Midge Maisel has the perfect life. She is supportive of her husband's dream of becoming a stand up comic until he bombs on stage and blames her, leading Midge back to the comedy club and an act that might change her life.
After college, Miriam "Midge" Maisel got married, had two children, and is actively supportive of her executive husband's dream of becoming a stand up comic, but when he bombs on stage at a Greenwich Village open mic, he blames her and leaves. When Midge tells her parents, they seem to blame her, too. Midge heads back to the comedy club where her impromptu act changes her life.
It's 1958 Manhattan and Miriam "Midge" Maisel has everything she's ever wanted - the perfect husband, kids, and Upper West Side apartment. But when her life suddenly takes a turn and Midge must start over, she discovers a previously unknown talent - one that will take her all the way from the comedy clubs of Greenwich Village to a spot on Johnny Carson's couch. From the creator of Gilmore Girls.
In 1958 New York, Midge Maisel's life is on track- husband, kids, and elegant Yom Kippur dinners in their Upper West Side apartment. But when her life takes a surprise turn, she has to quickly decide what else she's good at - and going from housewife to stand-up comic is a wild choice to everyone but her.
- It is New York City in 1958. Miriam "Midge" Weissman admits she is doing something unusual by making a funny speech at her own wedding reception. She has just married Joel Maisel, her "knight in shining armor" whom she met while she was attending Bryn Mawr College. Flashbacks reveal that some of her account of how Joel courted her is being varnished to conceal the fact that they had premarital sex and that he took her to burlesque shows rather than "poetry readings" as she claims. At the strip club she sees the comic Lenny Bruce for the first time. Finally, Midge jokes that the food at the reception contains shellfish, strictly prohibited by Jewish dietary law, leading to an exodus from the reception, led by the rabbi.
Four years later, the Maisels have two children. Midge is happy about the approach of Yom Kippur because the rabbi, who has finally forgiven her shellfish joke, has agreed to join her family to break the fast after Yom Kippur.
Midge actively supports her junior executive husband's dream of becoming a stand-up comic, although she thinks it is just for fun while he is very serious about it. She meets him at his office before they go out to the Gaslight Cafe, which hosts an open mic for musicians, poets and comics in Greenwich Village. Incidentally, Midge notices that Joel's secretary, Penny, a skinny but pretty girl, cannot even work an electric pencil sharpener.
Midge brings hot dishes she has made for Baz, the manager of the Gaslight, to bribe him to bump Joel ahead in the line up so that he can perform at 10:30 PM rather than 1:45 AM. Baz's assistant, Susie, gives Midge a hard time because she takes a dim view of Joel as a comic.
Seen for the first time, Joel's act does get some laughs, but when Midge applies her eye and ear for detail to help him improve, she notes that not everyone enjoyed his performance.
Midge sees Bob Newhart do a routine on TV and realizes that it is the same routine that Joel does. Joel claims that all comics "borrow" from each other and urges Midge not to worry about it. She accepts this explanation although she is not comfortable with it.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, they go to the cafe. Joel is nervous because a colleague, Archie Cleary, and his wife, Imogene, come to see him perform. He also feels nervous because the sweater Midge brought for him to wear has moth holes. Midge suggests that he use the holes in his sweater to make a joke. He is especially concerned, though, because he never set up a time to perform, so he might have to go on too late for Archie and Imogene's schedule. Midge tries to bribe the manager as usual, but Susie says Baz is away. Midge asks Susie to give Joel a good time slot, but Susie is noncommittal. Just as Joel and the Clearys are about to leave, Susie tells Joel he is on next.
Joel gets up and tries to joke about his sweater, but he rambles. He abruptly launches into his usual routine but loses his place and stumbles badly. On the way home, he blames Midge for suggesting he talk about his sweater. Midge says that she had meant that he should "put it in the form of a joke."
At home, Joel continues to blames her not only for bombing at the comedy club but for his dissatisfaction with his job, home, family, and life in general. He packs a suitcase and announces that he is leaving her for his secretary, Penny, with whom he has been having an affair. "You have the worst timing," says Midge, referring both to the reason why Joel bombed and his choice of moments to leave the marriage. He leaves her to deal with their children, her parents and the rabbi who is expected to visit the following day. When Midge breaks the news to her parents, they blame her, too.
Midge drinks a whole bottle of wine that is meant for the next evening's gathering. She then goes to the Gaslight to get back her casserole dish. During a break when the M.C. wanders off-stage, she gets up to deliver an impromptu monologue about her marriage break up and how she is superior to Penny in both mind and body. She has the audience - including Susie - in stitches until she exposes her breasts to demonstrate that her husband has no excuse on that account to abandon her. Two policemen promptly walk in and arrest her. To no avail Susie pleads with them, "She's just a housewife. She doesn't know the rules." The police put her in the back of their squad car right next Lenny Bruce and put both of them in jail.
Susie bails Midge out and tries to convince her to become a stand up comic. Susie says she has seen lots of bad comics like Joel, but only two comics have ever appeared at the Gaslight who were any good. One was Mort Sahl, a now successful comic, and the other is Midge. She offers to become Midge's mentor, but Midge turns her down.
After going home, Midge changes her mind. She bails Lenny Bruce out of jail just to ask him if he really loves stand up. He won't admit it, but Midge concludes that he does. She searches for Susie, finding her at home in an apartment so tiny that the door won't open all the way once Susie opens her folding bed. Through the crack in the door, Midge agrees to work with Susie but says they must start working at ten o'clock. As Midge walks away, Susie calls after her, "AM?!"