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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 dramedy series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and produced by Amazon Studios for Prime Video. The show's first season was released on November 29, 2017, with a second season following a year later on December 5, 2018. A third season is currently in production and scheduled for release on December 6, 2019.

Set in 1958 New York City, the show stars Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a vivacious Jewish housewife and socialite who has put all her focus into being the perfect daughter, wife and mother. However, her life is turned upside down when her husband Joel (Michael Zegen), an aspiring comedian, suddenly leaves her for another woman. Reeling, she stumbles onstage at the local comedy club to deliver a drunken tirade about her situation and discovers her own skill in comedy. With the help of the club's curmudgeonly manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), Midge embarks on a new career in comedy while still picking up the pieces of her old life.


The show features quite a bit of detail on the entertainment scene of the 1950s (including Lenny Bruce as a recurring character) as well as a lot of focus on upper-middle-class Jewish culture in New York City.

In 2018 the show won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Awards also went to Brosnahan, Borstein, and Sherman-Palladino (who won twice, for writing and directing the pilot episode).

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.
  • 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.
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  • 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, "Boy are you barking up the wrong tree." In season 2, it is implied that she's shared a bed with few to no other people, which could suggest that she's in the closet and/or celibate due to homophobia of the time period.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • In 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).
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption:
    • In season 2, in the midst of a particularly raunchy performance at the Concord club in the Catskills, she 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": When Sophie Lennon 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.
  • 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.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: 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.
  • 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 that this year, she's being relegated to being "sash girl" (the girl who hands 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".
  • 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.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: In "Doink", when imitating a secretary for her management company, Susie (played by Alex Borstein) briefly does her Lois voice.
  • Break the Haughty: Abe in "Let's Face the Music and Dance" gets hit with a double whammy of this regarding his kids. 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.
  • Busman's Holiday: Midway through season 2, Midge goes with her parents on a summer retreat to the Catskills. This is right when the 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.
  • 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.
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: Midge's reaction when her gossipy coworker Ginger in the switchboard room tries to show her an article in the Village Voice that Susie did an interview for.
  • The Cameo:
  • 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...
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 women could 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.
    • 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.
    • A subversion: "Look She Made a Hat" filmed scenes in McSorley's, an Irish tavern notable for not allowing women in the doors until 1970. However, McSorley's is masking as the Cedar Tavern, a completely different place entirely.
    • 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 / Not-Jimmy: There's a baby in the backseat, Mr. Weissman!
      Midge: Bring that too!
  • The Ditz: Penny Pan, which is a fact that seems to be brought up whenever someone chides Joel for leaving Midge for Penny.
  • 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 it really is one.
    • "Midnight at the Concord": Midge's succsessful 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)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: During her first drunken act, Midge exposes her breasts to the audience, resulting in her first arrest. She does it to demonstrate what her husband has given up.
  • 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 Reigner: Rose constantly goes to see Gina, a psychic who is an obvious fake that's bilking Rose out of her money. When Rose goes to see her again, she finds 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Germanic Efficiency: The Weissmans' German maid Zelda is stoic, humorless and utterly committed to performing her duties properly. At Yom Kippur in season 2, she gets very upset when Midge constantly forces her to hold off serving dinner so she can disclose her new career as a stand-up comedian.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Stage Deli in Midtown. It 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.
  • 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 and in the season 2 finale, also has some sage words of advice for Susie before she goes to visit Sophie Lennon.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Nerd: The clerks/proprietors of Music Inn are nerdy wimps with an affinity for obscure recordings.
  • 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 disgust. However, he also attacks one of her hecklers after leaving, loudly defending her honor while doing so.
  • 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.
    • In season 2, when Midge mentions the MDA Telethon, Rose talks of how great Jerry Lewis is and Abe mentions it's a wonderful cause. As soon as Midge says she's performing on it, Rose and Abe start ranting it's all a huge scam and Lewis is a terrible person.
  • 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.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Lots of people compliment Midge's looks.
  • 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!
  • 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 some odd pimples on her cheek from bed bugs.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Lets 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. He's 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.
  • The Oner: Quite a few, most impressively during the dance routine at Midge and Joel's wedding straight out of Fiddler on the Roof, and the "Sing Sing Sing" first dance at Steiner in "We're Going to the Catskills!"
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 deep into her eyes and asked her "Are you sure?"
      Midge: That was you 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 exactly much better, herself having not noticed 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sealed with a Kiss: The season 2 finale ends as Midge and Joel are about to kiss.
  • Second Love: Dr. Benjamin Ettenberg to Midge in Season 2. It starts with Rose and Benjamin's mother trying to ship their kids. Midge pretends to go on a date with Benjamin, just to please her mother. Eventually, they end up growing closer, even after Midge reveals that she's a stand-up comic. Benjamin ends up asking for her hand in marriage, although Midge insists on getting Abe's approval first (since Joel skipped that part during their courtship). Midge also finds nothing wrong with spending nights at Benjamin's place, something even he finds a little shocking, such as telling her that she's at least supposed to demand dinner first. She agrees, then asks if they can just skip the dinner and go straight to his place.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Technology Porn: We get a quite fun demonstration of how speakerphones worked in the '50s.
  • "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.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: 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."
  • Throw It In!: The things Midge talks about in her gigs are very much improvised based on random events she observes in her daily life, and saved into her memory.
    • "Midnight at the Concord" features a lengthy version of this as Midge's routine is derailed midway by her spotting her father in a front row seat. Fortunately, she manages to keep her act together enough to power through the rest of her set, improvising a whole new line of raunchy remarks at Abe's expense.
  • 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 witnessing Midge performing 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.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Midge's son 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.
  • 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.
  • Vacation Episode: Season 2 sees a three episode arc covering the Weissmans' and Maisels' annual summer vacation to Steiner Mountain Resort in the Catskills.
  • Wakeup Makeup:
    • Invoked. Midge waits until Joel falls asleep, then puts on some exfoliating cream and goes back to bed. Then, she wakes up before him, puts on her makeup, 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.
  • 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.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Susie hails from the Rockaways, and as we see in season 2, she grew up in poverty.
  • 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?
  • Your Cheating Heart: Joel is cheating on Midge with his assistant, Penny Pan.
    Midge: Penny?! The girl who couldn't even figure out a pencil sharpener?
    Joel: It was a new sharpener...
    Midge: It was electric! All she had to do was push!

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