Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino’s Golden Globe-winning series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” may be set in the ’50s, but women striving to break into Manhattan’s male-dominated stand-up comedy industry today will find the struggles of Miriam “Midge” Maisel familiar, the cast says.
The show’s lead Midge would (gasp) prefer to spend her evenings performing at the Greenwich Village Gaslight rather than caring for her children in a perfectly primped Upper West Side apartment. Delving into a “man’s world,” Midge faces obstacles her male counterparts know little about — like being ignored by managers and taken for a secretary, singer or model rather than a comedian. Nevertheless, Midge and her second-hand woman Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein) power through adversity to be taken seriously.
“There are so few characters like Midge out there,” actress Rachel Brosnahan, who plays Midge, said. Brosnahan won the 2018 Golden Globe for best actress in a TV musical or comedy for her role in the series. “The stuff we’re making in the industry needs to better reflect the world we live in and right now it doesn’t.”
In November 2017, the New York Times published a first-person op-ed by comedian Laurie Kilmartin divulging the struggles women striving for a spot on the stage in stand-up still face today, from sexual harassment to a lack of equal representation.
“Stand-up comedy is hard on its women,” she wrote. “Truth is, if you are a woman in most professions, there are a bunch of extra rungs on your ladder to success.”
And one can’t ignore the 2007 Vanity Fair article by Christopher Hitchens explaining “why women aren’t funny.”
“Humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny,” he wrote.
How would Midge and Susie respond?
We sat down with the cast and creators of the new Amazon show to discuss how the comedy landscape has changed for women, and what still needs to be done to boost the female presence.
The first season of “Mrs. Maisel” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.