We explain the significance of this pivotal nod to the career of Lenny Bruce featured in Mrs. Maisel’s Season 4 finale.
Despite a lukewarm start to this season, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel absolutely slays by its end. With Midge’s oddly parallel journey to the real-life Lenny Bruce finally coming to a head, fans finally get to see the satisfying conclusion of four seasons of will-they-won’t-they, mentor-mentee cat-stringing, brought to a climactic conclusion.
This is all addressed in the season finale with the relationship between Midge and Lenny Bruce. Which has oddly been a healthy and supportive force often pushing Midge forward behind the scenes. The season 4 finale sees the two finally consummate their relationship the night before Bruce’s gigantic performance of Lenny Bruce at Carnegie Hall.
For those who don’t know why that’s important
Lenny Bruce’s Carnegie Hall performance, which was conducted during a packed-house snowstorm in real life and driven by the desire to see this so-called ‘degenerate’ comic of the time, is widely considered to be the greatest performance of the young standup’s brief career. One where his controversial topics — heavily considered taboo due to the comedian’s frequent arrest record, and often, closed-off club opportunities marred by his own offensive material — finally gets accepted in the grand public eye.
What The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has done thus far in portraying Bruce, is shown the bright side of what was a rather tragic comic’s career (whom many consider could have been one of the greatest). And Carnegie Hall represents the moment every artist dreams of: to sell out in one of the most classical stages of NYC.
Introduced as a ‘sick’ comedian both in real life and in the show. We the audience can still see what’s happening in terms of the narrative shift towards acceptance versus reluctance capped off in the series. Tastefully, you can actually hear the beginnings of Lenny Bruce’s real-life performance redone for the TV series as much of what you see by Luke Kirby was taken from the real Lenny Bruce’s actual performance that evening. Here’s proof:
Now, any artist living in NYC knows that performing in Carnegie is huge. It’s a pivotal moment for both Lenny Bruce and the series, as it’s sort of a metaphor of what could be, showing Midge that to be here: performing on this classic stage… well, it requires sacrifice and work, as the window of possibility is open only for a limited opportunity.
At the heart of this has always been Midge’s stand-up story front and center. This plotline has felt sort of at a standstill due to Midge’s constant self-sabotaging and the constant: ‘I want to be the headliner’ toxicity that has, this season, ruined her opportunities. Midge often destroys her opportunities for the sake of having her cake and eats it too. If that isn’t enough, she also accosts Lenny for his little stash of narcotics she’d found while staying at Lenny’s place. A foreshadowing event that at this moment, in Carnegie, was the high mark for the comedian. The real-life tragedy of Lenny Bruce will soon come after.
It’s a perfect device that drives the series onto its next legs: by showing what the possibilities could be for Midge. While also, sort of reminding us, that time is in fact limited – just as it was for Lenny in his final years.