The season four finale of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel finally gave viewers what they’ve been waiting for: Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) and Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) took their relationship to the next level, in a very blue room.
When police raid The Wolfard, the illegal strip club Midge has been an MC at for the majority of the season, Lenny takes Midge to hide out in his hotel room that has now been painted blue just for him. Within minutes, Lenny and Midge are smirking at each other and their sexual tension reaches a new high. The two agree to have sex on one condition.
“If we do this, if we take our clothes off and we do some very blue things, in this very blue room,” Midge tells Lenny, “I need you to look me in the eye first and promise that you will never, ever forget that I am very, very funny.”
Lenny agrees to her demand. “I will be laughing through the entire thing,” he tells her before they kiss. A few seconds later, when they’re in bed, Lenny retracts his statement, joking, “I lied. I’m only going to laugh at the end.”
Over the course of the series, it’s been made clear that Lenny and Midge’s relationship is more than just one of physical attraction. They also support and admire each other, which was evident in the finale when Lenny was able to talk some sense into Midge about her “no opening gigs” mentality. “If you blow this, Midge,” he tells her, fighting back tears, “You will break my fucking heart.”
In speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Amy Sherman-Palladino explains that the story of Lenny Bruce is a personal one — which made writing it into The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel an easy decision. The trick, she says, was “figuring out how his trajectory could inform Midge’s journey and what she could take from it, learn from it.” Sherman-Palladino and her husband and co-showrunner Dan Palladino elaborate on that plan, while in production on the fifth and final season, and their connection to the legendary comedian in the chat below.
Why did you feel that this finale moment with Lenny Bruce was a good place for Midge’s romantic storyline to go?
Amy Sherman-Palladino: Rachel and Luke Kirby have crazy chemistry and they work so good together. But the biggest trap to fall into is that you get your two characters together because everybody wanted you to and then they all go, “Okay, now we don’t want them together.” And you’re like, “Well, thanks a lot.” Knowing that season five was going to be our last and that we only had so much turf to play on helped to free up a little bit of what we did with him personally. And it felt like it fit, frankly, with the journey that Midge is on, that she’s so doggedly trying to find the right way for herself — whether it’s misguided or not — and this mission that she set herself on this year that she felt it was like, “It’s my way or the highway.” It felt like the shake-up needed to happen from somebody who understood her, revered her.
There’s nothing that shakes you more than somebody who you respect — but also love, have feelings for — when they turn to you and say, “I’m not seeing a good side of you.” There’s nothing worse than sleeping with a guy and, a couple of days later, he’s like, “You know what? I don’t really like that side of you.” It’s like, “Oh, shit.” It felt organic to what we were doing with her this year. And it felt like you’re never going to go wrong, and we always wanted to do Lenny at Carnegie Hall. We were just trying to figure out from the very minute that we knew that Lenny was going to be a bigger part of the series. We always said: At some point, we have to do Lenny at Carnegie Hall. Because it was sort of his biggest triumph. And we wanted the audience to see him at his best. We wanted the audience to know the power of Lenny Bruce; he was very important. And you know, a lot of times you just know the sad ending.
Dan Palladino: If you do a movie about his life, inevitably, the last 45 minutes are about his falling apart. So, we’ve seen actually quite a number of years of Lenny at the top, and he was at the top as the one of the highest-rate, highest-paid comics, even though he was always at least a little controversial, and he got more and more controversial. He had a lot of successful years, and the years that we’re depicting him, he was really, really at the top. He would get into trouble. Sometimes, TV would threaten to ban him. But he got bookings and he made really, really great money before he kind of lost it all.
What research went into this season, specifically with leading up to Lenny Bruce’s tragic story?
Sherman-Palladino: Well, we didn’t really do a lot of research only because we knew so much about Lenny Bruce going into even starting Maisel. My father knew his mother very well. She was sort of like the godmother to all the comics, and they all sort of took care of her in Los Angeles. So his lore and story was very well-known to me because it’s just my family. We didn’t have to do a lot of research in terms of that. It was more figuring out how his trajectory could inform Midge’s journey and what she could take from it, learn from it.
In a way, us knowing and the audience knowing a bit about Lenny Bruce, that he’s only got a few more years before we don’t have him anymore, actually takes on different meanings than if you didn’t know that — if it was just a character, a comic that we invented or somebody that you don’t know what their end was. I think that actually, in a way, really helps enrich the story and make it have even more meaningful than just an argument or a moment between two colleagues/new-ish lovers.
What about Lenny’s real story made you want to build up this kind of tortured romance for Midge?
Sherman-Palladino: He really is the person who opened the door for every comic today, and we were doing this story of a female changing her trajectory and going down a route that most women did not go down. It felt like a good parallel, a good muse, and because of the chemistry, a good romance.
Palladino: Most comics of that era are completely forgotten, and there’s a reason he’s remembered. All of the current comics bow to Lenny Bruce as the guy who kind of paid the price and paved the way for a new standard of comedy.
Knowing his eventual fate, how do you think Midge will cope with that loss?
Palladino: I imagine she’ll be very upset.
Sherman-Palladino: I imagine she won’t be very happy about it.
Palladino: We’re dealing with that now. A falling apart like Lenny’s is both heartbreaking and frustrating for anyone who was around because it was self-inflicted. He got a lot of pressure from censors and all that, but he also gave in to his own demons. People like that, even to this day, you feel frustration with them, and you feel angry at them, and you feel heartbroken that they went through it, and that’s where they ended up. I would imagine if we were to depict that, that’s what Midge would be feeling.
Sherman-Palladino: A giant sense of loss for just what could have been. He was somebody who constantly grew and pushed the boundaries and pushed his own style of comedy and pushed his own way of thinking and really looked at the way the world was changing. Somebody like that, it’s a true loss just to the art form, because he was young when he died. There were many years to come. He died in the mid-’60s. He didn’t live through the ’60s, when it really was going down, so to have that voice in comedy silenced was truly a loss, especially at the time that it happened.
Interview edited for length and clarity.