Ha! A conqueror!
  • Artistic License – History:
    • In season 2 episode 5, Midge goes with Benjamin to see The Legend of Lizzie (a play about the Lizzie Borden murder trial) on Broadway, which they find so terrible that they walk out at intermission and instead opt to go see Lenny Bruce at another club. The scene is set in the summer of 1959, and while the play was real, it was actually so bad that it opened and closed in February after just two performances. Which lends a whole new spin on Benjamin's later remark when he and Midge are having dinner at the Stage Deli when he suggests they consider going back to catch the second act if it's any good.
    • The season 2 finale recreates Lenny Bruce's first appearance on The Steve Allen Show. In real life, that happened in April 1959, but the episode is set in November 1959 (since it's after Yom Kippur).
    • The TWA Flight Center at Idlewild Airport (now known as John F. Kennedy airport) is featured in season 5 set in 1961. The iconic terminal opened in 1962.
  • Ascended Extra: After two seasons as a recurring character, season 3 promotes Sophie Lennon to a main cast role (possibly because she's played by Jane Lynch).
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption:
    • In season 2, in the midst of a particularly raunchy performance at the Concord club in the Catskills, Midge spots her father in the audience and freezes up, since she hasn't yet told him about her new career. After a few moments of stammering, she manages to pull herself together enough to finish the performance.
      Midge: ...The first time I ever let a boy go Christopher Columbus on my nether-regions, it was in the Catskills. And this boy, he was my [spots her father] papa. [freezes and stammers as she tries to fight the initial shock]
    • In "Midway to Midtown," Midge has an instance of this while reaming out Susie for talking to the press behind her back, while Susie is indulging in a bubble bath in Rose's tub:
      Midge: I have to know what you're saying. To my friends. To the press! I know about that interview you gave to the Village Voice! You didn't even ask me about it before you did it! You just went ahead and [sees Susie's foot reaching for the faucet] do not add more hot water!
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Oh, Sophie Lennon.
    • In season 2, she is called upon to interview people with rheumatoid arthritis during the MDA telethon, she switches rapidly between sympathetic and humorous modes, and makes little to no effort to conceal the transitions. After taking a moment to operatically moan in sorrow for the poor victims, she drops her facade and sorts through her note cards again.
    • In season 3, Susie attempts to mount a comeback for her by putting her in a production of Miss Julie with Gavin Hawk. Almost all of her acting as she rehearses for the role is dreadful. However, she gets better during further (unseen) rehearsals. On stage at the premier, however, she completely falls apart and starts improvising her old comedy schtick instead of doing the rest of the play.
  • Bail Equals Freedom: Discussed when Midge states that she thought that if you got bailed out the night you were arrested, you were done, and then wonders why she thought that.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In their first few encounters, Shy gives Midge several long and appraising looks. When he learns that she's single, he says, "I'll file that away for later." All of this teases Shy as a potential racial barrier-challenging romantic partner for Midge to match the early scenes of Joel's flirtation with an Asian woman. Ultimately it turns out that Shy is actually gay.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: For the Catskills arc in season 2, Susie infiltrates the Steiner resort by walking around in her usual blue-collar clothing while carrying a plunger to pass herself off as an employee. The staff readily take her in as one of her own, to the point that they put together an emergency search when she doesn't show at her usual bunk. Later she meets Chester, a man who has managed to pull this same ruse off for seven years running.
  • The Beard: Shy has a designated girlfriend that he says is "not the one" because it turns out he's gay and only uses passing relationships with women as a cover. After Midge is booted off the tour for almost outing him, he's forced to become engaged to one of them as damage control.
  • Beauty Contest:
    • The Steiner Mountain Resort in the Catskills has a swimsuit pageant every year, which Midge has competed in for eight years straight, even trying to choose between a pale pink "Doris Day" two-piece and turquoise with white polka dots "Mamie Van Doren" bikini. She's disappointed in season 2 when she's demoted to being "sash girl" (the girl who presents the sash to the winner) because of her separation from Joel.
    • Susie mentions that her mother participated in one contest as young woman, where she sang "Danny Boy".
  • Bittersweet Ending: How the series ends as a whole. Both Midge and Susie go onto great success, Midge as a landmark comedian and Susie as a legendary agent. However, Midge is estranged from both of her children, Joel went to prison for a spell in order to protect her and has had a string of failed marriages, and had a falling out with Susie that lasted several years. Susie is a respected and feared agent, but has very if any close friends. However, by 2005, the two women have reconciled and stay in touch on a nightly basis despite living on opposite coasts. They have wealth and fame, but at the expense of their personal lives, but they still have each other in the end.
  • Black Comedy: After Midge's impromptu stand-up show at a Paris drag bar, which ends up becoming rather depressing, an American expat woman who translated for her offers the name of her psychiatrist, who she says "has done wonders for her friend Sylvia Plath." This is quite darkly funny when one knows that Sylvia Plath killed herself just a few years after this takes place.
  • Borscht Belt: This style of comedy is in its heyday during the series. In season 2, Midge even vacations in the Catskills and books a set at a Borscht Belt resort.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: This applies to the situation at the end of season 3 regarding Midge and Shy. On one hand, she was told by Reggie to make jokes at his expense. She didn't know how to connect with the audience (especially after being berated by Moms Mabely's manager) and Reggie told her that Shy was what they had in common. What she did say wasn't outing him as gay in and of itself. She was making jokes about him being a diva and high maintenance which is how it was taken by the audience. However she said something about "Judy Garland shoes", which was a code back in the day for being gay, she didn't know this but he and Reggie did and interpretated it as her outing him. Once again, the audience didn't seem to understand it. However given that he trusted her with his secret and the fact that being outed back then was a one-way ticket to losing his livelihood, it's understandable that he's very sensitive about anything that could be remotely construed as being about him being gay.
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Lenny uses this (by implication) to get rid of a guy who's harassing Midge at a bar in season 3, which hints at their relationship taking a turn for the romantic later in the episode.
    Lenny: (To Midge) Hello. (To guy at the bar, pointedly) Goodbye.
  • Brainless Beauty: Penny, who has difficulty operating an electric pencil sharpener and fails to see the irony in accusing Midge of stealing Joel away from her.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: In "Doink", when imitating a secretary for her management company, Susie (played by Alex Borstein) briefly does her Lois voice. In season 3, she even does a Katherine Hepburn impression over the phone to do some networking to secure a theater role for Sophie Lennon.
  • Break the Haughty: Abe gets hit with a double whammy of this regarding his kids over the course of "Let's Face the Music and Dance". First, he ends up discovering Midge's stand-up act when he inadvertently finds her performing at the Concord, and Midge improvises (after a moment of stage fright) with several raunchy jokes that use him as the punchline. Then, Abe makes a big deal bringing Noah to Bell Labs, talking of how he's a pretty big influence and his son needs help landing a job there. Abe is brought into a secure room, where his boss informs him that A) Noah is a genius far greater than his father, B) he's working on a top-secret government project and C) not only is Noah's security clearance higher but even the janitors in the lab have a higher security clearance than he does. Abe can only stagger out, rocked to realize that his supposedly "forgettable" son is considered far more important than he is.
  • Brick Joke: Susie is revealed to be a talented piano tuner and tunes Abe's piano. When Abe objects to moving in with Midge, he complains the piano must not be tuned properly and plays a few notes as proof, then states it's tuned perfectly.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • Midway through season 2, Midge goes with her parents on a summer retreat to the Catskills. This is right when the Borscht Belt comedy circuit is heating up, and Midge needs the gigs to boost her reputation, so Susie follows her up there and starts using her city connections to seek out venues for Midge to do gigs at. Her first gig at the Concord Lounge is a hit, but is soured by it also being how Abe finds out the truth about her.
    • Season 3 sees Midge on tour with Shy Baldwin. While she's on the tour to perform, she does partake in other fun activities along the way.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • After helping Midge deal with her earlier arrests in Season 1, activist lawyer Michael Kessler isn't seen again for the rest of season 1 and all of season 2... until the season 2 finale, when he takes a meeting with his old friend, Abe.
    • Herb Smith returns for a brief one-scene appearance in season 3, where he's revealed to be writing joke material for Sophie Lennon. Susie is surprised to find that he's landed here.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Midge's reaction when her gossipy coworker Ginger in the B. Altman switchboard room tries to show her an article in the Village Voice that Susie did an interview for.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Middle-aged lady in this case. At the end of season 3, Midge finally calls out her mother for her unsupportive attitude regarding her being a comedian.
    Midge: I'm sorry that you're so disappointed in how my life turned out. I'm sorry that you can't understand the turn it's taken. I have certainly tried to explain it to you, to include you in it, but you don't want to understand or be included. You just want to be disappointed.
  • The Cameo:
    • Gilbert Gottfried cameos as the MC at a strip club in the pilot.
    • Wallace Shawn as Herb Smith in "Doink".
    • Wanda Sykes as real comedian Moms Mabley in "A Jewish Girl Walks into the Apollo..."
    • John Waters as natty gay man Lazarus in "Interesting People on Christopher Street"
  • Career Versus Man: Midge faces this decision after the events of season 1, when she wants to get back together with Joel, but he tells her that it won't work because he can't deal with her cracking jokes about their personal life on stage. The same choice returns at the end of season 2, when Midge is gearing up to marry Benjamin and suddenly gets offered a six-month touring deal with Shy Baldwin. Unlike most examples of the trope, "career" is framed as the correct choice and it is what Midge consistently picks.
  • Cast Full of Rich People: Midge was raised among New York's elite and is initially a picture-perfect housewife. The working-class Susie is often taken aback by their lavish way of living.
  • Catchphrase: Sophie Lennon's Apron Matron persona's is "Put that on your plate!" But it's also the only catchphrase of her character. Susie and Midge find it very repetitive and grating, and wonder how people manage to find it funny when it's just the same joke over and over.
  • Censor Suds: Played for Laughs when Susie takes a bath in the Weissmans' bathtub while staying over (to hide from Harry Drake's people, with the cover story that Susie's place is being fumigated). She uses the whole bottle of Rose's bath soap, which Imogene points out is overkill.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Lenny Bruce, a couple of times. Midge and Joel see him one night in the first episode, and Midge later bails him out of prison. He returns the favor to her later, and the two strike up a friendship, though he doesn't appear for most of the rest of the season. He returns in the season finale when Susie comes to him for help after Midge has been blackballed, and he uses his own influence to help her get back on stage. The friendship continues in season 2.
    • In season 2, Midge spots Shy Baldwin warming up for the telethon when she and Susie show up at the studio to check in, and identifies him. Later, while Midge is in the bathroom touching up for her set (which has been bumped to the tail end by Sophie), Shy turns out to be using the bathroom as well to wash up. They exchange pleasantries and bond a bit over their mutual dislike for Sophie. One episode later, he calls up Midge to offer her a spot opening for him on a six month tour across the USA and Europe, which she eagerly accepts without hesitation.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Not only did Midge roast Sophie Lennon at a show in which Lennon's agent was in attendance to evaluate her as an opening act, but there were several comedy critics present as well, all of whom wrote about how Midge was committing career suicide by taking on Lennon. As Susie reads the reviews, Midge ignores the part where they predict she's finished to focus on how every single one of them acknowledged the set was hilarious.
    • When Rose's fortune teller describes Midge's future, her description is obviously one of Midge performing a stand-up routine, but Rose keeps bending every point to describe Midge getting married.
      Cosma: I don't know why you'd wear a black cocktail dress to a wedding, but whatever...
  • Continuity Nod: When Midge learns Joel has a fledgling relationship after they drunkenly remarry she asks him whether she can sharpen a pencil, calling back to the fact the woman Joel left her for had trouble operating an electric pencil sharpener.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In "Midnight at the Concord," Abe chooses to skip Polynesian night at Steiner (because he's not up for tolerating Moishe's antics) and goes to catch some late night entertainment at the Concord Resort, where by coincidence, Midge is doing a gig.
    Midge: I'm not even sure what brought him there. Fate? The gods? When I was four, I took two lollipops when the rabbi told me to take one, and this is my punishment?
  • Costume Porn: Many of the women in the show wear absolutely beautiful dresses, as usually fits their economic status and/or proximity to show business. Midge’s wardrobe is a dragon’s hoard of stylish 50s attire, with an ensemble for seemingly every possible occasion she may find herself in. Rose, Imogene, and Mei also sport some very impressive outfits.
  • Courtroom Antics: When Midge and Joel are finalizing their divorce, the judge is dragging his feet, as they're acting too amicable. Joel has to claim he's slept with a harem of women (with Susie corroborating) to get the judge to cave.
  • Creator Killer: In-Universe examples:
    • Midge's first two sober performances bomb badly, and she thinks she's just gone through this, despite Susie attempting to comfort her by making it clear everyone bombs, and she was just due for it. Midge doesn't believe her, and she's ready to step away from comedy entirely.
    • Once she gets back on track, Midge decides to skip on performing her usual routine one night to roast big-time comic Sophie Lennon after she learns that her poor, fat, Queens housewife schtick is all a sham, and that she's really a rail-thin and fantastically wealthy upper-class single woman on Park Avenue. While the set is a smash hit with the audience, it just happened to be the night that Lennon's agent was in the club to evaluate her as a potential opening act. And several critics were also in attendance, ensuring everyone knew about it. The former proceeds to use his connections to essentially make Midge persona non grata. It's only her friendship with Lenny Bruce that gets her back on stage in the first season finale.
    • Sophie Lennon herself gets this in season 3 in her Miss Julie performance. One bout of stage fright after accidentally knocking over a prop table, and she slowly unravels, leaning more and more into her comic character until she's throwing out the script to do her normal routine. Her career as a touring standup comic is derailed, and she's only able to get out of her slump when Susie books her an interview on The Gordon Ford Show, and subsequently lands a role as the host of a game show called Seconds Count.
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • The scene where Midge does her first bad set and bombs is excruciatingly uncomfortable; you can practically hear the crickets coming from the audience. Cringe lack-of-comedy, maybe?
    • Happens again in season 2 when she attends her coworker Mary's wedding. What starts with light jabs ends up getting incredibly uncomfortable as Midge makes jokes about sex and the Catholic priest to a group of Catholics, and then jokes that it must be a Shotgun Wedding given the quick turnaround from Mary's engagement to her wedding... seconds too late to realize that in fact it is one.
    • Happens during Midge's performance at the Concord Lounge when she spots her father at a table near the front. After a momentary period of stage fright, she manages to pull it together to finish her set and makes several sex jokes that leave her audience in stitches but leave Abe squirming in his seat, and collapses into a full panic attack as soon as she goes offstage.
      Midge: Why didn't he leave? Why didn't he leave?
    • Midge's set at the Apollo, as she begins making jokes that to a modern audience are very obviously about him being gay.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: When Midge teaches Susie how to swim (against her will).
    Susie: I'm going to kill your children! I'm going to kill both your children, wear their clothes and haunt you!
  • Damsel in Distress: Discussed in "Someday", when a club manager refuses to pay Midge because she was late (due to getting stuck in traffic), and when Susie tries to get the money out of him, he locks her in the janitor's closet. Midge calls Joel, who forces the manager to let Susie out and pay Midge. Susie, however, isn't happy:
    Susie: You didn't have to call him.
    Midge: Unfortunately, sometimes to make things work in a man's world, you need a man. That's just the way it is, Susie.
    Susie: I would have found a way to take care of it. You may be some kind of damsel in distress, but I'm not.
    Midge: No, you were a damsel in di-closet.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In "Everything in Bellmore," the Village Voice assigns Abe to review They Came, They Danced, a Broadway musical written by Steiner Mountain Resort's entertainment director Buzz Goldberg. The musical is terrible, but Abe is hesitant to badmouth someone he knows personally, and initially tries to write a positive review...which amounts to all of two sentences.
    "They Came, They Danced opened last night at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. Your mother might like it."
  • Dance of Romance: A particularly steamy one takes place between Midge and Lenny in mid-season 3. Prior to the episode in question Midge had always insisted to others that they were Just Friends with nothing romantic between them, but after they dance together this is obviously no longer the case.
  • Deconstruction: Comedy is hard, and a comedian is likely to bomb. A lot. Especially a first time comedian without a solid set. Midge learns this the hard way on one of her first actual sets and she tries complaining about her life, which lacks the blistering anger about her situation that fueled her first two performances. Susie openly states that Midge will bomb a lot as she refines her skills, and actively tries to put her in front of tough crowds that would be tough on her to help her get over this hurdle. A good effort is made to establish a good, 10 minute "Set" of jokes to work through and to fall back on if riffing doesn't work.
  • A Degree in Useless:
    • Midge's mother chides her for getting a degree in Russian literature. Apparently the only thing it did for her was inspire a Doctor Zhivago-themed wedding.
    • In season 2, Rose counsels a group of female art students to transfer into the business program because they'll never make anything out of their art degrees, while all of the best bachelors are business majors.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Midge works incredibly blue for the '50s, so that an act that people wouldn't bat an eye at today gets her repeatedly arrested. This carries over to Lenny Bruce, which was very much Truth in Television.
    • People openly treat Susie's tomboy appearance with ridicule and disdain, since her look conflicts with 1950s gender norms much more than it would today.
    • In the elevator, when Susie tells Midge about a man pinching another woman's ass, Midge's immediate and completely serious response is that she hopes the girl did nothing to encourage it.
    • The limited job opportunities for women in the 1950s is touched on occasionally.
    • Abe is a great father who is pretty open minded about Midge being incredibly smart. That being said, he was still born in the 1890s and isn’t 100% on board with her new found intellectual freedom. It seems like ladies talking about politics is a bridge too far for him. He shuts her down when she tries to ask him if he likes Nixon or Kennedy. Abe would have been a young adult before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, and Midge is of the first generation of women who were allowed a full education.
    • Abe is embarrassed about wearing a tight romper while doing his calisthenics during a time when athletic wear was not considered socially acceptable to wear in public. It's why he also does his calisthetics before sunrise.
    • Moishe's intense distrust of banks as "gentile" institutions is a lot different from what you'd expect from Jews, particularly modern American Jews, but Moishe is from a different generation of Jewish immigrants who are less removed from systemic antisemitism. By contrast, his son Joel is much more comfortable and understanding of banking practices, as he'd previously worked for years in a corporate job with professional accountants.
    • In "We're Going to the Catskills!" Midge and her parents leave young Esther in the car while they're in Steiner's main building checking in, something that would get her arrested for child endangerment in the 2010s after a spate of deaths of kids being left in hot cars by neglectful parents. This one gets Played for Laughs.
      Samuel: There's a baby in the backseat, Mr. Weissman!
      Midge: Bring that too!
    • In season 3, Shy Baldwin's real manager is Reggie. But Reggie, like Shy, is black. So when it comes to negotiating, Shy has to have a white front man named Lou Rabinowitz.
      Reggie: Lou's the white guy that record labels are willing to deal with. Lou's the white guy that Nabisco likes to talk to when they want Shy to front for 'em. Lou is the white guy that glad-hands mayors when they want my man to get a key to the city. Lou's...
      Susie: White. I got it. Yeah. Lou's extraordinarily white.
    • In a later episode, Midge finds Shy bloodied after a fight and offers to take him back to her hotel room. He reminds her they're in Florida and her hotel doesn't allow black patrons, something very common in the pre-Civil Rights era.
    • Midge does a few hilarious radio commercials in Season 3: a brand of cigarettes favored by expectant mothers, amphetamines for slimming, car sales deals that even a woman can understand...
    • The Season 3 finale has an impressively nuanced case, as Midge is encouraged to make jokes about Shy for the working class black crowd at the Apollo, resulting in several jokes that these days are obviously about him being gay, but at the time, the subject was so outside most people’s mindset that they would just come off about him being high maintenance. Thus, it’s perfectly understandable both that Midge would think they were okay, and that Shy would consider them too close for comfort and fire her.
  • The Ditz: Penny Pan, which is a fact that seems to be brought up whenever someone chides Joel for leaving Midge for Penny.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Zig-zagged. Whether or not Midge and Joel's initial separation will ultimately turn out to be permanent is a major recurring question of the show.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In the first episode, Joel tells a joke to a colleague, with the audience hearing only the Orphaned Punchline. The colleague laughs and explains the joke back to Joel, as if to prove that he understands it. This also clues in the audience in case they didn't recognize the joke.
  • Drunken Master: Midge's first few sets prove her to be a natural. One caveat, though: She is drunk or high through all of them. The first time she attempts it sober, she fails miserably, and starts to believe that she's only good when drunk. It takes a little practice at parties for her to get on track.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • At her wedding, Midge ends her speech by saying they put shrimp in the eggrolls, to the horror of everyone present, since they're all kosher-abiding Jews.
    • In "The Punishment Room", Midge makes several off-color jokes at a Catholic wedding reception. Then she makes matters even worse when she says it must be a shotgun wedding since Mary and her husband have only known each other for a few months… realizing just seconds too late that it really is one.
    • "Midnight at the Concord": Midge's successful effort to course-correct after freezing up upon seeing her father in the audience involves making several racy jokes about his sex life, which leave the audience in stitches and obviously leave Abe very uncomfortable about the fact that his daughter has become a foul-mouthed comic behind his back. (It doesn't help that this happens to be a "blue night", so Midge's act was already going to be more foul than it normally is)
    • Midge performs at a Kennedy fundraiser hosted and attended by Jackie O. She's doing a clean set as requested and then starts to tell a racy joke but catches herself. The all-woman audience tells her to go on and tell it, so she begins telling a story about a situation where she was surprised to learn she was the other woman and talks about how bad it feels for women to get cheated on. All the energy is sucked out of the room as Jackie starts crying, leaving the set on a long, silent, awkward ending.
  • Easily Forgiven: Joel, arguably. He almost immediately seems very penitent and regretful of leaving Midge, but he still broke her heart, destroyed their marriage, and upended her entire life for basically no reason. Despite this, she is back on cordial terms with him very quickly and is ready to give their relationship another shot by the end of season 1.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The series starts with Midge giving a hilarious speech at her own wedding.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Midge's usual routine flops in Paris, where the crowd doesn't get why she's making such a big deal about being cheated on.
  • Everyone Can See It: Played with. Many people assume that something is going on between Midge and Lenny, but they think this for various different reasons — some of which are legitimate observations, while others are completely off the mark.
  • Everyone Is Christian at Christmas: Invoked when Midge performs at the USO show and is expected to sing "White Christmas" for the finale, despite not knowing the lyrics because she doesn't celebrate the holiday. She (poorly) mouths along with the rest of the ensemble. (Particularly ironic, considering "White Christmas" was itself written by Jewish composer Irving Berlin.)
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In a wedding toast that was already way over the line, Midge is finally brought up short when she says Mary's wedding must be a shotgun wedding with how fast it happened, and then freezes up, realizing that's exactly what it is.
  • Facepalm: When Sophie's performance of Miss Julie begins going off the rails, Susie buries her face in her palm while Midge is staring straight ahead in bile fascination.
    Susie: I can't watch, I can't watch!
    Midge: I can't not.
  • Famed In-Story: Given that it's a story primarily about people in show business, this trope naturally pops up a lot. Lenny Bruce is the most obvious example, though Shy Baldwin and Sophie Lennon also count. Midge starts to gain some notoriety herself as the show progresses, although her fame is still not anywhere near their level.
  • Fanservice: During her first drunken act, Midge exposes her breasts to the audience as part of a joke, resulting in her first arrest.
  • Fashionista: Many of the women on the show, especially Midge and Rose. "We're Going to the Catskills!" reveals that the both of them have four small closet spaces worth of clothing between them for the summer. In the season 2 finale, Midge buys a couple closets worth of fancy dresses as soon as she agrees to go on tour with Shy Baldwin, with Shy saying he'll cover the bills.
  • Faux Fluency: It is pretty obvious in the season 2 Paris segment, that Marin Hinkle does not speak French as well as one can expect from a Francophile woman that spent part of her youth in Paris.
  • Faux Reigner: Rose constantly goes to see Gina, a psychic who is an obvious fake that's bilking Rose out of her money. Midway through season 1, she's replaced with a younger woman who claims Gina has left.
    Rose: Gina went back to the old country?
    Psychic: Old country? She's from the Bronx!
    Rose: No, no, Gina is from Eastern Europe, a small city just outside Bucharest.
    Psychic: ...Okay.
  • Flash Back: We get a few flashbacks to Midge and Joel's courtship after they separate, revealing just what she ever saw in the guy.
  • Flash Forward: Each episode of Season 5 opens in the 1980s that reveals Midge is now a famous and respected Emmy-winning comic star while also estranged from her kids and some sort of falling out with Susie.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Shy dumps Midge from his European tour because he understood the jokes she made about being high-maintenance as instead making it clear that he is gay. The next season even has him getting married to ensure his public image is still as a straight person.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • One of Joel's earliest scenes is him giving the Orphaned Punchline to a very old Jewish joke. This foreshadows the fact that he doesn't write his own material.
    • When Susie first shows up at Steiner and says she's shopping around looking for venues to book gigs for Midge, Midge protests that she can't perform up here in the Catskills because a lot of the people around here know her. Sure enough, when Midge gets her first gig at the Concord, her father ends up being in the audience by total coincidence.
    • When Midge first encounters her platonic friend Lenny in Miami, he gets rid of a guy who was trying to flirt with her and also mentions his divorce, seemingly apropos of nothing. 24 hours later, he's asking her out on a date.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As the show enters the 1960s, Lenny Bruce, the most prominent real-person character, is going to find himself in an increasingly bad situation. During the early part of the decade, he found himself getting arrested more often and was convicted for obscenities in November 1964 (he was given a posthumous pardon in 2003). He served a few months in a halfway house and then died by an overdose in August 1966. These events only take place four and six years after the end of season 3.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: A flashback during Midge's wedding in episode 1 shows that she saw Lenny Bruce perform early in his career, while on a date with Joel when they were in college. When she ends up in the back of a police car with him several years later, Midge shows no sign of recognizing him, and does not appear to have made the connection even after befriending him and finding out that he is a famous comedian. During her stoned performance at the Vanguard in episode 3, however, she references his airplane glue bit from the pilot, indicating that she does remember.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Abe, whose arc through seasons 2 and 3 is largely centered around him rediscovering the political convictions of his youth and making more of an effort to vocally stand up for what he thinks is right.
  • Fortune Teller: In season 1, Rose regularly attends a local fortune teller who obviously exploits her insecurities. After the fortune teller abruptly leaves her business to a new, less friendly psychic, Rose stops going regularly. Ironically, this new fortune teller might actually have some psychic ability.
  • Free Prize at the Bottom: In "Look, She Made a Hat", before Yom Kippur family dinner, Moishe is so hungry after fasting all day that he starts eating from a box of Ethan's cereal and even takes the decoder ring.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: For the first two seasons, Midge's parents live in a massive Upper West Side apartment that has enough room for them, Midge, Midge's kids and huge decorations. It eventually comes to light that Columbia University actually owns the apartment...and even then, season 3 establishes that Rose has been secretly using money from her trust fund to pay the bills.
  • The Gambling Addict: Susie learns to gamble in Las Vegas and becomes an addict. She starts betting on sports in New York and starts using Midge's money to cover her losses. Even her bookie tells that she's got a problem.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: Susie is shocked when she realizes belatedly that Midge has taken her to a lesbian bar. Not for the usual reasons though — she's shocked because she is gay and she realizes Midge is trying to get her to date again, which she doesn't want to do.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: The Fontainebleu where Midge stays during the Shy Baldwin tour's stop in Miami in season 3 has a "staircase to nowhere" in the lobby which exists just so women can walk down it in their finest dresses and show off to the public.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Stage Deli in Midtown is a local hangout for many of the stand-up comedians and their agents. Susie uses it as a regular place to network when booking gigs for Midge, and she and Midge have a special booth that they always sit at (the staff are even running a Side Bet for when they need to kick someone out of Midge and Susie's favorite booth). Everyone knows Midge well enough that when she brings Benjamin there in "Midnight at the Concord," he briefly thinks her family owns the restaurant until she clarifies. The fare is apparently hit-and-miss.
    Midge: Uh, some quick menu tips: great sandwiches, good soups, stay away from the Italian specialties, unless you like mediocre Greek food.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Joel and Midge practice this with their children, often leaving them with the grandparents while they go off and do their thing. This even happened during their life together. When presented the opportunity to leave on a six-month tour with Shy Baldwin, a singer she met at the telethon, Midge doesn't even hesitate in accepting, and never considers her kids to be a factor in choosing whether to go. Predictably, this has consequences — their son is estranged from them and their daughter hates Midge's guts.
  • Hand Wave: A few examples:
    • Mei's abortion.
    • Season 4 closed with the matchmakers declaring war on Rose. In season 5, one had dropped dead off screen, others missing, and head honcho Benedetta gaoled. From prison, Benedetta allows Rose to continue her matchmaking, unabated. Rose becomes the winner by default and it's never mentioned again.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: After Midge unintentionally outs Shy Baldwin at The Apollo at the end of season three, season four opens with Shy announcing his wedding to a woman, who is just one of several fake girlfriends acting as The Beard for him.
  • Held Gaze: Between Lenny and Midge during their date in 3x05, which both of them comment on as it's happening.
    Midge: You're still staring.
    Lenny: So are you.
  • Hero of Another Story: Lenny, practically by definition, as he's a Historical Domain Character who's mostly on the fringes of Midge's life. He clearly has a lot going on that we don't see in the story proper, and usually chooses to keep it to himself.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Midge toward Lenny. She mostly plays it cool to his face, but she has a habit of waxing poetic about how great he is to other people.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • The whole premise of the show is that Midge, sweet, pretty, charming, upper-class Jewish-American housewife can be foul mouthed, crude, ostentatious, witty, insightful, charismatic and most importantly very, very funny.
    • Susie in season 2 turns out to be a good pianist and is adept at tuning Abe's piano.
    • Noah turns out to work for the CIA, though he insists that he's just a desk jockey analyst.
    • Rose is fluent in French and has a great interest in moving to France; Abe confirms she used to live in Paris and was a very extroverted and adventurous young woman. Her apartment in Paris for a brief period at the start of season 2 is actually more "rustic" (cockroach-infested) than their Upper West Side apartment, and she does her own shopping and shares a bathroom with rough-looking men (whom she apparently considers charming). Compare and contrast that with her daughter on tour with Susie in motels with no doormen and with nasty mattresses.
    • Sophie Lennon is a classically-trained actress who only ended up doing standup with her Apron Matron persona because Harry Drake ignored her desire to perform in legit theater.
    • Jackie turns out to be a former carpenter by trade. In the season 2 finale, also has some sage words of advice for Susie before she goes to visit Sophie Lennon. In season 3, he also manages to clean up Susie's apartment while subletting the place. In season 4, it's posthumously revealed that he fought in World War II and earned a Bronze Star.
    • Nicky and Frank, the two thugs sent after Susie, find a replacement theatre for Susie for Sophie's production of Miss Julie. They reveal they're big theatre fans.
      Nicky: You'd be surprised by how much theatre work we do.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Midge befriends Lenny Bruce, who becomes a recurring character as she makes her way in the entertainment biz.
    • Midge attends a protest organized by Jane Jacobs and meets her again in the second season at the Cedar Tavern. Jacobs calls her weird behind her back.
    • Though she's never named, Yoko Ono shows up at an art gallery commenting on a ladder in season 2.
    • Shy's bassist Carole, who befriends Midge in season 3, is essentially a fictionalized version of bass legend Carol Kaye.
    • In the season 3 finale, Moms Mabley appears on stage at the Apollo Theatre before Midge's set, portrayed here by Wanda Sykes.
  • Honor Before Reason: Shy's managerial team offers Midge $2,000, then slowly ups it to $12,000, in exchange for non-disclosure of Shy's sexuality. She refuses because she had promised Shy personally.
  • Hope Spot: Just as things are looking up for Joel and Midge, and Joel's career is about to take off, he finds out about her stand-up gig, quits his job, and leaves her performance (talking about their sex life) in despair. However, he also attacks one of her hecklers after leaving, aggressively defending her ability as a comic while doing so.
    Joel: She's good!
  • Hypocrite: In season 3's finale, Midge confronts her mother, after Benjamin confronts her, and chews her out about her interference in her life and her refusal to accept her career choices. Rose fires back with a "you don't have a lock on pain" about while she doesn't understand Midge's choices, her life is also at the whim of a man and was similarly destroyed by it and she will do whatever she has to rebuild it. Thing is, Midge was a genuine victim of Joel's actions and her old life was destroyed entirely by his actions. She couldn't support herself and had to move back in with her parents. Rose however, had a hand in her own ruination. She encouraged Abe's endeavors and put Honor Before Reason by isolating her family and cutting herself off from the trust, despite it making them nearly homeless. Likewise, Rose was always capable of supporting herself (she held down a job and apartment in Paris for months), she just won't support herself because 1950s society shuns a working woman, and she expects Abe to do it for her. While she is at the whims of the men in her life, Rose is partially responsible for her circumstances while Midge actively makes the best of her situation and works for financial independence.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Penny confronts Midge and calls her a tramp for sleeping with her own husband, despite the fact that Penny is herself Joel's mistress. The hypocrisy is not lost on Midge, who of course makes it material for her act.
      Midge: She has a point. After all, she has a teddy bear he won for her at Coney Island. All I have is a wedding ring and two kids who call him "Daddy".
    • In "Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy", when Midge mentions the MDA Telethon, Rose talks of how great Jerry Lewis is and Abe mentions it's a wonderful cause. The second Midge says she's performing on it, Rose and Abe start ranting it's all a huge scam and Lewis is a terrible person.
    • The Communists that Abe hooks up with sternly order Zelda around and mooch off of their well-off parents without a trace of irony.
    • Rose's family refuses to let her sit on the board of the oil company because she's a woman. Even though the company was founded by a woman, and they even let a kid sit on the board.
    • At the strip club, Imogene mentions she's a secretary. A stripper states she would never want to work as a secretary because businessmen would stare at her tits and it would be very degrading... while topless, and working at a strip club where men do exactly that.
  • Illegal Gambling Den: Joel discovers that the building he rented for his new night club in Chinatown has an illegal gambling den in the basement filled with Chinese people. He can't get rid of them, so he just makes do.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: In "Kind of Bleu," as Susie is settling Abe and Rose into their seats for Midge's evening performance, she gets summoned to the phone to deal with Sophie Lennon's production of Miss Julie up in New York. It's the director, calling to complain about the fact that Sophie and Gavin are having hate-sex backstage and have been going at it since 2:00 p.m. They're being so loud that, even though the director's using a phone at the sound booth in the back of the theatre, they're still very much audible.
    Susie: [sitting back down with Abe and Rose] The stars of my Broadway show are hate-fucking. So, who wants another drink?
  • I Was Quite a Looker:
    • This trope has been discussed at least a couple of times in the first season. Sophie Lennon's comic persona is that of a poor and fat Queens housewife who used to be rubenesque but has since lost her shape.
    • Susie mentions that her mother is an alcoholic who talks about how she used to be Miss Rockaway, and never achieved anything since then.
  • In Vino Veritas: Midge's first few sets are done with the help of wine or pot. When she finally does one sober it bombs, and she starts wondering if she actually needs drugs to be funny. Later she does comedy sober and she's naturally funny.
  • Incredibly Long Note: The Steiner Welcome song has one. The guys' solo sees the lifeguard captain hold the last note for a very long time.
    Girls: Play all day and dance all night!
    Guys: All us happy Israeliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-
    Buzz: Oh boy, looks like we've got a Note Challenge!
    Buzz: The resort record for holding that last note is 42 seconds. Let's see how he does, folks.
    [25 seconds later]
    Josh: ........iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiites!
    Buzz: And not a record, but a hell of an effort. Good try, Josh!
  • Indy Ploy: A favorite tactic of Susie's. Need to talk to a famed agent? Just walk right into the Friar's Club, even if you don't have a membership. Want to confront a rival manager who's trying to scoop your talent? Just head into his office at lunch, since the entire office clears out between 12pm and 1pm and there's no one there to stop her.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Implied to be the case with Lenny. Also part of the reason Midge broke it off with Benjamin in between seasons 2 and 3, as she assumed he wouldn't still want her if he genuinely understood the level of difficulty her work poses to a relationship.
  • Insurance Fraud: Once Susie spends Midge's earnings to pay off her gambling debts, she and her sister Tess set fire to their late mother's house hoping to recover the funds through the insurance. Sadly, the insurance company is suspicious, having heard that right after the house started burning a rowboat with two women was seen sailing away from it... They get out of it by Tess sleeping with the investigator (which was not what Susie asked), then becoming his mistress, then his secretary at the insurance company, much to Susie's bewilderment.
  • Jewish American Princess:
    • Played with. Midge appears to be a pampered and fashionable Jewish young woman but she has a very sexual nature and she used to be supportive of Joel's ambitions until he dropped her. She is also friendly and willing to befriend people from different backgrounds than she (such as the Butch, working-class Susie and some gentile girls and the friendly girls at B. Altman) and willing to work for a living if she need be. She makes a reference to this in her stand-up.
      Heckler: Go clean the kitchen!
      Midge: Oh sir, I'm Jewish, I pay people to do that.
    • That said, in Season 2 on her tour with Susie, she also shows some degree of street savviness. At one seedy motel, she refuses to sleep on a bed that looks contaminated, choosing to sleep sitting or standing up instead. She is proven right when Susie wakes up with bed bug bites.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Abe is a mathematician at Columbia University. His son is equally nerdy and has been recruited by the CIA right out of college.
  • Jewish Complaining: Rarely an episode goes by without Midge's entire family and in-laws having a long kvetch about something.
  • Jewish Mother: Both Rose Weissman and Shirley Maisel, Midge's and Joel's mothers, display classic traits as overbearing mothers, but Rose takes it to extremes with her anxiety about the size of her infant granddaughter's head.
  • Jews Love to Argue:
    • Most of the family interactions revolve around arguing. Abe, being a professor, seems to take pride in arguing points. At Midge's wedding, he tries to take on a rabbi by claiming that shrimp are kosher (they're not).
      Abe: Show me where it says that Jews can't have shrimp!
      The Rabbi: Leviticus 11:12 "Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that is a detestable thing unto you."
      Abe: That doesn't say anything about shrimp!
    • "Look, She Made A Hat" sees Midge try to use Yom Kippur dinner to come out about her standup comedy act, but gets frustrated as a result of constant conversation hijackings by others. Eventually, she's able to speak and say her words, though she also agitates Zelda by forcing the staff to delay bringing out the food.
    • Midge lampshades this in season 3 by writing it into her routine.
  • Just Friends: Discussed. Lenny Bruce's mentorship of Midge has resulted in some skepticism from Abe and Rose, who (being from an older generation) do not believe that men and women can meaningfully interact in any way except romance. (In fairness, they're right about the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Midge and Lenny, but this does not preclude or dismiss the additional dimensions of the relationship, and they came to their own conclusions before ever having met Lenny or seen him with Midge.)
  • Kicked Upstairs: In "The Punishment Room," Midge is moved upstairs from B. Altman's switchboard to the coatroom attendant. She calls it "purgatory with a better view" when her coworkers come over to talk to her. She is later sent back to the switchboard after she is caught leaving the booth trying to apologize to Mary for her insensitive remarks at Mary's wedding. Midway through the summer, she ends up getting out of the basement for good when her boss at B. Altman asks her to fill in at the Revlon Counter for a few days due to a staff shortage.
  • Lethal Chef: Midge's over-zealous, recent-convert sister-in-law Astrid brings Jewish cuisine to family functions that is so bad that Rose doesn't even need to instruct her maid to immediately throw it in the garbage.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: In "Doink," when Midge is bombing on stage and gets heckled, she tells to the heckler: "You think you could do better, asshole? Then stand up and make 'em laugh. Come on. Let's see what you got." The heckler stands up and tells a joke that gets a laugh from the audience. At this point, Midge gives up and leaves the stage.
  • Little Black Dress: Midge's standard costume for stand-up routines is a black cocktail dress and a pearl necklace.
  • Loan Shark: In season 2, Joel discovers his mother's "special loans" accounting book and quickly realizes that his parents are borrowing from loan sharks instead of banks. The sharks' way of letting Moishe and Shirley know when it's time to collect is to send a few guys to vandalize the factory floor at night. Moishe prefers this system to banks, which he distrusts as gentile institutions built to exploit people like him.
  • Lonely Funeral: When Jackie dies in "Everything is Bellmore," the only attendees to his memorial service are his sister, plus Susie, Midge, and Chester. Susie has a hard time giving her planned eulogy to the empty room, so she ends up hijacking a more crowded funeral parlor across the hall to deliver it.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: In "The Punishment Room", Rose goes to an art class and nearly faints when she sees the subject for the day: a nude man.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: In the season three opener, Midge performs at an Army USO show and agrees to pose for some photos on a Jeep. An engine is "accidentally" started in the background, lifting up her skirt. The resulting picture ends up in a few local newspapers.
    Joel: [showing Midge the picture] You wanted to give the boys a peek at what they're fighting for?
    Midge: The wind blew up out of nowhere.
    Joel: Lighting's good. Your underwear really glows.
    Midge: I didn't even know they took a picture!
    Joel: And the angle. Pretty sexy.
  • Married to the Job: Season 2 sees Midge having to struggle between her home life and her new stand-up comedy life. This culminates in her missing Imogene's baby shower as she does a road trip tour in the Mid-Atlantic states. Watching Lenny Bruce perform "All Alone" in the season 2 finale, she realizes that close family ties and relationships are going to be secondary to her career, not even hesitating when Shy Baldwin calls to invite her to go on tour with him. Part of this epiphany also comes from her meeting with Declan Howell, whose apartment is also his full-time studio, where he invests his every waking hour in his art, which he never sells.
  • The Matchmaker: Rose embraces the role of matchmaker for the local Jewish community in season 3 as a way of having something for herself that she doesn't need to rely on her husband for. In season 4, it's revealed that there's a whole syndicate of organized matchmakers, who are unhappy at Rose taking business from them.
  • Maybe Ever After: Invoked by Lenny after his evening with Midge in 3x05; instead of entering his hotel room with him, she leaves, and he asks her "Maybe someday, before I'm dead?" to which she replies, "It's a date." Exactly how tragic this exchange turns out to be remains to be seen.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: For all of her obvious quackery in the first season, Rose's replacement fortune teller says in the second season that she sees a brunette with a unique hairstyle speaking at a microphone before a large audience, and later adds to herself that the woman is wearing a black cocktail dress, all of which are correct details about what Midge has been and will certainly be doing again. It's left ambiguous as to whether the fortune teller really saw an accurate vision or she just saw Midge on the telethon and somehow deduced that she is Rose's daughter.
    • In season four, Alfie the magician seems like someone who just has a weird personality, knows some sleight-of-hand, as well as being skilled at cold-reading. Then he makes Suzie believe she is actually in a distant forest for several seconds (the audience seeing what she sees), before she comes back to reality. This gets taken even further when at his first live performance, he seemingly conjures floating projections of childhood memories (and a future moment) right before the audience's eyes. Most of his tricks are comparable to real-life illusions, but some are aided by VFX to show how "surreal" they appear to the characters.
  • Media Scrum: On arrival in Las Vegas in "Panty Pose," we see Reggie running interference for Shy at the press junket.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Averted in Season 3 when Susie is talking to the hit men she hired to sabotage a Broadway play for Sophie Lennon's play (and met and befriended in Season 2) and reveal that they have a knowledge and liking towards Broadway stars and remembering that Macbeth needs to be referred to as "The Scottish Play".
  • The Missus and the Ex: Joel introduces Midge to Mei in the final episode of season 3. They have a polite but slightly tense interaction that implies the two of them will either grow to be friends based on mutual respect, or fall into a passive-aggressive rivalry.
  • Mock Millionaire: Joel and Midge are upper-middle class, with a swanky Upper West Side apartment, expensive possessions and an active social life. When Joel is leaving her, however, Moishe reveals that Joel is basically broke. Moishe owns the apartment and is ready to take it back now that they're no longer married. The revelation drives Midge to charge right back to the club to do a routine off this.
  • Modesty Bedsheet:
    • In the season 1 finale, after being startled awake beside Joel, Midge gets up and starts stumbling around the room wrapped in her bedsheet, while Joel has put on underwear at some point in the night. She slips into a bathrobe off-screen.
    • In season 3, when Joel and Midge have a one-night stand while drunk in Las Vegas, the same thing happens again. Joel tosses Midge a bathrobe as she crawls out from under the covers.
  • Moment Killer: Invoked. When Lenny and Midge are standing outside his hotel room after their date, Midge intentionally (though very gently) spoils the tension by suddenly asking him what he thought of her act, as a way of telling him she's decided to call it a night.
  • MRS Degree:
    • Midge married Joel right out of college with a degree in Russian literature.
    • Discussed in the second season, when Rose goes to art classes at Columbia and advises a group of young women that their art degrees will be useless in the real world, and suggests that they transfer to the business school where they'll meet quality bachelors.
  • My Card: Susie makes business cards for herself when she becomes Midge's manager. But since she has to make them personally, one by one, she's reluctant to actually hand them out.
  • My Beloved Smother: Both the mothers of Midge and Joel are very controlling. Joel's mother seems blissfully unaware her son is a grown man who doesn't go out "and ride bikes" anymore. Rose is more concerned with Midge's appearance, whether that be her clothes, her friends, her relationship with Joel, or her reputation with the neighbors.
  • The Napoleon: Susie is at least a head shorter than everyone else in the cast and has the strongest personality. Midge is at least One Head Taller than her.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters:
    • When Susie gets abducted by two mob goons (sent by Harry Drake to intimidate her), she eventually befriends them over the fact that they're from the Rockaways. Before they let her go, she's meeting their family for dinner and taking home leftovers.
    • Angie Calibrese, the "food & beverage chairman" of the Las Vegas casino where Midge is booked in season 3. He's very affable to Midge and Susie. But he's also very obviously a mobster. At one point, Susie is waiting to have a meeting with him in his office about a check, and happens to see Angie and some goons roughing up a bookie in debt to him, which his secretary doesn't bat an eye to.
  • Never Heard That One Before: In Season 4, while at a club, Midge rolls her eyes as the Jewish stand-up does scores of Jewish jokes with Midge openly quoting each one in time with him.
  • Never My Fault: When Sophie Lennon bungles her Broadway comeback in season 3, outside the theatre, she tries to blame everyone else for her failure, accusing Susie of conspiring with Gavin and the director to put her down to prop up Midge. As Susie fires back, she stuck her neck out for Sophie, gave her absolutely all the support and encouragement Sophie needed, believed in her… and she still fucked it all up. That’s all on her, no one else — not on Susie, Midge, Gavin, or the director.
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Midge and Rose are both very kind to their maid Zelda, but Abe often has an adversarial relationship with her. In season 2, he starts suspecting that she dislikes him. Though in season 3, Abe warms up more to her after they're forced to move in with Moishe and Shirley, and she's driven to hide with them in the guest bedroom to avoid putting up with Moishe and Shirley's antics.
    • Abe is also extremely rude to Samuel, his staff helper in the Catskills, though it's implied that it's just because he's disappointed that Jimmy, his previous staff helper, left (having gotten a summer associate's position at a prestigious law firm). He seems perfectly fine with the rest of the staff.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Joel beats up a man in a drunken rage for heckling Midge, though there's a lot more going on in his head as well.
  • No Social Skills: Midge, in spades. In season 1, she insults the Rabbi at her own wedding so badly that she's still trying to win him over years later. In season 2, standup has basically destroyed what little sense of social decorum Midge has had left, leading her to make highly profane and offensive remarks without realizing it, as happens when she burns her bridges with Mary by accidentally disclosing her Shotgun Wedding. In "Someday", Imogene is slack-jawed at Midge casually making a dirty joke about her pregnancy-enlarged breasts to a fellow comedian at the Stage Deli. In the season 3 finale, she ends up screwing herself out of the Shy Baldwin tour when she ends up outing him as gay. As Reggie points out, "Judy Garland shoes? Really?"
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Rachel Brosnahan practically gave up doing a consistent accent by Season 3.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Both sets of parents in the Maisel-Weissman family are annoying in their own way. Abe and Rose are rigid, proper and put on airs, usually prioritizing appearances and their own petty concerns over others. With that said, they're often the Only Sane Man when the family comes together. Meanwhile, Moishe and Shirley are loud, obnoxious and overbearing. With that said, they're usually more loving and honest than the Weissmans. Ultimately, neither side is more or less of a pain in the ass.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: After her disastrous production of Miss Julie, Sophie Lennon checks into a mental hospital on the advice of her publicist, who thought it would be good for her image to fake a nervous breakdown.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Midge nearly freezes up when performing at the Concord when she realizes that Abe is in the audience, and she and Susie both share one when he confronts them at the end of the show. They spend the entire ride home and sit up all night in sheer terror over what he'll say.
    • Susie has a big one in the season 3 finale when Reggie mentions the "Judy Garland Shoes" joke Midge told about Shy at the Apollo, knowing exactly what such a thing implied.
  • The Oner: A Creator Thumbprint for Amy Sherman-Palladino: Gilmore Girls had a number of long takes, most of which which were completely unnecessary but gave cast and crew a chance to show off. She ups her game for this show, including the dance routine at Midge and Joel's wedding straight out of Fiddler on the Roof, the "Sing Sing Sing" first dance at Steiner in "We're Going to the Catskills!", and one of the first shots of Season 3, which follows Midge and Susie as they are driven back and forth in a Jeep.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Episode 3 of Season 2 sees a montage of three of Midge's gigs with these sorts of transitions.
  • Orphaned Punchline:
    • Joel delivers one to a colleague in his office. The colleague promptly explains the joke back to him, but it's such an old joke that many audience members will recognize it just by the punchline.
    • We don't get the setup to the final joke in Midge's Concord routine in the midseason finale of season 2, but we transition in just as she's saying, "...and the donkey who looked just like my father stood up and said, 'Who else wants a piece of THIS?!'"
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Joel's parents reject his relationship with Penny, which leads to him breaking up with her. On the flip side, Abe eventually approves of Midge's relationship with Benjamin and agrees to let Benjamin marry her, only for Midge to dump Benjamin in favor of a six month tour with Shy Baldwin.
    • Lenny gets this treatment from Abe and Rose when they assume that he and Midge are dating at the beginning of season 3; both of them despair at the idea that she would leave Benjamin, a handsome and respectable doctor, in order to be with a comedian. However, Abe goes to see Lenny's act at Midge's suggestion and seemingly changes his tune once he sees Lenny get arrested for obscenity, making the choice to get arrested alongside him and complimenting Lenny on the flowers he sent while they are sitting in jail together.
  • Persona Non Grata:
    • After Midge tears down Sophie Lennon's poor housewife act at a show in which Lennon's agent is there to check her out as a potential opening act, he storms out warning Susie that Midge is through. He then uses his connections to get her blackballed from every club in New York, including not only her home club, but gigs she already had scheduled were cancelled. It takes a Big Damn Heroes moment from Lenny Bruce in the first season finale to get her back on stage.
    • While Lenny is successful and well-liked in the entertainment business, his reputation for obscenity and difficult relationship with the law effectively lock him out of a lot of career opportunities available to other comics, as he points out to Midge in "All Alone."
    • Midge is kicked off the Shy Baldwin tour at the end of season 3 for nearly outing Shy as gay.
    • Sophie is blackballed for sabotaging her performance in Miss Julie.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: In the pilot, Joel has a funny stand-up routine. Later on, Midge sees Bob Newhart do the exact same routine on TV (but faster). When she indignantly tells Joel that Newhart must have stolen his routine, Joel nonchalantly tells her that it's the other way around. He claims that all starting comics do that. Even better: we see see another comedian at the Gaslight stealing the same routine.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Abe claims that he hated Joel from the moment he met him, but after telling Midge he kept quiet about it because he respected her choices. She has no idea what he's talking about, so he reminds her about the time he looked into her eyes and asked her "Is this the choice?"
      Midge: That was telling me?
    • In season 2, it takes Midge showing up and showcasing how all of Rose's belongings are gone for Abe to finally grasp that Rose isn't going to Paris for a minor vacation as he assumed from her talk but left him and moved to France. Their maid actually pulls off a goodbye note that's been hanging on the wall for the last three weeks. Abe counters that Midge isn't really in any place to throw stones at him, seeing as she didn't notice either despite living down the hall]].
      Midge: You teach at Columbia, they should be terrified!
    • In "Someday," Midge accidentally gets her calendar dates mixed up, causing her road trip to conflict with Imogene's baby shower, which she'd planned. In an effort to compromise upon realizing the mixup, she decides to contact the partygoers on speakerphone.
    • The kerfuffle with Midge “outing” Shy at the end of season 3 could have been avoided if the two of them and Reggie had communicated better. Shy didn’t tell Reggie that Midge knows he’s gay. Had Reggie known, he would have probably told Midge to be careful about what she said and where he saw the line between her implying he’s just a diva and implying he’s gay was. She genuinely meant it in the former way but since there wasn’t a discussion about what was and wasn’t appropriate, they took it to mean the latter.
  • Politically Correct History:
    • New York City was more progressive than most of the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Jews would have tended to be more progressive than most, but our main characters are still rather conveniently modern on the subjects of race and sexuality. Midge and her coworkers from the department store treat a black woman as just another member of their social clique. Midge befriends and even gets a little flirty with Shy Baldwin, a black man, and doesn't bat an eyelash when she realizes that he's gay.
    • Las Vegas is depicted as far more integrated than it was. Shy and his black performers not only patronize, but stay in the casinos, and Reggie is able to act openly as Shy's manager. In reality, Las Vegas was heavily segregated, to the point where it was dubbed "The Mississippi of the West." Black performers couldn't stay in the casinos, or pretty much anywhere on the Strip, and were forbidden from the casino floors. If a black performer was contracted to perform in one, they had to enter and leave via the kitchen or similar service entrance. The show only addresses these issues once they reach Florida.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: The entire plot is kicked off by Joel announcing to Midge that he's leaving her for his secretary. Midge gets drunk and stumbles into the Gaslight Club, where she gives a comedic rant onstage that launches her comedy career. Over the next couple seasons, they reconcile, though they eventually decide to formally divorce again.
  • Present-Day Past:
    • Characters in the show use modern slang terms that didn't exist in the 1950s, such as "low bar", "talking trash", "out of the loop" or "perp walk".
    • Racial attitudes are more inline with the present than they were in the 1960s. Las Vegas and Miami were both heavily segregated and there was considerably more overt racism (although antisemitism was no longer in vogue thanks to The Holocaust). Yet Shy and his entire entourage not only patronize but stay in the casinos, something that wasn't allowed until 1962 and even then it was only The Sands.
  • Put on a Bus: Mei - after her abortion, she left Joel to pursue her medical studies in Chicago.
  • Rasputinian Death: Susie’s mother fell out of a third-story window trying to sneak out for booze, stumbled into the harbor, got hit by a boat, developed an infection, and finally choked on her pills.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • In "We're Going to the Catskills!" during their beauty salon sessions, Rose asks Midge what her dating life is like, since Midge is going out so often (for her stand-up routines). Midge plays along and claims that yes, she's trying to date a bit, and hitting all five boroughs as she doesn't want to be geographically snobby. This includes some incredibly obviously fictional dates like one with a trapper (to explain the fur coat she got from Sophie Lennon) and another date with a cab driver that turned into her going out with a carnie.
    • When Susie visits Sophie Lennon in the mental after her (fake) nervous breakdown, while explaining the rules, the nurse provides a list of Sophie's former lovers as topics to not mention. It's extensive.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In "Midway to Midtown," Midge gets her first paying gig, but is constantly bumped by the other male comedians who are performing at that venue. When she finally has her turn to speak, she goes into an epic roasting of the men.
    • In "Marvelous Radio", Susie delivers an epic one to Sophie Lennon after the latter bombs her Broadway opening and does her comedy schtick during Miss Julie.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: Midge and Joel separate... get back together... separate again and get divorced... get married again... separate again... and will likely continue to do so. However, the trope is played with far more finesse than most examples, as a lot of attention is paid to the psychology behind their decisions and the consequences that play out afterward. Midge, who has just entered a very taxing and stressful period of her life, frequently falls back on Joel for comfort and emotional support, whether or not he's in a good position to give it; Joel, out of a combination of love and continued remorse for his initial abandonment of her, is willing to provide her with that comfort and support, whether or not it's in his best interest. Hence, the tumult. Midge lampshades this in a conversation with Shy in season 3.
    Shy: What about you, Mrs. Maisel? Are you actually a 'Mrs.' Maisel?
    Midge: Yes. And no. And yes again, though eventually no.
    Shy: I've had a lot of champagne. Translate, please.
    Midge: I was a 'Mrs.' Maisel, and then we broke up, and then we un-broke up, and then we got divorced, and then we got remarried, and now we're filing for divorce again. Not sure what's confusing you.
  • Running Gag:
    • Susie being mistaken for a man. Midge is even surprised when she receives a phone call from "a woman" and it turns out to be Susie, since she's so used to people getting her gender wrong. Later gets lampshaded when Abe asks her about Susie in "Let's Face the Music and Dance":
      Abe: Who was that woman?
      Midge: [confused] What woman?
      Abe: The woman with us in the car last night.
      Midge: [realizes] Oh! I'm so used to people thinking she's a guy, I didn't know who you were talking about.
      Abe: She's clearly a woman.
    • During Midge's vacation in the Catskills in season 2, Susie follows her up to Steiner Resorts and gets into the resort by pretending to be a plumber (allowing her to secure a bunk in the staff village). Whenever Midge tries to explain Susie's role to others, they all seem to think that Susie is an actual plumber and believe Midge needs a better manager.
    • In season 3, every time Joel goes downstairs to the illegal Chinese gambling parlor in the basement of his new club for something, the energetic crowd there stops what they're doing to stare at him. They stay that way until he leaves, at which point they jump right back into the swing of things like nothing happened.
    • Sophie Lennon giving away a fur coat to everyone who visits her.
  • Sadist Teacher: The mild-mannered Abe is a tyrant in the classrooms of Columbia, delivering cutting and condescending remarks to his students with an air of impassive superiority. When he returns to an old classroom after leaving the school, his former students recoil in fear.
  • Samus Is a Girl: In season 4, Midge is repeatedly featured in negative articles written by a reporter named L. Roy Dunham, whom Midge and Susie both assume is a man. Midge goes to the office of the Daily News to confront Dunham, and comes across a woman she assumes to be Dunham's secretary. Midge tells the woman she's looking for Dunham, and the woman says "Great, wait here," before getting up, coming back, and introducing herself as Dunham. Midge is shocked.
    Midge: Well—you can tell me why you write all that shit about me.
    Dunham: Ah, there's that classy verbiage I love so much.
    Midge: Oh, so I offend you? Is that it, you don't think I'm "ladylike" enough?
    Dunham: Would you believe I just don't find you funny?
  • The Scottish Trope: Alluded to when Susie approaches Gavin Hawk in his dressing room to pitch the proposal that he costar alongside Sophie in Miss Julie. She mentions Macbeth which is met by faux-horrific cries of "Oh my god!" from Gavin and his manservant. They have to explain to Susie why the play's name is taboo.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    • In "Marvelous Radio," once Midge starts actually reading the campaign positions of Phyllis Schlafly, she refuses on air to act in a commercial for her, even though it's very lucrative. Sophie tries to jump in, but backs out as well. Even the soundboard technician who has been urging them to go through with it says, "This woman's a monster!" when she reads the script.
    • In "How to Chew Quietly and Influence People," Shy Baldwin's managerial team, who know that Midge has found out that Shy is gay, try to buy her silence with up to $12,000 in hush money. Midge is disgusted by the idea of her silence having a price tag on it and refuses the money.
      Midge: I promised Shy I would never tell anyone about that night, and I haven't. I promised Shy.
  • Sealed with a Kiss: The season 2 finale ends as Midge and Joel are about to kiss. The next season opens with her slipping out of his bed after a one-night stand.
  • Second Love: Benjamin Ettenberg to Midge in Season 2, but deconstructed. While Midge genuinely liked Benjamin, he was essentially a rebound relationship for her that developed very quickly and that she ended up discarding just as quickly, which he dresses her down for in the season 3 finale after being harassed by Rose at his place of work.
  • Secretly Wealthy:
    • Midge is surprised to discover that Sophie Lennon, whose entire act revolves around her hard life in Queens, is actually a rich lady living on Park Avenue. Sophie explains that her publicist makes sure the public doesn't know the full truth even though it's basically known to anyone in entertainment.
    • While it's not a secret that Rose comes from a family of Oklahoma oil barons, what is a secret is the fact that she's using money from her large trust fund to pay for living expenses in Manhattan without Abe realizing it.
  • Serious Business:
    • Everyone in Midge's family seems to run on this trope. It's extremely important for everything to run smoothly, as expected, and conforming to cultural norms. Even slight variations result in complete breakdowns.
    • Everyone vacationing in the Catskills takes their recreation very seriously. Everyone has a lot invested in the resort games and customs, including the prestige of the beauty pageant. Even a game of Simon Says provokes surprising amounts of competition from grown adults. The trope is particularly noticeable with Abe, who sets an extremely rigid routine for himself that involves drinking copious amounts of tomato juice, doing calisthenics in a romper, and playing shuffleboard at an outrageously competitive level. Shirley is not much better, being so invested in Mahjong that Rose says she's the only person whose disposition worsens in the Catskills.
    • The stand-up comedy circuit has hired muscle, such as a pair of thugs who Harry Drake sends in the first episode of season 2 to intimidate Susie for Midge's takedown of Sophie Lennon. Susie ends up befriending the thugs after learning they're from the Rockaways just like her family is, and uses them to pull some favors for her.
    • In "Maisel vs. Lennon: The Cut Contest," Rose is bewildered to find that she's managed to piss off a syndicate of elderly female matchmakers who are unhappy that she's poaching business from them.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: The first season takes place entirely within the confines of New York City. In the second season, only four of the ten episodes (3, 7, 9, and 10) are set entirely within New York City, with the other six being set partially or entirely outside the city (Paris in episodes 1-2, the Catskills for 4-6, a road trip to Washington DC and Philadelphia in 8). The third season also has large parts set outside New York City now that Midge is on tour with Shy Baldwin, with two episodes apiece being dedicated to the tour's stops in Las Vegas and Miami.
  • Sex with the Ex: Midge cheats on her fiancé Benjamin with Joel just before she leaves them both to go on tour with Shy Baldwin.
  • Shameless Self-Promoter: Joel's father Moishe won't shut up about the 13 Jews he helped out of Germany and into the US during World War II. At great personal cost. Abe claims that he saw those Jews, whom Moishe put to work in his textile factory. According to him, they'd probably be better off staying in Germany.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: In the season 1 finale, Midge calls in a favor with Lenny Bruce to open for him so as to break the blacklist Sophie Lennon is trying to invoke on her. In the first few episodes of season 2, many other comedians and even a few reporters think Midge dated Lenny/slept with him to get such a coveted favor out of him, rumors that Midge and Susie have to deny when it's brought up. The fact that Lenny Bruce has divorced from his wife by this point in time probably doesn't help.
  • Shiksa Goddess:
    • Joel's parents call Penny one. Midge also sneers at all of the "Methodist" trappings Penny comes with.
    • Inverted with Midge's sister-in-law. Instead of luring the nice Jewish boy away from the faith, she converted to Judaism and has been trying way too hard to assimilate into Jewish culture.
    • Midge's friend Imogene Cleary may be trying to set up her 4-year-old daughter and Midge's son Ethan for this future, especially so she and Midge could be related. Midge tries to discourage the matchmaking of toddlers.
  • Ship Tease: An extremely mild variant between Lenny and Midge. Their relationship is platonic and their interactions never go beyond gentle flirting, but the idea of something romantic between them is brought up in dialogue several times – once as a joke by Lenny, and a few times by others who are making assumptions. Starting in season 3, it becomes significantly less subtle, with the will-they-won't-they nature of the pairing even being incorporated into the show's marketing.
  • Shipper on Deck: Played with. Lenny briefly appears to be one for Midge and Benjamin, as he's very congratulatory of Midge for bagging a handsome doctor; however, the effect is undercut by the slightly weird interaction he has with Benjamin, leading Benjamin to ask if anything has happened between them. It's later made explicit that Lenny himself has feelings for Midge, so his enthusiasm was likely exaggerated, if not completely faked.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The opening sequence of "We're Going to the Catskills!" is a shot for shot duplicate of the opening credits of To Kill a Mockingbird, even using the same music. Though oddly enough, the episode is set three years before the film was released, and even one year before the book.
    • Oddly enough, there's one to the seminal 1986 graphic novel, Watchmen, in season 3. Abe tells his old communist buddy that he should write a story where a giant squid alien with laser beams attacks New York. This more or less happens in the climax of that story.
    • When Midge and Lenny go on a date to a Cuban nightclub in season 3, The Oner of the jazz performance is a direct recreation of a musical sequence in the Soviet-Cuban propaganda film I Am Cuba. It diverges from the original with the emergence of the costumed dancers.
  • Shown Their Work: In "Strike Up the Band", set in December 1959, the stage backdrop is an American flag with only 49 stars, which was flown for only one year after Alaska's statehood on July 4, 1959 until Hawai'i's statehood on July 4, 1960.
  • Skilled, but Naive: Midge is an absolute prodigy when it comes to comedy, but she is considerably less so when it comes to the business side of it. Granted her entire character arc is about her developing into a more well-rounded person, but there are still some surprising gaps in common sense. For example, when she attacks Sophie Lennon in her set, she doesn't realize that Sophie would retaliate and have her blackballed. Likewise, her jokes at Shy's expense drift dangerously close to outing him and gets her kicked off the tour. Finally, when she gets hired to do a political ad for Phyllis Schlafly, a notorious antisemite, she initially doesn't even pick up on the antisemitism and Abe has to explain it to her. It's not until she actually arrives at the radio station and begins to read the script on-air that she realizes just how nasty the woman is.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: While rehearsing for Miss Julie, Sophie and Gavin come to hate each other, then start hate-fucking. "Loud, animalistic fucking."
  • Sleeping Single: Midge's parents sleep in twin beds. She gets a lot of mileage in her comedy act from her realization at the age of 26 that the scraping sounds and moaning she thought were a ghost as a child were actually her parents moving their beds together/apart before and after sex.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: The educated and cultured Abe and Rose Weissman (Snobs) versus the self-made and crass Moishe and Shirley Maisel (Slobs) clash over religion, grandchildren, their children's marriage ending, mannerisms, lifestyles, etc. This is played up in 3rd season where the Weissmans move into the Maisel house in Forest Hills for a short time and after they try to give them their French furniture which need to pass Moishe's "tush test".
  • Starving Artist:
    • Declan Howell is a demonstration of what happens when you let work be your life. His apartment is also his studio, but he's also heavily implied to be broke because he refuses to sell any of his works.
    • With Midge and Susie, there's a variant in that Midge is well-off, while Susie spends the first part of season 2 struggling to pay her bills in a timely fashion.
      Susie: But we do have to make some money at some point. You understand that, right?
      Midge: Yes, I understand that.
      Susie: Like, now.
      Midge: Don't worry about me, I'm fine.
      Susie: Oh, are you, Princess? You hanging in there? Is life okay in your 18-room apartment on the Upper West Side with your doorman and your maid and your childcare and your bottomless closet?
      Midge: Oh, I forgot to tell you, I found $2,000 in my closet.
      Susie: This is what I'm talking about! I'm not gonna find $2,000 in my closet! Think about my life for a moment! I'm broke, I'm working less at the Gaslight so I'm falling further behind! I'm begging people to call me 'cause I can't afford to call them! I am picking up half-eaten apples out of trash cans at the Port Authority. It's getting dire here!
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Declan Howell is a painter who is widely acknowledged to be the greatest in the field and recognises in Midge the spirit of a fellow true artist, but he is so dedicated to his craft that he is a destitute substance addict who has eschewed relationships so that he is ... all alone. So basically what would have happened if Lenny Bruce had gone into art instead of comedy.
  • Support Your Parents:
    • Midge's childhood home was owned by Columbia University, since her father worked as a professor there. When he decides to leave Columbia in Season 3, her parents lose the apartment and have to move in with their annoying former in-laws, the Maisels. When Midge earns enough money to buy back the apartment from Columbia, she asks her parents to move in so they can be back near their friends and grandkids and stop fighting with the Maisels. Instead of being grateful, they insist that they tell their friends that they bought the apartment back and invited Midge to live with them, since they are embarrassed by the thought of their daughter supporting them as a single woman in the early 1960s.
    • In Season 5, a Flash Forward in Season 5 to the 1970s reveals that the now world-famous Midge is secretly backing her mother's failing matchmaking business because it makes her mother so happy and she only has so many years left. This forces Midge to do more on-the-road gigs, keeping her away from her growing children.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Noah can't attend his son's bris because he's away on business, he wife awkwardly pipes in that it certainly has nothing to do with the CIA.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Season 3 pulls no punches about reminding us of the dangers one faced when being gay in the 1960s, as shown with Shy Baldwin.
    • When Joel finds out that his new club has an Illegal Gambling Den in the basement, he's immediately concerned about the possibility of being caught up in legal logjams if the police ever have to shut the den down.
    • At the end of season 2, Midge dumps Benjamin, has a one-night stand with Joel, then goes on tour with Shy. As it later turns out, her way of breaking up with Benjamin had been to leave him a "Dear John" letter. Something Benjamin is decidedly not happy about as he says to her face in the season 3 finale.
    • When Midge attacks Sophie in her set, despite being warned against doing so, Sophie retaliates by having her blackballed in all the clubs.
  • Swapped Roles: Midge's parents and Joel's parents from season 2 to season 3, as the Weissmans are now suddenly broke and less successful than the Maisels.
  • Take a Third Option: In season 4, Midge decides that she's done being an opening act and telling safe, harmless jokes in order to pave the way for her being her, figuring the powers that be may never allow her to be the way she wants anyway. Susie tells her that they don't have many options given very few will book her now anyway. But when Midge and Susie drop off a hooker at a burlesque club, Midge hits upon the idea of performing her act in the club. By the next episode, she's acting as the club's MC.
  • Take That!: Season 3 really takes the piss out of Phyllis Schlafly, with anyone finding out the slightest bit about her declaring "This woman is a monster!"
  • Teacher's Pet: Abe always calls on the same student in class to answer, despite being only one who knows the answers, so why bother asking anyone else? When that student's mother has him transferred to another class, Abe breaks down and demands that the rest of his students leave as well. This leads to the Dean visiting Abe and telling him that pretty much everyone at Columbia is growing tired of his increasingly hostile behavior, and forces him to take an early sabbatical.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Lenny and Midge, who have had a platonic (if Unresolved Sexual Tension-laden) mentor/protégée relationship since early on in season 1, start moving into romantic territory in season 3. The dynamic is played for a joke when, during the lead-up to Lenny asking Midge out on a date, she repeatedly asks him for feedback on her act; it lands on a more dramatic note later when Midge uses it to de-escalate a sexually tense moment of the two of them standing outside Lenny's hotel room because she has chosen not to spend the night with him.
  • Technology Porn: We get a quite fun demonstration of how speakerphones worked in the '50s.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave:
    • In season 2, Moishe and Shirley Maisel are this for Steiner Resorts. The announcer lets his voice drop to a very grim tone when announcing their arrival to other resort goers.
      "Attention, Steinerites, Moishe and Shirley Maisel have arrived. I repeat, they have arrived."
    • Sophie becomes this to Susie in season 4, with her trying to keep Susie on as her manager while Susie just wants nothing to do with her.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Susie (who has been mistaken for a man by other characters) and Midge (carries three different types of lipstick in her purse and sells makeup at a department store) have this dynamic.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: When Abe is in the Catskills, he drinks copious amounts of the Steiner Resort's signature tomato juice. So much so that everyone knows something's wrong with him when he turns it down the morning after he sees Midge perform at the Concord.
  • Trade Your Passion for Glory: Sophie Lennon. As it turns out in season 2, she is a classically-trained actress with a passion for legit theater. Unfortunately, her manager ignored her desires and pushed her into her Apron Matron comedy shtick, and while she's certainly made a fortune and become a household name with it, she's not happy with what she's doing, and thus jumps at the chance to hire Susie when she gets a taste of how Susie advocates for Midge.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: After the Las Vegas stop on the Shy Baldwin tour, Susie develops a gambling habit, and begins networking with bookies at the Stage Deli. It's clear she's in over her head, with the bookie telling her to perhaps study the sport she wants to bet on. Later, he has to give her a friendly tip that she should probably cut back if she needs a "bucket brigade" to cobble up scraps when he comes by her apartment to collect. Ultimately, she ends up gambling away Midge's savings.
  • Tranquil Fury: Implied with Shy Baldwin after Midge nearly outs him onstage during her standup act at the Apollo.
  • Troubled Production: In-Universe. Season 3 sees Susie negotiate Sophie into a production of Miss Julie. The whole thing is a disaster:
    • Sophie is very uncooperative with rehearsals and making very unrealistic demands like bringing her dogs to the set, and flubbing her lines. Eventually, she's able to get it together with encouragement from Susie to do a successful runthrough of the play to their investors. (It doesn't help that Susie is pretty stretched trying to get Sophie her play while also helping Midge on her cross-country tour)
    • They lose the theatre initially to another play, forcing Susie to rely on her new mob enforcer friends to get the theatre back. This is a big scare since both leads have an end-date due to other commitments (Gavin Hawk has a pirate movie he's filming in the fall, and Sophie is scheduled to go on tour).
    • Sophie and Gavin do not get along as leads. This culminates in her having hate-sex with him on the first day of tech.
    • On the opening night, Sophie gets stage fright after accidentally knocking over a prop table. She's reduced to mumbling her lines so lowly that the audience can't hear them. At one point, she addresses Gavin by his real name instead of by his character's name, which is when Midge and Susie realize this production is bombing. While the mike gaffe is fixed, they manage to make it the rest of the way through the production until the final scenes, when Sophie abruptly devolves back into her "apron matron" persona (and the director is shown popping pills,) and turns it into a standup set.
    • When Susie chases after her after the show, Sophie refuses to take responsibility for her bad performance and instead blames Susie and the others for conspiring against her. And worse, she turns her ire on Midge when Midge catches up to them, accusing Susie of sabotaging her for the sake of propping up Midge.
    • Ultimately, Sophie's "performance" is savaged by the critics in the papers and closes after just two performances. She soon finds herself blacklisted and unable to find work.
      Jackie: [reading The New York Times] "One rarely sees anything as mystifying as the production of Miss Julie that took place last night at the Barrymore Theatre. The experience was almost as if McSorley's closed early and its inebriated patrons wandered over, found a copy of Strindberg's play, dropped their pants and defecated on it." [laughs] "The performance was so debased that one could almost recommend it as an archaeological exploration into the decay of modern society. However, despite the braying jackasses delighting in Miss Lennon's bizarre improvisations, this production of Miss Julie will be closing tonight. One night after it opened."
      Susie: Jackie!
      Jackie: What?
      Susie: You think I don't already know this shit? Shut the fuck up!
      Jackie: They say there is no bad press!
      Susie: That in your hand is some Grade A-bad press.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Midge's son Ethan has a habit of waking up early and staring fixedly at Midge while she sleeps. She's creeped out by it. Later, Abe mentions that Rose complained about him doing the same thing to her. He also shrieks loudly if he's not allowed to watch television.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Midge puts intense effort into emotionally supporting Joel and constantly looking her best (including getting up before the alarm clock and putting on makeup, then lying back down just as the alarm clock starts to ring), on top of raising his kids. He responds by leaving her for his secretary and blaming her for not understanding him.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Midge has it on-and-off with Joel (natural, given the cyclical nature of their relationship) and more consistently with Lenny, which is brought to the forefront and ratcheted up to eleven halfway through season 3.
  • Unwanted Harem: In season 2, Joel has no shortage of young, attractive female admirers now that he's single. He seems to alternate between engaging in a string of one-night-stands and reacting with annoyance to their advances depending on how much he's currently pining for Midge. In season 3, he gets Mei, the Chinese girl and interpreter who helps him and Archie with setting up the Button Club and working things out with the illegal backroom gambling parlor in the basement.
  • Vacation Episode: Season 2 sees a three episode arc covering the Weissmans' and Maisels' annual summer vacation to Steiner Mountain Resort in the Catskills. Season 3 sees two episodes each dedicated to Midge's stays in Las Vegas and Miami during the Shy Baldwin tour.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Midge's story is based on several early female comedians but takes the most from the late Joan Rivers. Rivers was raised in a wealthy Jewish family in New York, played up the Jewish American Princess sterotype like Midge does, performed in a nice dress and pearls, and was inspired by Lenny Bruce.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Shy Baldwin offers Midge the chance to open for him in his Las Vegas tour, so when she and Susie follow him there, there's a lot of casino action going on. Midge and Susie try out the slot machines, for one, and Susie later gets addicted. There's even a Vegas mobster hanging around, alluding to the days when the Mob developed much of Vegas, and built, owned and operated most of its casinos and resorts.
  • Volleying Insults: Happens in season 4 as Midge and Sophie end up sharing the stage on a TV show and use the opportunity to roast each other.
  • Wakeup Makeup:
    • Invoked. Midge waits until Joel falls asleep, then puts on some exfoliating cream, does her hair up in curls, and goes back to bed. Then, she wakes up before him, puts on her makeup and perfume, and pretends to sleep through the alarm so that she can look perfect the second he wakes up. Even after breaking up with Joel, she continues to do this, as we see her applying exfoliating cream at least once while she and Susie are staying in motel rooms during their road trip tour in season 2 episode 8. In the season 2 finale, she arises from bed to discover that Benjamin is home and he admiringly asks if she always looks that good after waking up.
    • Rose also does the exact same routine, implying that's where Midge picked up the habit.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: When Abe gets involved in a communist newspaper, he's enraged at finding so many spelling and grammatical errors in a recently published edition. He accuses the others of not taking it seriously, while they weakly protest that it's not about spelling, man!
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lenny gives a truly epic one of these speeches to Midge in the season 4 finale, following his iconic Carnegie Hall performance:
    Lenny: Jesus Christ, Midge, what a fucking pedestal you put me on. Getting arrested is not a badge of honor. Getting arrested means I can’t work where I wanna work. People are afraid of booking me. It’s exactly the opposite of what I want for myself. Do you know how much I hate knowing that half the people that come to see me are hoping I’m gonna get popped? Hoping they’ll have some great story to tell their friends over cheese and crackers? I want people to fucking laugh! Think and laugh, sure, but laugh. I’m a comic. An entertainer. Baggy pants, banana peels. I’m not the stand-up messiah. This is what I want. This is what I have worked for. Don’t you want this? Don’t you want to be here? Don’t you wanna know a thousand mental patients braved a fucking snowstorm to see you? That should be the goal! You're not going to get here hiding yourself away in a club that technically doesn't exist ... So what you got dumped by Baldwin, who gives a shit? Go get another gig, and another, and another. Listen to me. I have made a lot of mistakes, and I am gonna keep making a lot of mistakes, but one thing is crystal clear in my mind and it's what the endgame is ... You wanted me to remember you're funny, right? That night? You didn't want me to think of you as just a girl, you wanted me to think of you as a comic. Well, don't you forget that I'm a comic too. Don't you dare look at me as someone to be pitied or helped or fixed. I do not want or need that, especially from you! Ninety percent of this game is how they see you. They see you hanging with Tony Bennett, they think you to be there. They see you hauled off to jail for saying "fuck" at a strip club, they think you deserve that also. Wise up! Don't plan - work! Just work, and keep working. There is a moment in this business: windows open. If you miss it, it closes. Just don't...If you blow this, Midge, I will break my fucking heart.
  • When I Was Your Age...: A running gag in "Look, She Made a Hat", where Moishe and Zelda lament that Midge is feeding her son Ethan chocolate during synagogue, saying they weren't as privileged at that age, they were forced to fast.
  • Where da White Women At?: In season 3, Midge is opening for Shy Baldwin on a stateside tour.
  • Will They or Won't They?: This trope arrives in full force in season 3 when Midge goes on a date with Lenny while in Miami. When the two of them reach his hotel room, she elects not to spend the night with him, but as she's leaving they both confirm that there's still something unresolved between them that they may revisit at a later time. In the season 4 finale, they get together, although what exactly comes next for them is left up in the air.
    Lenny: Maybe someday? Before I'm dead?
    Midge: It's a date.
  • Wimp Fight: Doesn't actually happen but discussed in "Let's Face the Music and Dance", when Noah insults Joel at a family breakfast at the Steiner resort:
    Joel: Maybe we should take this away from the table.
    Noah: What, so you can beat me up? No, thanks.
    Joel: I couldn't beat you up.
    Noah: I'm completely out of shape.
    Joel: I'm sore from playing horseshoes.
    Moishe: What are you, competing for the "Biggest Steiner Sissy" sash?
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Susie hails from the Rockaways, and as we see in season 2, she grew up in poverty.