The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Is Above The Comedy Boom

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The Marvelous Ms. Maisel Amazon

It’s funny—I couldn't have been more turned off by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when its production was first announced a little more than a year ago. I owe this antipathy to my exhausting association with a fair deal of stand-up comedians in my personal life and the consumption of a near lethal amount of comedy TV shows for the sake of my job as a writer. The idealization of the not-so-glamorous aspects of the life of a stand-up comedian may have started with FX’s Louie, but its demand has been perpetuated by a culture that currently experiences a newfangled appreciation for the medium. Stand-up is in vogue. We celebrate the process, we look to it for moral and ethical clarification, and sometimes we protect its exemplaries from scrutiny. I’m not deaf to the beckon of the trend, though the charm of it all is certainly slackened by how pervasive it is now.

Just the other day, I overheard two assholes talking at my local diner. One of them was babbling with undeserved enthusiasm about taking a comedy class, he said and I quote: “I’m gonna make some serious bread and change the motherfucking world while I do it.”

Both of those things are shamefully quixotic even for the most capable of comedians. That’s not really the point though. The point is: the rockstarification of any art form invariably makes said art form worse. It infects it with narcissists that get into it for all the wrong reasons. And yes, if you’re getting into stand-up comedy to “change the motherfucking world” or “make bread” you’re one of three things: a narcissist, a moron, or a genius with intuition, but more likely a combination of the first two things.

Make no mistake, comedy has the power to impact culture and comment meaningfully on social issues, but of all the art forms, it's probably set up the least comfortably to do so. I’d have to imagine if any given comedian is faced with two options before speaking into a microphone—option 1: thoughtful, honest remark that is only sort of funny, or option 2: puerile, inflammatory remark that is likely to level the venue—they will probably go with option two every time. Is that the person you want to lead a revolution? Is that the kind of profession you want to entrust the task of “changing the world” to?

I think creators are capitalizing on the comedy boom the wrong way. To sustain a phenomenon, there needs to be quality control. It means there shouldn’t be four Netflix specials a month just because people will watch it. It means podcasts shouldn’t be recorded unless creators actually have an angle, not because you and your buddy Derek have great chemistry and a wealth of movie knowledge (everyone knows a lot about movies now. It’s 2018, Wikipedia exists and real life is boring). It also means studios shouldn’t green light another fucking show about what it's like to be a stand-up comedian.

Coming to Netflix, Stand Up, Phil. Phil lives in brooklyn, New York and things are NOT great. His girlfriend is always being weird and his parents won’t shut up about his future. “Why aren’t you a lawyer like your brother?!?! Because Phil has a unique passion. Phil is passionate about making a room full of people listen to him yell at their faces. Oh and all his friends are edgy clever comedians so they’re always roasting him. “Where’d you get that jacket Phil, Shitty R US. Zack Braff is Stand Up, Phil. It’s a pun, cause like he does Stand Up but also he suffers from erectile dysfunction.

You get my point? But maybe the rest of the world isn’t over stand-up like I am. However, I will say of all these shows about comedy, The Marvelous Ms. Masal is the least obnoxious. Sure, there is a big part of me that wishes I could be treated to Rachel Brosnahan’s electric performance, and a gorgeously rendered 1950's era Greenwich Village without it being saddled with the stand-up angle, but that’s not really the show’s fault—it’s bad timing, also I’m a miserable grump. The difference is in the approach. The dialogue is rife with throwback charm, the visuals are inspired and the cast is just perfect. The stand-up stuff sort of feels like window dressing. Like Amy Sherman-Palladino was aware of comedy’s popularity, but still made sure to implement it in a way that doesn’t feel distracting or hokey.

Anyway, check it out. It won some awards. Oh and be sure to check out my podcast: Black Dude Reviews Dash Cam Vids. Link in the comments!

 

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