April 19, 2019

Cast, Creators, Talk All Things ‘Mrs. Maisel’ at PaleyFest

From left: Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle, Dan Palladino, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Kevin Pollak, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Zegen, Caroline Aaron. Photo courtesy of PaleyFest L.A.

For the opening night of the annual PaleyFest LA television festival at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 15, the cast of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and its creators Dan Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino delighted attendees with wisecracks, character insights and a few hints about the show’s third season.

The lively, hour-long event featured a panel discussion moderated by Patton Oswalt that kept the packed house in stitches. Clad in black boots and signature top hat, Sherman-Palladino shared childhood memories about her stand-up comedian father, “a 6-foot-4 Jew from The Bronx” who is the inspiration for the series’ protagonist, Miriam “Midge” Maisel. Sherman-Palladino said she chose the1950s milieu because she loved the colors and cars, and “didn’t ever want to hear the word Snapchat.”

Rachel Brosnahan (who plays the titular Mrs. Maisel) said there wasn’t much time between accepting the role of Midge and starting production on the pilot. “I got a crash course in comedy,” she said, adding that she was filming the series and appearing on stage in “Othello” at the same time.

Tony Shalhoub talked about the inspiration for playing Abe Weissman’s reaction to his daughter’s stand-up career and his wife Rose’s newfound independent streak. “I have a lot of rage,” he deadpanned. “I’m the father of two daughters that are around the age Miriam is. You think you know who they are and then they turn out to be completely different people. They’ve become amazing human beings in spite of what my wife and I have tried to teach them.” 

Comparing herself to her character, Susie, Midge’s lovably abrasive manager, 

Alex Borstein said, “We’re very similar creatures in many ways. There’s a lot of Amy in Susie, also very much my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and my mother. But she exists in her own bubble, not informed by anything.”

“Susie is a tough broad, but she is terrified that she’ll lose everything that’s important to her,” Sherman-Palladino said. “The interesting thing about the dynamic between [Susie and Midge] is they’re not going to get where they need to go without each other, and that’s key to the series.”

According to Dan Palladino, viewers can expect some revelations about Susie’s past. “There’s a 10-year period in Susie’s life that we haven’t even delved into,” he said. “We find out things like she’s a very talented classical pianist.” 

Michael Zegen, who previously “kicked people in the face” as gangster Bugsy Siegel on “Boardwalk Empire,” said that he has had far more negative reactions to his role as Midge’s husband, Joel Maisel. “On this [show], all I get is, ‘You’re trash!’ ” he said. “I’ve leaned into him being the villain.”

“The interesting thing about the dynamic between [Susie and Midge] is they’re not going to get where they need to go without each other, and that’s key to the series.” — Amy Sherman-Palladino

“You have the hardest role in the show because there’s nothing harder than being the guy who dumps the girl that everyone loves,” Sherman-Palladino said to Zegen. “But for the audience to give a [expletive] about Rachel, they have to see what she saw in him, for them to care that she lost him.” 

Filming on the first episode of the third season in New York City is underway, and Sherman-Palladino characterized it as “a bigger show because the story has to push out.” Midge will be on the road and “dealing with audiences that aren’t her people. That is going to bring its own story twist to it,” she said. “We’re definitely going to some different places in Season 3.”

Miami is one of the rumored locations, but that topic was not brought up at the panel, and neither was the possibility of Sterling K. Brown playing a guest-starring role. 

When asked what historical situations they’d like to see their characters in, the cast gave some surprising answers. “I’d like to see interaction with the birth of the feminist movement,” Brosnahan said of Midge. “’I’d also like to see her drop acid.” Shalhoub agreed with the last part, saying he’d like to see scientist Abe “tiptoe toward the whole Timothy Leary thing.” 

“I would like to see Susie bang Elvis. A young, firm Elvis,” Borstein said. Zegen fantasized about Joel being at Woodstock, at Roger Maris’ 61st home run game, or opening a club where the Beatles could play. And Kevin Pollak, who plays Zegen’s father Moishe, posited this scenario: “Moishe makes a suit for [John F.] Kennedy, goes to the White House and steals an ashtray.” 

The evening’s other comedic highlights included a discussion of the romper Abe wore to do his morning calisthenics. “I have it on underneath,” Shalhoub quipped. “It should be in the Smithsonian,” Dan Palladino said.

“I have no life,” Sherman-Palladino said when asked how she knows all the pop culture references in the show. She added that she has a storehouse of books and records at home, but calls upon a research librarian for tricky research questions.

As the session drew to a close, Sherman-Palladino had the last word, and used it to praise her cast, in typically profane fashion. “You can have a wonderful script and beautiful costumes and a gorgeous set,” she said. “But if you don’t have the right people, you’re [expletive].”

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is now on Amazon Prime.

Rep. Ilhan Omar Meets Mrs. Maisel

Mrs. Maisel: Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me!

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.): Of course.

Maisel: I mean, I know how busy you are. First few months in a new job, adoring fans, intense scrutiny. … But since we often use the same material …

Omar: What do you mean?

Maisel: Well, I talk about the Jews, you talk about the Jews …

Omar: I’m sorry, maybe this wasn’t a good idea. I don’t talk about the Jewish people.

Maisel: Oh, right. Sorry. Wrong decade. You talk about Zionists, Israel, AIPAC …

Omar looks at her warily.

Maisel: But such great lines! “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” — I’m totally stealing that. These Upper East Siders come into B. Altman — you know, I’m at the makeup counter — and they want me to give them free samples of everything. And if I don’t have samples, they try to haggle the price down. Can you believe it? Where are we, back in the shtetl?

Omar looks confused.

Maisel: Oh, I’m sorry, you talk about us so much, sometimes I forget you’re not Jewish. Shtetl is Yiddish. You know, that language we had to speak in other countries, when no one wanted us. But we’re here now, and I mean, well, most people are OK with us. Or at least they put up with us. So we really don’t need Yiddish anymore, but it really is such a great language. I mean, what language has 25 words for someone who says stupid things all the time?

Omar: I think I should be going.

Maisel: I’m rambling, and you’re a very busy woman. What I really want to talk about is our beloved Israel. I mean, not your beloved Israel but our — the Jews’ — beloved Israel. You see, we waited patiently — OK, not so patiently, but a long time — to get our homeland back. You know, like 2,000 years. And even if many of us don’t live there right now, we’re just so happy to know it’s there, thriving — a miracle in the desert!

Omar stares at her icily.

Maisel: Oh, I’m not saying there aren’t other miracles in the desert! The pyramids — what a miracle those slaves created. And, of course, Hanukkah. See, that’s the thing. Israel has brought so much light into this world — freedoms for Muslims, for women — you could call it a mecca of freedom and diversity! 

Look, you guys really know how to get the numbers up — there are like 2 billion Muslims, right? The Jews, after the Holocaust, we just have, like, a few million — OK, maybe we’re up to 14 million, but still. You guys have lots of countries — like 50 countries — and we just have this tiny one, smaller than New Jersey. We’re just so proud of her. She’s our jewel. And we just want to be left alone. Do you understand?

Omar says nothing.

Maisel: Yes, of course, you want to be left alone, too. I get it. We Jews are a passionate, intense people. We make up for size with intensity. If you use that, can you please credit me? I’m still trying to develop my audience, like you. Oh, I didn’t mean to compare a comedian to a congresswoman! Now that would be offensive, right? You are so insanely qualified. I mean, that line about the Benjamins, you have to be pretty shrewd to come up with that! Oh, wait, is it offensive if I call you a word that people call us? This new system is so confusing.

They call us shrewd because they think we’re good with money — if they only knew how much I spend every week on hats! Look, I know it’s not your fault, you’re just reading from the script. And the script keeps changing. It’s hard to keep up. I mean, are Jews white this week? Maybe I should give you a guidebook to anti-Semitic slurs.

Omar stands up.

Maisel: I truly hope this wasn’t a waste of your time. I just wanted to show you that we’re not satanic. But we do control the weather. I’ll send you a hat.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

The Least Jewish TV Show I’ve Ever Loved

A Still from "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life "

“You know what I just realized? ‘Oy’ is the funniest word in the entire world.”

Thus spake Lorelai Gilmore, the older of the two eponymous “Gilmore Girls,” moments before she realized that “poodle,” is also a funny word.

“In fact, if you put ‘oy’ and ‘poodle’ together in the same sentence, you’d have a great new catch phrase. You know, like, ‘Oy with the poodles, already.’ ”

The world of “Gilmore Girls” isn’t especially concerned with Jewishness. At least, not beyond a few “bits” like these. But these bits stick out in the world of the Gilmores. The word “oy” is discordant in Stars Hollow, the Connecticut suburb in which the show is set. Perhaps this is because “Gilmore Girls” is the least Jewish TV show I have ever seen. 

It is most certainly the least Jewish TV show I have ever loved.

The shows I love are shows that I have loved for 20 years or more and watched countless times. Top in my rotation are “Seinfeld,” “Sex and the City,” “Frasier” and, yes, “Gilmore Girls.” 

These shows are not all about Jews. But the world of American television, even when not dealing explicitly with Jews, is touched by Jewish culture, Jewish humor and often created by Jewish writers and producers. In this Jewish media landscape, the un-Jewishness of “Gilmore Girls” is stark. 

To understand why, we need to look at what makes other shows feel Jewish, or at least what makes them feel Jew-ish.

The Jewishness of the “Seinfeld” universe is obvious. The characters are Jews and references to matzo ball soup abound. But “Seinfeld’s” Jewishness is deeper than this. 

When Jerry asks George if he’s in love with his girlfriend, George shrugs. Jerry asks him if he feels anything for her. 

“Feel? What’s that?”

“All right, let me ask you this,” Jerry says. “When she comes over, you’re cleaning up a lot?”

George nods.

“You’re just straightening up or you’re cleaning?”

“Cleaning.”

“You do the tub?”

George says yes.

“OK, I think you’re in love!” Jerry exclaims. “Tub is love.” 

Anyone who has ever read a page of Gemara will recognize the talmudic fastidiousness, the rabbinic propensity to take the spiritual and make it quantifiable and to take the quantifiable and make it spiritual.

But a show doesn’t need to be about Jews to have this kind of Jewish sensibility. Devorah Baum, in her book “The Jewish Joke,” identifies two sources of what we call “Jewish humor.” 

The first is that Jews have been “the greatest Schlemiels” of history. The second has to do with being both an “outsider” and “at odds with oneself.” 

How do these qualities translate into humor? They do so in the form of characters who are their own worst enemies (like George Costanza, like Carrie Bradshaw, like Frasier Crane), but certainly not in the form of characters whose quirky je ne sais quoi will always win the day (like those perky, coffee-loving “Gilmore Girls”).

It should be noted that “Gilmore Girls” originally aired on the WB. The now-defunct WB was also home to “Seventh Heaven,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Charmed,” “One Tree Hill,” etc.

This was a network focused on schmaltzy, 45-minute comedic dramas, supernatural soaps and teen shows. Not sitcoms, which tend more toward the cynical and the sarcastic, nor HBO-style prestige shows, which prefer the gritty and the realistic to the harmonious and the comforting.   

The world of “Gilmore Girls” is fittingly saccharine. Being a drama, it is full of family spats, tearful confrontations and crises large and small. But because this is the WB, the viewer can take comfort in the knowledge that a happy ending is assured in the series finale. 

In the world of “Gilmore Girls,” fate can be trusted. Stumbling blocks are put in characters’ paths to teach them a lesson and get them where they need to be. The central crisis of the show is the fact that Lorelai got pregnant as a teenager and ran away from home to raise her infant on her own.

Regardless of how such stories turn out in the real world, Lorelai and baby Rory somehow managed to find their way in a quaint Connecticut suburb. Sixteen years later, Lorelai and her daughter live comfortably in a two-story home and are beloved by all the quirky townsfolk. Throughout the seven seasons of the show, viewers see many more unwanted and unplanned pregnancies played out as plot devices. But it all works out. As one Vox writer wrote, in Stars Hollow, “pregnancy is destiny.” And destiny is kind.

Shows with a Jewish sensibility tend to display more skepticism toward the kindness of destiny. Perhaps this has something to do with being history’s “greatest Schlemiels.”

But it’s precisely this kind of darkness, which has proven to be such fertile ground for comedy, that “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino seems intent on avoiding, despite having now created what is arguably the most Jewish show of the decade, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

“Mrs. Maisel” is different from “Gilmore Girls” in a few ways.

It’s an Amazon show. Sherman-Palladino is free to use F-bombs and talk about sex. 

It is also a Jewish show. We’ve moved from the small town to the city, where we’re surrounded by Yiddishkayt, Jewish families, Lenny Bruce, brisket and kosher dills. 

But is this world any more Jewish than that of “Gilmore Girls”?

Like Stars Hollow, the world of “Maisel” is cute and safe. Destiny is still a thing to be trusted.

No matter where she goes, Midge Maisel is able to charm her way out of any problem. She’s a winner, and the joy of the show comes from watching her win.

Since the days of “Oy with the poodles, already,” Sherman-Palladino has added quite a few more Yiddishisms to her word bank. The show seems intent on reminding viewers of its Jewishness at every turn. Perhaps this is because, at its heart, it lacks a Jewish bite and a Jewish eye.

The characters, like those on “Gilmore Girls,” are quirky more than they are neurotic. The difference is that quirks are endearing. Neuroses, like those George Costanza has, are heartbreaking.

In “Gilmore Girls,” one of Lorelai’s most beloved quirks was her unpretentious take on interior décor. She loved campy tchotchkes, much to the chagrin of her conservative mother. One of her favorites was a dancing rabbi that sings “Havah Nagilah” when you press the button on its back.

The doll, dressed in Chasidic garb, may not actually be a rabbi. It may be just a Chasidic Jew, but it’s referred to as a rabbi, and really, who cares?

It’s camp. It’s kitsch. It’s quirky. It’s decorative. And its main function is to show us how special and cute Lorelai is.

I’m not sure that the vastness of Jewish culture on “Mrs. Maisel” serves a function much broader than this.


Matthew Schultz is a writer living and working in Tel Aviv.

‘Mrs. Maisel’ Continues Winning Streak

Photo provided by Amazon Prime Video

The accolades for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” keep pouring in. The Amazon series added four more awards over the February 16 weekend, winning the Writers Guild Award (WGA) for best comedy series, the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) Award for sound mixing, and a pair of Makeup and Hair Stylists Guild Awards for period makeup and period hairstyling.

Show creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino shared the WGA honors with Kate Fodor, Noah Gardenswartz, Jen Kirkman, and Sheila Lawrence.  The sound mixing team of Matthew Price, Ron Bochar, Michael Miller, Stewart Lerman, David Boulton and Steven Visscher were singled out by the CAS. Makeup artists Patricia Regan, Claus Lulla, and Joseph A. Campayno were honored alongside hairstylists Jerry DeCarlo, John Jordan and Peg Schierholz.

The series second season premiered on Amazon in December.

‘Mrs. Maisel’s’ Michael Zegen to Romance Drew Barrymore in Rom-Com

Michael Zegman plays Joel in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new comedy series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Michael Zegen, who plays Joel Maisel, the estranged husband of the title character in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” will star opposite Drew Barrymore in “The Stand-in,” a “The Prince and the Pauper” meets “All About Eve” romantic comedy.

According to Deadline Hollywood, Barrymore will play the dual roles of Candy, a washed up comedy star who gets busted for tax evasion, and Paula, the stand-in she enlists to do community service, among other things, in her place. But the plan backfires when Paula takes over her life.

Zegen will portray Steve, an aspiring novelist who begins an online relationship with Candy, but soon becomes the third point in a triangle with both women.

Jamie Babbit (“But I’m a Cheerleader”) will direct the film, which Barrymore’s Flower Films is producing with The Exchange.

Sherman-Palladino, Stiller, Baron Cohen Score Directors Guild Nominations

Sasha Baron Cohen, who is nominated for the 71st Annual Directors Guild Awards, in Showtime's series "Who is America"

Ben Stiller, Sacha Baron Cohen and Amy-Sherman Palladino are among the Jewish directors who have been nominated for the 71st Annual Directors Guild Awards, which will take place on Feb. 2 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

Stiller received a nomination for directing the Showtime limited series “Escape at Dannemora,” Cohen was singled out for co-directing his series “Who Is America?” also on Showtime, and Sherman-Palladino got her second consecutive nomination for directing Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She’ll compete in the comedy series category opposite her husband, Daniel Palladino, who is nominated for a different episode of the show.  

Barry Levinson, who won a DGA Award for “Rain Man,” was nominated for HBO’s “Paterno,” his seventh nomination, and three-time DGA winner Lesli Linka Glatter is once again nominated for the Showtime series “Homeland.

In children’s TV, Barry Sonnenfeld scored a nomination for “A Series of Unfortunate Events”; and in reality programming, Eytan Keller got a nod for “Iron Chef Gauntlet.”  Louis J. Horvitz received his 19th nomination for directing the Grammy Awards, and Glenn Weiss, who famously proposed to his girlfriend Jan Svendsen at the Emmy Awards last year, was nominated for his direction of the Tony Awards, his 15th nomination (he has won eight times).

On the feature side, Matthew Heineman will vie in the first-time feature film director category for “A Private War,” his third DGA nomination. He won twice before, for the documentaries “City of Ghosts” and “Cartel Land.”

Julie Cohen is nominated for the documentary “RBG” (with co-director Betsy West); and Spike Jones, né Adam Spiegel, got a nod for his Apple Homepod commercial, his third nomination.

‘Maisel,’ ‘Kominsky’ ‘First Man’ Take Home Golden Globes

After winning the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for her role in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," actress Rachel Brosnahan poses backstage in the press room with her Golden Globe Award at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA on Sunday, January 6, 2019. Photo courtesy by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

It was a triumphant night for a few members of the Tribe who added more Golden Globe awards to their shelves Jan. 6. Though Amazon’s hit series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” didn’t win for television series for a musical or comedy, honorary Jew Rachel Brosnahan took home her second Golden Globe for actress in a comedy television series for playing the title character Miriam “Midge” Maisel. Co-star Alex Borstein was nominated but lost, for supporting actress as Midge’s manager/friend Susie.

During her speech, she thanked Tribemember, showrunner, director and writer Amy-Sherman Palladino.

“Thank you to our incredible village that it really takes to make this show,” Brosnahan said. “And our village is a matriarchy led by Amy Sherman‑Palladino.” 

Amazon wasn’t the only streaming service that took home awards last night. Netflix show “The Kominsky Method” starring Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas received two big awards for actor in a comedy series (Michael Douglas) and television series for comedy (Arkin was nominated, but lost in the best supporting actor category).   

Douglas in his acceptance speech thanked TV icon and creator Chuck Lorre who “thinks getting old is funny” as well as his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones and his children. He ended the speech thanking his father and pristine actor Kirk Douglas, by saying “And I guess this has got to go to my 102‑year‑old father, Kirk, who is ‑ alter-kackers rule.” Mark Ronson celebrates award for origional song “Shallow” from “A Star is Born” with co-writers Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando. 

Other Tribe member mazel tovs are in order for Justin Hurwitz who took home his third original score win for the film “First Man,” while Patricia Arquette took home a win for actress in a limited series for her role in “Escape at Dannemora” directed by Ben Stiller.

Following the excitement of the award show Saturday Night Live announced that Rachel Brosnahan will kick off the 2019 season. Now Mrs. Maisel gets to try her comedy chops out on the Studio 8H stage.

Look for more of the Journal’s coverage at the 76th Annual Golden Globes this week on our website and in this week’s paper.

“Maisel,’ ‘Kominsky’ Receive SAG Nominations

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” continues its streak of accolades, picking up four nominations for 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards including comedy ensemble, and individual nods for Alex Borstein and honorary Tribe members Rachel Brosnahan (who are both nominated for Female Actor in a Comedy Series) and Tony Shalhoub, who play the title character and her father. Included in the ensemble nomination are Jewish co-stars Michael Zegen, Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron.

“The Kominsky Method” is also competing in the TV comedy ensemble category, and its stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin were both singled out for outstanding actor nominations. So was Alison Brie of “Glow,” and the show’s ensemble, including Marc Maron and Jackie Tohn, received a nomination. “Barry” Emmy winner Henry Winkler picked up another acting nod, and the show’s ensemble—which includes Sarah Goldberg—was recognized.

On the TV drama side, “Ozark” was nominated for its ensemble, which includes Darren Goldstein, Jordana Spiro, Harris Yulin and Julia Garner, who was also singled out for an individual nomination.

In movies, individual nominees include Timothée Chalamet for “Beautiful Boy” and Rachel Weisz for “The Favourite.” Among the four nominations for “A Star is Born” is a nomination for its cast, including Andrew Dice Clay and Rafi Gavron.

Two stars were nominated for playing Jewish characters: Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in “Blackkklansman,” which also landed an outstanding ensemble nomination.

The  25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air live on TNT and TBS at 5 p.m. PT on Jan. 27.

Members of the Tribe Receive Golden Globe Nominations

Sandra Oh, Andy Samberg. Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Jewish talent was recognized on camera and behind the scenes in the nominees for the Hollywood Foreign Press’ 2019 Golden Globe Awards.

On the movie side, supporting actor Timothée Chalamet received a nomination for his portrayal of a drug-addicted teenager in “Beautiful Boy,”; and in the best original score category, composers Justin Hurwitz and Marc Shaiman were honored for their music for “First Man” and “Mary Poppins Returns,” respectively.

In television, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Kominsky Method” were nominated for best television series—musical or comedy. Actors Alex Borstein from “Maisel” and “Kominsky’s” Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin received nominations for acting. Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”), Sasha Baron Cohen (“Who Is America?”) and Henry Winkler (“Barry”) were also singled out. Producer-director Ben Stiller’s “Escape From Dannemora” is in the running for the award for best limited series or TV movie.

Several non-Jewish actors were nominated for their Jewish roles, including Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in “Blackkklansman,” and Rachel Brosnahan, who portrays the titular “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Hosted by Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh, the Golden Globes will be handed out Jan. 6 on NBC. Follow Jewish Journal for live red carpet coverage.

Michael Zegen’s Jewish World in ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

Editors note: This article contains spoilers regarding season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 

Michael Zegen has played good guys (“Rescue Me,” “Girls”), a gangster (“Boardwalk Empire”) and a zombie (“The Walking Dead”), but in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” he has his juiciest — and most personal — role to date.

In the Emmy-winning, 1950s-set series, now streaming its second season on Amazon Prime Video, Zegen plays Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) estranged husband, Joel, whose extramarital indiscretion fueled her quest for independence via a career in stand-up comedy. This season, audiences will see a newly assertive side of Joel as he takes charge of his family’s dress company and claps back at Catskills gossips.

“He’s trying to find his own career path because nothing else has worked out. He’s being a responsible adult. That’s where he’s headed. Hopefully, he keeps it up,” Zegen told the Journal. “I love the fact that he’s not just a one-note villain or antagonist. He’s got a lot of depth to him. He’s real and he’s funny. That’s why I love playing him. When I first read the script, I knew that it was something I had to do. I knew this guy and how to play him. And I’m really fortunate that they chose me to do it.”

The fact that the show reflects the Jewish experience was another lure. “It really hits home for me,” Zegen said. “Even though I’m not from the 1950s, I understood this world. I come from a family of Jews and Holocaust survivors and it’s important to tell these stories. The show is about a Jewish family, but it’s universal. The fact that so many people of different ethnicities have fallen in love with it is incredibly important to me.”

Several episodes are set in a summer resort in the Catskill Mountains, and while Zegen hadn’t been there previously, “my mother spent summers in the Catskills and told me about it,” he said. “We have home videos and it looks exactly like the place we filmed at.”

The series’ family dinner scenes and depictions of holiday traditions are quite familiar to Zegen, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in Ridgewood, N.J. 

As the grandson of Ukrainian and Polish Holocaust survivors on his mother’s side, Zegen “grew up learning about the Holocaust. My grandma told me many stories about escaping. It was ingrained in my head from a very early age never to let something like that happen again, and that it’s important to pass on our traditions,” he said. “Whether I go to temple or not, I still celebrate the holidays.” This year, he’ll be in Berlin for Hanukkah, as the “Mrs. Maisel” cast is in Europe on a promotional tour.

“The show is about a Jewish family, but it’s universal. The fact that so many people of different ethnicities have fallen in love with it is incredibly important to me.” ­ — Michael Zegen

This season, Joel and Midge navigate the parameters of their relationship as a separated couple and parents of two young children. “I think there’s a lot of love between them but I don’t quite know if they’re right for each other,” Zegen said. 

He’s surprised when fans tell him they want the Maisels to get back together. “[Joel] wronged her in a way that was incredibly hurtful and he never said, ‘I’m sorry.’ It’s up to her whether she forgives him or not,” Zegen said. “But I don’t think she should.” 

Complicating matters this season is a new love interest for Midge, a Jewish doctor named Ben [Zachary Levi]. “Once Joel finds out she’s dating somebody else, I don’t think he’s

going to be very happy about it. Despite the fact that he told her he can’t be with her, it’s still going to hurt,” Zegen said.

Zegen doesn’t worry about the new episodes after such a successful and acclaimed first season. “Of course, there was a little fear that there would be a sophomore slump but from the moment we got the first script for this season, we knew it would be awesome and we’re in good hands,” Zegen said. “I have so much faith and trust in Amy and Dan [Palladino], the creators. They know what they’re doing.”

He credited the writing, the “visually dazzling” sets and costumes and his fellow actors for making “Maisel” magical. “Everybody involved is exceptional,” he said. “We enjoy being around each other and hopefully you can see that when you’re watching the show.”

Despite a severe case of stage fright at his bar mitzvah, Zegen conquered his fears and began acting in school plays. Since launching his career in 2002 with multiple appearances on “The Late Show With David Letterman” as Dwight the Troubled Teen, he has appeared in the movies “Brooklyn,” “Frances Ha” and “The Seagull,” TV series “Girls” and “The Good Wife,” and “Bad Jews” off-Broadway.

“I’d love to do more theater but it’s such a huge commitment, so it has to be something really worthwhile,” he said. “And also, with the series, it’s very difficult to time it out right.” 

His wish list includes playing Groucho Marx and writing and producing his own projects. “I’ve been working on a script. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll get something made,” he said. 

Zegen was eager to hear what audiences think of the new “Maisel” episodes. “I feel like this season is even better than the last,” he said. “And I hope that Season 3 will be as good or even better than Season 2.”


“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Is Back in Time for Hanukkah

Hanukkah is going to be especially sweet this year, and sufganiyot have nothing to do with it. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the show that Steven Spielberg recently called “the best Jewish musical since ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’” is returning to Amazon Prime for its second season Dec. 5. 

The series, which won eight Emmy Awards in September, is about a well-to-do New York Jewish family in the late 1950s, with Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) in the spotlight as a young mother who inadvertently becomes a stand-up comic — and kills at it. Her relationships with her parents, Abe and Rose (Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle), her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), who cheated on her but is remorseful and wants her back, and her manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), are at the core of the story. 

It’s the brainchild of Emmy Award-winning writer-producer-director Amy Sherman-Palladino and her director husband, Dan Palladino, and a top-notch creative team that brings the “Maisel” world to life. Judging from a sneak peek at the first two episodes at a private screening, there will be no sophomore slump.

Kevin Pollak, who plays Joel’s father, Moishe, acknowledged the pressure in following up a stellar debut, but he attended the screening and was relieved by the wildly enthusiastic response. “Expectations are usually the root of disappointment, regardless of the quality,” he said. “But that audience was hanging on every word. They were laughing in all the right places but also felt all the emotion at the same time. Yes, the pressure is ridiculous, but Amy and Dan have exceeded expectations.”

Pollak gives props to the Palladinos for the show’s success. “It has a broad appeal based on the extraordinary writing and directing, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences echoed that. But those of us who work on the show have known that all along,” he said. “It starts with great writing and you hope that the alchemy happens. And then you have this amazing set design and production design and music and cinematography and wardrobe. It’s the best quality across the board in all departments than anything I’ve done in 20 years. In that regard, we may have lightning in a bottle.”

plays a woman who embarks on a career in stand-up comedy in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Photo by Nicole Rivelle/Amazon Prime Video

Pollak, 61, also attributes the popularity of the show to the relatable characters and its multigenerational appeal. “My niece and her friends, 20-year-olds, are obsessed with the show, which couldn’t possibly be for the same reasons as older people who know or lived in this world,” he said. “I think they’re captivated by the character of Midge Maisel and her strength of character, and that she is reinventing herself in the most unusual way.”

He feels “tremendous pride” to be part of a show that reflects the Jewish experience, especially “one that reaches such a universal audience regardless of race, creed, religion or color,” he said. “For something this Jewish on paper, it astonishes me how it reaches every sort of demographic. I’m told the show is huge in China.”  

“The show is the best quality across the board in all departments than anything I’ve done in 20 years. In that regard, we may have lightning in a bottle.”

 — Kevin Pollak

Although Pollak has played Jewish characters before, Moishe is a departure from others on his resumé. “The challenge was to portray a very loud, older Jewish man,” he said. “My career has not been based on being the boisterous one. I’m not used to playing the guy who doesn’t listen and just talks. That was a challenge.”

Another was getting used to long scenes with no breaks and lots of fast dialogue — a Sherman-Palladino signature. “I came from stand-up comedy, not theater,” Pollak said. “This is a specific style of acting that I was not familiar with, but the challenge was part of the attraction.” 

This season, Pollak has been promoted from a recurring guest star to series regular. “You’re going to see a lot of me, whether you want to or not,” he said, describing the second installment of the show as “full of surprises. It’s an ever-expanding universe. It’s bigger and bolder in a number of ways. That’s how you deal with the expectations. You broaden the universe that the show is set in.” 

He’s referring to journeys outside the Maisels’ Manhattan milieu that take them to places including Paris and the Catskill Mountains.  

Will we see Jewish themes and celebrations? “Without getting into specifics, of course,” Pollak said. Those aspects of the show seem quite familiar to him. “We’re California Jews from San Francisco,” he said, “but there was a great sense of family and celebration in very similar ways for the holidays and in that regard it rings true.”

Kevin Pollak’s role has expanded in the second season of “Maisel.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Pollak said he belonged to a Reform temple while growing up. “It was very much a social gathering,” he said. “I attended religious school every weekend. I went to Hebrew school for three years and was confirmed and bar mitzvah’d. There was a strong sense of a Jewish household. [Judaism has] been a great influence my whole life. There’s always been a tremendous sense of pride about being Jewish. As I got older, I put a little less focus and interest on all organized religion, the result of having come from such a lax religious upbringing and being suspicious of organized anything, not just religion. But I have a tremendous sense of pride in being Jewish and the heritage.”

Pollak got into comedy early on, entertaining at school. “I started lip-syncing to comedy albums, performing to Danny Kaye when I was 10 years old in 1967,” he said. “I’m pretty much a natural-born ham, which translates to a life devoted. I’ve always had my eyes and heart and thoughts in all things comedy. I’d already started performing in nightclubs when I was just out of high school. I went to college but I felt this was what I was supposed to do. There was no turning back.”

Following in the footsteps of Jewish comic legends Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen “and Albert Brooks, who became a comedy hero and mentor,” Pollak established himself in stand-up. Then in 1989, his career took an unexpected turn, thanks to “a wonderful Jewish saga by Barry Levinson called ‘Avalon.’ I suddenly went from comedian to dramatic actor,” he said. “Although that wasn’t my career trajectory of choice, it made me a respected actor, along with ‘A Few Good Men’ in ’92 and ‘Casino’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’ in ’94, and it was off to the races.”

Rachel Brosnahan (far left) and Marin Hinkle in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Photo by Nicole Rivelle/ Amazon Prime Video

Pollak has toggled back and forth between dramas and comedies, and counts “studying at the feet of [Jack] Lemmon and [Walter] Matthau in the ‘Grumpy Old Men’ movies” as a career highlight. “I’m always in search of material that lifts my alleged abilities and challenges me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been challenged as much as I have been on ‘Maisel,’ and it makes it that much more rewarding, just to be a part of such a magical show but also to be challenged to work at a higher level. I would have been happy to carry a spear, as they say, on this one. To be in the mix as much as I have is a complete honor.”

Currently, Pollak is appearing as The Miami Herald’s publisher in “The Front Runner,” about the scandal that torpedoed Gary Hart’s presidential campaign. He’s also in the comedy “Lez Bomb,” about a lesbian woman who goes home for Thanksgiving and tries to come out to her family. He has six other films in various stages of completion.

Pollack directed the 2015 documentary “Misery Loves Comedy,” “based on the thesis that you have to be miserable to be funny,” and he plans to continue directing. In January, he is set to direct a film he describes as “an interesting whodunit in a noir style, set in modern times. We’re casting now,” he said.

“I created a mantra about 10 years ago, ‘If you’re not creating, you’re waiting.’ I’m very involved in creating new content and opportunities for myself,” Pollak said. “There’s a new improvised comedy podcast that I created called ‘Alchemy This.’ I’ve gathered five of the best improvisers I’ve ever met and I throw out unusual and unique humorous situations and we improvise those scenes. My other podcast, “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show,” will be 10 years old in March. It’s long-form interviews with everyone from Elon Musk to Tom Hanks to Larry David,” he said. “It’s all over the internet, including KevinPollak.TV.”

Pollak acknowledges that he has always been self-motivated. “As a stand-up comedian, my life was that of a gypsy, a traveling performer, making my own schedule,” he said. “But unlike a lot of people I started out with, I was self-generating and refused to just wait for the phone to ring, even when it was ringing off the hook. I turned 60 last year and I’ve never been so busy. It really has been magical.”

Given his full slate, Pollak has set stand-up comedy appearances aside for the time being, but he still finds time to play poker. The former host of “Celebrity Poker Showdown” will participate in the “Friday Night Poker Live” tournament in December. “It streams on Facebook and shows up on PokerGO a week later,” he said. “It will be on about a week after ‘Mrs. Maisel’ premieres.”

Pollak, who didn’t have to audition to play Moishe, is thankful to the Palladinos for the invitation “to come and play,” he said. “In terms of my acting life, I’d say it’s the most challenging and rewarding at the same time, more so than anything else I’ve ever done. It’s magically exciting.”


“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 5.

Read more from the 2018 Holiday Arts & Entertainment Edition here.

Holiday Arts and Entertainment Preview 2018

‘Mrs. Maisel’ Season Two Premiere Is the Hanukkah Gift We Needed

Rachel Brosnahan plays a 1950s housewife who ends up divorced and pursuing a career in stand-up comedy in the new Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

Amazon Prime has a special Hanukkah delivery for fans of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The Emmy Award-winning series’ highly anticipated second season has been set to premiere Dec. 5.

Talking about the title character played by Rachel Brosnahan, an Amazon press release sets the scene: “After Midge’s triumph at the Gaslight, the fallout from her takedown of Sophie Lennon looms large, making her climb up the comedy ladder more challenging than ever. As the actual grind of being a comic begins to take its toll on Midge, the pressure to come clean to her family weighs on her – especially as her choices have a ripple effect on everyone around her.”

“We go to Paris and we also spend time in the Catskills – there’s a lot of traveling this season,” Brosnahan said on a recent promotional trip to London. “I’m looking forward to showing our audience more of our world. Throughout that world expansion, you get to know a lot about the other characters on the show. We got to spend a lot more time shooting as an ensemble this season.”

She also shared a comment from “Maisel” fan Steven Spielberg, who called the show “the best Jewish musical since ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’”

Brosnahan is lending her voice to the climate change documentary “Paris to Pittsburgh,” which premieres on National Geographic Dec. 12.

Watch the season 2 trailer below:

The Tribe at the Emmys: Big Wins for ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ Henry Winkler — and a Surprise Proposal

70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS -- Pictured: Daniel Palladino with the cast and crew of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, "Outstanding Comedy Series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

It was a triumphant night for Members of the Tribe at the 70th Emmy Awards, with Jewish talent taking home gold statuettes for their work on camera and   behind the scenes.

The first four awards of the night were won by MOTs, starting with veteran actor Henry Winkler, who finally got his first Emmy after three previous nominations decades ago: He’d been nominated twice for playing Fonzie on “Happy Days” in the 1970s and again in 2000 for a guest role on “The Practice.”

70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS — Pictured: Henry Winkler, “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 17th, 2018 — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Accepting his award for supporting actor in a comedy for “Barry,” Winkler said, “If you stay at the table long enough the chips come to you. Tonight I got to clean the table.” He mentioned his three kids in his thanks. “You can go to bed now. Daddy won!”

70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS — Pictured: Alex Borstein, “Supporting Actress – Comedy Series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 17th, 2018 — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Alex Borstein, who took home an Emmy for her voiceover work in “Family Guy” at the Creative Arts Emmys last week, won in the supporting actress category for playing Susie in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She thanked her children in her speech. “Thank you for giving me a life,” she said. “I’m going to try to be there for more of it.”

70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS — Pictured: Amy Sherman-Palladino “Directing – Comedy Series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 17th, 2018 — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

“Mrs. Maisel” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino picked up a pair of Emmys in quick succession for writing and directing the show. Besides giving props to her husband and writing/producing partner Daniel Palladino, the cast and the crew, she gave a shout out to her comedian father. “I had to turn a 6-foot-2 Jew into Rachel Brosnahan,” she said. Holding up her trophies after the second win, she declared, “My panic room is going to be so pretty!”

70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS — Pictured: Rachel Brosnahan, “Lead Actress – Comedy Series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 17th, 2018 — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

The favorite to win for best actress in a comedy, Mrs. Maisel herself, Jew-by-association Rachel Brosnahan, proved prognosticators right. She used part of her acceptance speech time to remind people to vote in the midterm elections. “[The show] is about a woman who finding her voice anew, and it’s happening all over the country right now. We can use our voices to vote. If you aren’t already registered, do it now,” she said. “Vote, show up, and bring a friend to the polls.”

Towards the end of the third hour ‘Mrs. Maisel” was named best comedy series, and an army of cast and creative team members joined Daniel Palladino at the mic as he thanked the usual array of individuals associated with the production and others, including his and his wife’s single mothers. “Guys, they’re available,” he said.

The writing team of Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg won in the writing for a drama series category for “The Americans,” while “Game of Thrones” won the final award of the night, best drama series. Creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff accepted, surrounded by members of the cast and creative team.

70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS — Pictured: Glenn Weiss “Directing – Variety Special for The Oscars” proposes to his girlfriend during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 17th, 2018 — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

But awards excitement aside, the surprise highlight of the night was the onstage marriage proposal Emmy winner Glenn Weiss made to his girlfriend Jan Friedlander Svendsen after accepting his award for directing the Academy Awards telecast.

Weiss called the win “bittersweet,” as his mother, who died two weeks ago, wasn’t alive to witness it. “Mom always believed in finding the sunshine in things, and she adored my girlfriend Jan. Jan, you are the sunshine in my life, and mom was right, don’t ever let go of your sunshine,” he said before kneeling and presenting the stunned woman with the ring his father gave his mother more than 65 years ago.

Of course, she said yes! Mazel Tov!

Alex Borstein and Her ‘Maisel’ Character: ‘We’re Both Like Little Bulldogs’

Actress Alex Borstein plays Susie Myerson, a wannabe stand-up comedy manager on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the most Jewish new show on TV. The gruff Susie’s sole client is Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950s upper-middle-class Jewish housewife who’s obsessed with planning the perfect Yom Kippur break-the-fast meal until her husband, a failed stand-up comic, dumps her. On a drunken rampage, Midge then takes the stage at her hubby’s comedy club, riffs on their breakup, exposes her breasts and catches Susie’s eye with her ribald act.

The Journal caught up with the 46-year-old Borstein — previously known for her work on TV’s “Family Guy” and “Getting On” — by telephone from her home in Barcelona, Spain.

Jewish Journal: You attended the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge. But your parents have very different Jewish backgrounds.

Alex Borstein: My father was raised Orthodox in Atlanta, Ga., and my mother is a child survivor of the Holocaust. She was born in Budapest at the time when they were lining Jews up and shooting them into pits. My grandmother gave my mother in her bassinet to a cousin, who was around 8 or 9, and the girl just walked out of line and kept walking. There were stories of holes in their shoes and lice in their hair, but they got out alive.

None of us would survive now, because we’re all such [wusses]. We’d be shot because my 9-year-old boy would be like, ‘Does anyone have an iPad?’ ”

JJ: You started doing stand-up at 16 in a small club in the Valley, with your parents accompanying you because you were underage. Did your family’s Holocaust background have anything to do with your budding sense of humor?

AB: It’s that old adage of Jews being survivors; you’ve just got to laugh or else you’re going to cry. But we also had these medical dramas going on because my brother is a hemophiliac. It was just kind of wanting to provide comic relief in the emergency room since everyone was so uptight and scared.

“It’s that old adage of Jews being survivors; you’ve just got to laugh or else you’re going to cry.”

JJ: Does Susie remind you of anyone in your own family?

AB: My grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, was very funny, very dark and bitchy. My mother went back to school later in life to get her MSW or MFT psychotherapy degree, one of those f—— series of letters with a bunch of “m’s” in it. They were tough broads who kept reinventing themselves, and there’s a piece of Susie in there.

JJ: Why were you drawn to your character?

AB: She’s ballsy and she’s got a foul mouth but she’s really vulnerable. She has qualities that are considered masculine: She’s ambitious, assertive and not afraid to say “no.” But it’s not that she feels like she was born in the wrong gender … We’re both like little bulldogs and unapologetic in some ways.

JJ: What does Susie think when Midge shows her breasts onstage?

AB: She’s shocked but she also sees it symbolically — that this woman is really willing to expose herself emotionally. Midge tells the truth: She admits that her husband left her, talks about sex and enjoying sex. And Susie admires that kind of raw honesty.

JJ: Why did you move to Barcelona, of all places? After all, the Jews were expelled from Spain back in 1492 and there are only 6,000 Jews in the country today.

AB: Well, some time has passed. (Laughs.) My show “Getting On” was canceled two years ago and it just broke my heart. So I thought I was done with on-camera TV, and I just felt that I would go out gracefully. I always wanted to live abroad so I thought, the time to do it is now. We have a small but lovely Jewish community. My kids and I attend the Atid Reform temple here. And I haven’t encountered any anti-Semitism. Then again, I’m not running around wearing a yarmulke or dancing with a Torah outside.

JJ: Your character on “Mrs. Maisel” is Jewish, even though we don’t know much about her background except that it is quite different from Midge’s. Were the Tribal aspects of the show a draw for you?

AB: They feel very comfortable, like coming home and putting on a pair of sweats. I’ve been on so many shows where they’re like, “It’s time for the Christmas episode.” I have no problem with that, but it’s really nice when you see your own reflection in something on TV.

With ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ Creator Goes Back in Time, Just for Laughs

Rachel Brosnahan plays a 1950s housewife who ends up divorced and pursuing a career in stand-up comedy in the new Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

When Amy Sherman-Palladino was growing up in Van Nuys, her father, the former Catskills comic Don Sherman, would hold court in the backyard with fellow comedians like Jan Murray and Shecky Greene. Everyone would be eating deli food and trying to outdo each other with jokes.

Young Amy found the conversation “foreign and exotic and fabulous, when you’re sitting bored in the Valley waiting for a Ralphs to open so you have someplace to go,” the effusive Sherman-Palladino recalled in a telephone interview.

And when she repeatedly played the comedy album “2000 Years With Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks” — a gift from Dad — she knew she had found her “inner Jew.” The banter was “fast and furious and human and exhausted and hilarious,” she wrote in an essay for Vulture. “It dawned on me, ‘That was Jewish.’ ”

Sherman-Palladino brought the same frenzied Jewish chatter to distinctly WASP-y characters when she created her hit television show, “Gilmore Girls,” set in the New England enclave of Stars Hollow, Conn. “We wrote it as a Jewish show that just happened to feature a couple of Protestants running around,” she said. “They were the most Jewish goyish girls in the entire world.”

Now Sherman-Palladino is bringing her shtick to the overtly Jewish Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which premieres Nov. 29 and spotlights a contented Jewish upper-middle-class housewife in New York in 1958. The series opens as Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) gives a speech at her wedding, quipping that shrimp was an ingredient in the egg rolls served. A panic breaks out as the rabbi and various guests flee the reception.

Four years later, she’s bribed the rabbi with a dreidel signed by Sammy Davis Jr. to attend her Yom Kippur break-the-fast meal. But the dinner is canceled when her husband, Joel, an aspiring comedian, leaves her for another woman.

The desperate Midge rushes to Joel’s gritty comedy club, takes the stage, exposes her breasts and kills with her rant about her loser hubby. She thereafter reinvents herself as a stand-up comic in the burgeoning Greenwich Village scene. But not without a dose of Jewish guilt. As Midge munches on nuts during a meeting at the club, she suddenly realizes it’s Yom Kippur. “I’m supposed to be fasting, atoning for my sins,” she tells a prospective comedy manager. “You showed your [breasts] to half of Greenwich Village,” the manager replies. “You think some nuts are going to piss Him off?”

When asked why her new show is so, well, Jewish — perhaps the most Jewish show to hit TV since Amazon’s “Transparent” — Sherman-Palladino said, “Why the hell not? I come from Jews. … I don’t want to say that Jews invented comedy — but Jews did invent comedy,” she added.

She set the series in 1958 because it was a time when artists were “taking the old, very structured ‘ba dump bump’ comedy and bringing it into social and political arenas. Lenny Bruce was like the new Jewish comedy. I wanted to take a woman who was expected to be a housewife and mother, who suddenly finds herself with this weird, hidden superpower onstage.”

Bruce pops in and out of Midge’s life “like a weird kind of muse,” Sherman-Palladino added. “Joan Rivers once told a story about a show she did where the audience didn’t laugh at a thing. But Lenny Bruce sent her a note saying, ‘You were right; they’re wrong.’ I give him a lot of credit that he could reach out to a female comedian at that time and see what was special about her.”

Michael Zegman plays Joel in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new comedy series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Rivers was, in a way, an inspiration for the character of Midge. “When it comes to female comedians, Joan Rivers is the queen,” Sherman-Palladino said. Rivers and Midge “are similar in that they were both raised in very comfortable Jewish families, expected to go a certain way, but went another way altogether.”

The series was born when, at a meeting with Amazon executives last year, Sherman-Palladino blurted out that she was “thinking about an upper West Side, Jewish-American housewife who suddenly gets drawn into the comedy scene. And they said, ‘OK, go do that.’ ’’

As Sherman-Palladino created the show with her husband and longtime collaborator, Dan Palladino, she said, “I didn’t want Midge to be a character staring out the window, thinking, ‘There’s something better for me out there.’ I wanted her to be someone who had thought she had gotten everything she had ever wanted, only to have it blow up in her face.”

Sherman-Palladino drew on her experiences working odd jobs at The Comedy Store decades ago to create the club scene Midge tackles in the series.

“Stand-up comedy is the worst job in the world,” she said. “If you’re in a bad play or ballet, you can always say that the director was a moron or your [co-stars] showed up drunk. But if you’re a comic, it’s just you and your thoughts up there. If the audience rejects you, you can’t blame it on anybody else. It’s a pure, intimate rejection of
who you are.”

Nevertheless, Midge is drawn to the craft because “when the audience laughs, it’s very powerful,” Sherman-Palladino said. “When comedy hurts, nothing hurts worse. But when it hits, it’s probably the best high in
the world.”

Sherman-Palladino grew up in a culturally Jewish home with her comedian father and her Mississippi native, Baptist mother, a dancer. Amy eschewed Hebrew school in favor of wearing a tutu to ballet class.

Eventually, she gave up dancing to write for the TV series “Roseanne” and went on to create “Gilmore Girls” as well as “Bunheads” (2012-13), which was set in the dance world.

She married Palladino in 1997 in a ceremony officiated by Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills. “Dan is not Jewish, but he knew there was going to be a chuppah and that he was going to step on a glass,” she said. Sherman-Palladino named the fictional rabbi in “Gilmore Girls” after Rabbi Baron.

In “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Midge’s husband complains that their rabbi, in a sermon, “got more laughs in five minutes than I got in five months.” Midge replies, “He was in Buchenwald — throw him a bone.”

Before her husband dumps her, Midge bribes his open-mic night producers to give Joel better time slots by bringing them platters of her Jewish brisket and latkes.

Sherman-Palladino is now on a worldwide media junket to promote her series, but she aims to take a much-needed break after the tour. “I think I’ll check myself into the Betty Ford Center,” she quipped.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” premieres Nov. 29 on Amazon.