Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Star Rachel Brosnahan Learned Stand-Up Comedy By Watching Ali Wong

The electric comedy series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is set to deliver a gloriously satisfying conclusion in its fifth and final season on Prime Video. Known for its blustering pace and whip-smart dialogue, the show offered a glimpse into the life and career of a housewife turned comedienne during one of the most exciting time periods in New York City's history. The swinging sixties opened up new avenues and opportunities for entertainers of every ilk, who flocked to Greenwich Village to appear on stage in hip, smoke-filled clubs like the infamous Gaslight Café on MacDougal Street. Winning numerous awards over multiple seasons, series star Rachel Brosnahan took inspiration from a number of performers to bring Midge Maisel to life when it was her time to shine in the spotlight. 

The persona of Mrs. Maisel is said to have been based on comedy legend Joan Rivers, who broke down doors to become one of the first nationally recognized female comedians. Rivers also performed at the Gaslight Café and befriended the troubled but brilliant Lenny Bruce, played by Luke Kirby. Just as the character of Midge was getting her sea legs on stage, Brosnahan herself looked to the comedy stylings of two other women in the entertainment business to grow and evolve into a better performer during the moments when all eyes were on her. 

Originally, Brosnahan studied a school of acting that made it much more difficult to interact with an intimate live audience. "Coming from the theater, you spend all your time trying to forget that the audience is there," she told Empire Magazine. "In stand-up, you're looking straight at them." In order to get comfortable, Brosnahan turned to two performers from entirely different eras.  

Taking inspiration from the past and present

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino set out to craft a show based around the titular character discovering she had the rare ability to turn a life less ordinary into something extraordinary, and more importantly, something funny. The true hallmark of any great comedian is being able to have the audience relate to you while still being sure they never see the punchline coming. To find that level of confidence, Brosnahan looked to one of the most popular comics and actors working today. She told Empire: 

"I watched a lot of Ali Wong. She'd recently released 'Baby Cobra,' which talked a lot about motherhood and womanhood, and I felt like their sensibilities were aligned."

Incredibly, Wong recorded three Netflix comedy specials back-to-back, with "Baby Cobra" coming first in 2016, followed by "Hard Knock Wife" and "Don Wong." The "Baby Cobra" special was a sensation and happened to come out just as Brosnahan was preparing for the first season of "Mrs. Maisel," which bowed in the spring of 2017. 

Brosnahan also gave a much-deserved shout-out to actress and comedian Jean Carroll, a vaudevillian who made waves in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the comedy dance troupe Carroll and Howe. "She's so sharp and quick and waits for the audience to catch up with her as she's soaring past them," Brosnahan said about Carroll. "And I love her body; the way she moves her arms and her hands." 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Brosnahan essentially learned the ins and outs of stand-up by watching some of the pioneers from then and now. Fortunately for Brosnahan, Midge never stole any material. She's a true original. 

Season 5 of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" premieres three episodes on April 14, with new episodes following weekly, until the May 26 series finale on Prime Video.