Although most of the characters in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are works of fiction, one main character’s name definitely stands out to comedy fans. Yes, Lenny Bruce was an actual stand-up comedian from the ’50s and ’60s, and a lot of the jokes and elements of his life that Mrs. Maisel presents are true… but the show does take some liberties. So just how real is Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Here is what fans should know about the actual Lenny Bruce so that they can enjoy the show even more.
Spoiler alert: This post will contain very mild spoilers concerning Lenny Bruce’s character in Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Actor Luke Kirby portrays Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and he really does seem to perfectly channel Bruce’s sardonic approach to comedy. And although Lenny Bruce never actually befriending a young comedian named Midge Maisel in 1958 (because Midge Maisel never existed), much of his character’s story is based on the real life and career of Lenny Bruce. For example, Bruce was known for spending multiple nights in jail for offending crowds at his comedy shows, which is how Mrs. Maisel introduces his character. To separate the facts from the fiction, let’s go over some details about Lenny Bruce’s life and talk about how Marvelous Mrs. Maisel handled them.
1. He was discharged from the U.S. Navy during World War II
Before he became a stand-up comedian, Lenny Bruce joined the U.S. Navy at age 16 in 1942. But comedy was still his true calling, and Bruce wound up getting discharged from service after his commanding officers disapproved of him putting on a comedy act dressed in drag. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has not really gone into Lenny Bruce’s pre-comedy life at all yet, so there has not been mention of his military service.
2. One of his most memorable jokes was about Liz Taylor
In Season 2 of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Lenny Bruce books a TV gig on the Steve Allen Show. As he walks out on stage, his first line to the crowd is “Will Elizabeth Taylor become bar mitzvahed?,” in reference to the actress’ recent marriage to Eddie Fisher. This is directly taken from reality — Bruce made that exact joke when he debuted on the Steve Allen Show in 1959.
3. He was banned from several cities
Lenny Bruce famously earned the label of being a “sick comic” from multiple media outlets at the time, and his controversial act led to him being blacklisted from various nightclubs. The second season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel finds a despondent Lenny Bruce bemoaning the fact that he can no longer tour after being banned from nearly every state. While that may be a bit hyperbolic, the real Lenny Bruce actually was banned outright from various cities across the United States in the early ’60s.
4. He really performed that “All Alone” song
At the very end of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2, Lenny Bruce performs a somber, reflective routine in which he sings a song about ending up all alone. Yes, that song and routine is ripped straight from a real Lenny Bruce set, which you can watch below:
5. He had a wife and daughter
One major aspect of Lenny Bruce’s life that Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is clearly choosing to ignore is his romantic life. Lenny Bruce married a stripper and showgirl named Honey Harlow in 1951, as his career was about to take off. The couple had a daughter named Kitty before divorcing in 1957. Bruce died of a drug overdose in 1966.
There is still so much about Lenny Bruce’s life that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has yet to touch on, but luckily the show has already been renewed for Season 3, so we will see more Lenny Bruce soon enough.