Who Is Shy Baldwin Based on ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’?

In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the young, Jewish housewife Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) sets the comedy world ablaze in the late 1950s after her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) leaves her for his secretary. Midge’s comedy career and the comic luminaries she meets along the way are chronicled in the show.

Did you know that many of the characters in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, including Midge, are based on actual people? Based on real individuals, here are our top five favorite Maisel characters.

Miriam “Midge” Maisel

who is shy baldwin based on

In the 1950s, an up-and-coming female comic performed stand-up routines in New York City venues such as the cozy Gaslight Cafe. We’re not talking about Midge here, but about the late Joan Rivers, the comic who inspired her role.

The Gaslight Bistro (where Midge does her first and many subsequent knockout standup routines) was a real cafe in New York City. According to Bustle, it first opened in 1958 and shuttered in 1971. Joan Rivers performed her comedy sometime between those years when she was just starting out.

Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, told Vanity Fair before the show’s 2017 premiere that she was inspired by Joan Rivers’ signature style of comedy when writing for Midge.

Amy elaborated, “Joan Rivers is a huge fan of mine. She had that great mix, that conflict of wanting to be accepted on a feminine level [but] having that many balls at the same time. It simply does not operate that way. It was a fantastic contrast, and she created those monster jokes. That’s how we’ll approach Midge’s humor in the future.” Joan Rivers said the next person on this list impacted her life, according to The Laugh Button.

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Lenny Bruce

who is shy baldwin based on

What better way to bond with a comedy mentor than to bail them out of jail after they’ve been arrested for performing a standup routine? That’s what Midge does for Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) in Season 1, albeit she had no idea how famous Lenny is in the comedy world at the time. Midge’s mentor and love interest are Lenny.

In Season 4, the comedy team eventually gets together for one night only, but Midge only agrees to be intimate with Lenny provided he sees her first and foremost as a comic and not a conquest. The character of Lenny Bruce is based on the real-life comic Lenny Bruce.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s portrayal of Lenny is very accurate to the real Lenny, who was known for his caustic comedy. Lenny did play at Carnegie Hall, as he did in the Season 4 conclusion of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

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Sophie Lennon

who is shy baldwin based on

Midge is blacklisted from comedy jobs in Season 1 after spilling the secret of Sophie Lennon’s (Jane Lynch) comic act in front of Sophie’s talent agent and the audience at the Gaslight Cafe. Sophie had made a name for herself as an unpolished woman character from Queens, who was nothing like her true, sophisticated demeanor. Sophie, on the other hand, kept up her act because it was considerably more entertaining for her adoring admirers.

Sophie’s character was inspired by the famed comic Phyllis Diller. Phyllis didn’t dress in a fat suit as Sophie did for her presentations, but she did dress in big clothes on purpose and took on the attitude of a larger-than-life hysterical housewife.

“Put THAT on your plate!” was Sophie’s hallmark line. According to their Biography, Phyllis was known for wearing too much makeup, wearing unusual clothes, and, of course, her signature laugh.

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Susie Myerson

who is shy baldwin based on

Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), Midge’s sharp-witted boss, appears to have a zingy one-liner that could cut a man in half in any setting. As previously revealed by Distractify, Amy stated that Susie was modeled on real-life talent agent Sue Mengers.

You may be wondering who Sue Mengers is. According to Wikipedia, she was a famed talent agent who represented notable stars such as Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Bob Fosse, Steve McQueen, and many, many more.

According to IndieWire, Jennifer Lawrence will play Sue in a forthcoming film based on her life and legacy.

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Baldwin, Shy

Midge gets the biggest break of her career when she is hired to open for famed singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) on his U.S./European tour. Although there was no genuine Shy, Rachel Brosnahan told Refinery29 that the character was inspired by a number of renowned vocalists.

“He’s sort of a mixture of a number of different successful personalities, but Johnny Mathis comes to mind,” Rachel explained.

A popular fan belief holds that Harry Belafonte was the main inspiration for Shy’s character. According to Esquire, Shy makes a dig at Elvis Presley in the show, which could be a reference to Harry’s real-life rivalry with Elvis. Shy also collaborates with Moms Mabley (Wanda Sykes). Harry really hired the real Mom Mabley for her first TV job.