Amazon Studios

Is 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Based On A True Story? Her Character May Feel Familiar

After easing fans in with the caffeinated convos on Gilmore Girls and the heartfelt dance routines on Bunheads, TV mogul Amy Sherman-Palladino has struck gold with her Amazon Prime series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The comedy nearly swept all of its nominations at the 2018 Emmy Awards, finishing the night as the Outstanding Comedy Series. After such a victorious evening, plenty of new viewers ought to start watching the show soon, and if you haven't already, it's time to clear up any questions you may have. The story may feel incredibly vivid, but is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel based on a true story? Although it takes inspiration from real life and elements of creator Sherman-Palladino's childhood, the show is mostly fictional.

Its new Emmy Award has officially stamped The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with Hollywood's approval, following a series win at the Golden Globe Awards and several accolades for leading lady Rachel Brosnahan. While Brosnahan won her own Emmy Award for her portrayal as the plucky, aspiring stand-up comic Midge, her co-star Alex Borstein was also recognized as the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her role as Midge's abrasive manager Susie. The two women headline the series, set in 1950s New York and chronicling Jewish housewife Midge's attempts at a comedy career soon after her husband abruptly leaves her.

At first glance, Midge reminds the typical modern viewer of the late Joan Rivers, who rose to fame in the 1960s for her bold comedy routines. While shades of Rivers definitely influenced the character's origin story, the initial idea stemmed back to Sherman-Palladino's own father, comedian Don Sherman. She grew up listening to her father and his friends trying out jokes with each other, and as Sherman-Palladino said while accepting the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, she "had to turn a six-foot-two Bronx Jew into Rachel Brosnahan."

Prime Video on YouTube

Sherman-Palladino has also spoken about honoring Rivers' legacy on the show, telling Vanity Fair, "She had that wonderful mix, that battle of wanting to be accepted on a feminine level — [but] you can’t have that many balls and be accepted on a feminine level... Going forward, that’s how we’re looking at Midge’s humor."

Brosnahan also looked toward Rivers and her own family members when shaping her perception of Midge, telling InStyle:

[Midge and Rivers are] very different, but something about their drive is similar, I think. Also, my grandmother and Midge shared a lot of traits. My grandmother is a fabulous, fabulous woman... I’ve been researching a lot about actors and actresses during this time. She’s a young Jewish woman, so I’ve been brushing up on my Jewish history all the way leading up to the ‘50s and ‘60s.

As for other subtle parallels between real life and fiction, fans of the series have also suggested that Phyllis Diller inspired Midge's fellow comedian Sophie Lennon. Brosnahan also revealed that Jean Carroll, one of the first female stand-ups, was a significant influence on the character of Midge. The show's actual time period was clearly not without its own Midge Maisels, but as for the Midge we've fallen in love with on TV, she's primarily a delightful concoction of Sherman-Palladino's imagination.


Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premieres on Amazon Prime later this year.