Alex Borstein Had No Idea What Was Coming on the Final Season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Apr 18, 2023

Alex Borstein’s highly anticipated new Prime Video special Alex Borstein: Corsets & Clown Suits is a major nod to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. For starters, the three-time Emmy winner shot the comedy special at The Wolford Theatre, the fictional burlesque club from season four of Mrs. Maisel. The outing also nabbed the show’s crafts team, including production designer Bill Groom and music supervisor Robin Urdang.

That may be a fitting tribute to the Emmy-winning series, which sent Borstein’s celebrity soaring with her portrayal of gruff talent manager Susie Myerson. Bouncing off fellow Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan as stand-up comic Midge Maisel was a treat, too. But don’t be fooled. Alex Borstein: Corsets & Clown Suits, which drops on Prime Video April 18, is mostly a showcase for Borstein’s sublime comedic talents and musical prowess.

Thoroughly entertaining and often deeply personal, the artist’s first comedy special “f**ks with perception” and leaves nothing untouched: culture, politics, marriage, equality vs. equity, genital jokes, and Nazis. Corsets & Clown Suits is as smart and fresh as it is provocative and engaging. It’s the comedy special we need right now.

This self-penned performance offers a rare kind of storytelling, too. Equally enjoyable are the performer’s Barcelona cohorts, musicians Eric Mills and Salva Rey. They add a charming élan into the mix. Borstein opened up with MovieWeb about her special, the final season of Mrs. Maisel, and so much more. Dive in.

Creating Corsets & Clown Suits

MovieWeb: You’re great on stage. What do you love most about being a storyteller?

Alex Borstein: You know, I feel like there are cultural aspects to it. I grew up listening to my grandmother tell her stories, and my mom tell her stories. It’s in my blood a little bit. I like that when you tell a story, you’re not doing kind of a setup, punchline, setup, punchline. There’s a beginning and a middle and an end, and a through line. I like taking people on a little journey and a well-crafted story does that better than anything.

MW: What was your main hope in creating the special?

Alex Borstein: You know, it’s funny, when you first start doing this kind of thing, at first, it’s really therapeutic. When we started touring with this, I was living in Barcelona and, and you’re kind of getting up, and you’re getting stuff out — thoughts are coming to you, political observations, and personal things, and you’re reminiscing and discovering yourself. Then it started taking shape and becoming something a little more tangible and exciting.

Alex Borstein: I studied rhetoric at college, and that’s like the art of persuasion. So, with this, I thought if you persuade one other person, or hopefully a group of people — but at least one other person — to take a look at the idea of perception, that would be good. And that’s where the show took me. To let go of ‘perception’ a little bit, let go of caring about that a little bit. Not giving up and settling into a role but learning to celebrate what role you might already have.

MW: What surprised you the most in this journey?

Alex Borstein: Well, the show become so polished. It started as disjointed pieces and thoughts and, like, sketches. You know, lines in a notebook. Then I saw a commonalty that the audiences would have with some of those stories; people having experienced very similar things. What I thought were some of my little secrets — things that I thought only I could have experienced — I found out that no, a lot of people dealt with the same thing. That was one of the most surprising things I discovered in the process.

Borstein Recalls Past Influences

Prime Video

MW: Take us back. You’re from Highland Park, in the Chicago area. Who truly inspired you to pursue your creative talents?

Alex Borstein: My mother was always a champion of the bizarre. She and her mother before her survived by standing out, going against the grain, and not doing what anyone else was doing. She always supported that in me. My father was always a little bit more, ‘You know, go to college, have something to fall back on. Who knows if you’ll actually be able to do any of that. You must be able to make a living and take care of yourself.’

MW: Protective parents. Understood.

Alex Borstein: It’s not that he didn’t believe in my creativity or support it. I think he was just terrified. His background was that he was terrified you wouldn’t be able to support yourself. So, the first time I did stand-up comedy, I was 16 years old, and it was at a bar that my parents accompanied me to because I was underage. And that was the first time I ever got on stage to see if I was actually funny to anyone other than my friends. So, they’ve always been supportive. And now it’s like my father’s favorite thing. Like, my work is my dad’s life, which is really cute.

Related: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 Review: Midge and the Gang Go Out with a Bang

On Ending The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Prime Video

MW: Congratulations on going out with a bang on Mrs. Maisel. It’s pitch perfect. The writing is so sharp. What are your thoughts are on the final season? What surprised you going into it. The time jumps? Anything?

Alex Borstein: I had no idea what was coming. The season unraveled before me. You get an episode at a time, and maybe a day before the table read if you’re lucky. That’s a surprise and a huge challenge because you’re not only taking in what they’re writing, and what the dialogue is, but what they’re seeing in the future for Susie. Then you have to physically inhabit that.

MW: Basically, morph into Susie.

Alex Borstein: Right. The way Susie walks, for instance. She hustles. She’s pinched and tense during seasons one through four. Well, that’s going to change if you’re moving forward and seeing her [in the future] where she’s calmed down a little, when she’s earned her place a little—when she’s able to take off the suspenders or the belt. She’s a belt and suspenders kind of gal. So, maybe she gets to a place where she can just wear some elastic waistband fabrics that move or breathe.

MW: Is it surreal, now that the end has arrived?

Alex Borstein: I can’t believe it’s really the last season. We’d all start gathering right around now and shooting another season. Now, we’re all gathering to do press. So, there’s a part of me that still feels like, oh, maybe there’s more. Maybe there’s more coming. Maybe this isn’t real. Susie was amazing character, and I will miss that. But I’ll miss the chemistry Rachel and I had. You don’t get that all the time and the ability to know what the other one is kind of thinking or knowing where she’s going to serve the ball and exactly where to put myself, so I could hit it back… That’s something I hadn’t really experienced before.

Life After Susie Myerson

Prime Video

MW: How did playing Susie change your life? Obviously, the Emmys. Congratulations, but how else?

Alex Borstein: On a personal level, it changed things. And that was a goal — to play a three-dimensional, real character, where I could try everything on the acting palette. Getting to do that was massive. I was able to scratch that off the bucket list, so to speak. I really wanted the opportunity to take a character on a huge journey and watch that character change from season one to five. And that changed me I think, as an actor. It gave me a little more confidence in what I can do, and what I’m capable of professionally.

Alex Borstein: And it’s not like now I have to stave off a million opportunities. It’s not like it changed my life in that way. I don’t think that would be exactly how I’d play things, anyway, but Susie has given me the confidence to take my time and really choose what I want to do next. To know that don’t have to scramble. I don’t feel like I want to prove anything to the world. There are certain things I still want to prove to myself, I guess. Things I want to tackle as a performer. But the greatest gift? It’s the confidence I found in myself.

Related: Exclusive: Josh Johnson Talks New Comedy Special Up Here Killing Myself

MW: We’re curious. What do you find most funny?

Alex Borstein: I mean, I’m not gonna lie — seeing people on their phone, and they walk into a window or a fountain or something. I can’t get enough of that. Really. I have two kids and I have to say, I’ve never really grown out of that very sophomore, low-brow stuff. That will make me laugh harder than something that’s very mentally challenging. But Ricky Gervais makes me laugh. It’s not necessarily his stand-up, just him, his delivery. But in general, I would say seeing people hurt themselves walking the streets of New York. Yeah.

MW: You mentioned earlier there are things you want to tackle. Tell us more about that.

Alex Borstein: I’ve written this feature. It kind of, well… not quite completes the Susie circle, but it continues on that journey of really exploring vulnerability. That thing of, what happens when you break and how do you rebuild? That’s what I’d like to tackle. I mean, it would also be fun to confront people, where maybe I ‘take out’ a lot of people out. You know, like Joanna Wick, or something like that.

Alex Borstein: Corsets & Clown Suits hits Prime Video April 18.

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