HBO’s Hacks’ Deborah Vance could certainly teach the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel a lesson on the pitfalls of success in the stand-up comedy business.
The new HBO Max dramedy, Hacks, led by the incomparable Jean Smart, offers a deeper look into the world of stand-up comedy, showing the downside that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is just beginning to explore. What Mrs. Maisel has yet to learn is what Hacks’ Deborah Vance is living; that despite success, you never stop paying your dues.
Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel brought the luminescent Rachel Brosnahan to television screens as the New York housewife Midge Maisel who discovers a love for performing and stand-up comedy. Critical and award-winning success followed with the show earning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards including an Emmy for Brosnahan. The show began filming its fourth season in January of 2021 after a nearly year-long delay in production due to the COVID pandemic. An air date for new episodes has not yet been announced.
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With Hacks, HBO Max showcases another powerhouse actress, Jean Smart, as the legendary Las Vegas stand-up icon Deborah Vance. Following recent years of exceptional supporting work in noteworthy projects such as Watchmen and Mare of Easttown, the Emmy-award-winning Smart finally gets to step into the spotlight as the show’s lead and makes the most of every moment on-screen. While the two shows share several similarities like featuring two determined funny women struggling to succeed in stand-up, they come at it from distinctly different angles. Deborah Vance’s story shows the darker side of what Mrs. Maisel may soon be facing. Hacks does an excellent job at highlighting is the pressure to keep performing, and the toll that takes on Deborah physically and emotionally. Having scratched and clawed her way to the top – whether she may still enjoy it or not – Deborah must keep performing because so many people in her empire now depend upon her for a paycheck. That puts extreme pressure on her to keep fit, physically, mentally, and professionally.
Deborah Vance has achieved the fame and success Mrs. Maisel is striving for. But what Mrs. Maisel has just begun to learn is the price she is going to pay may be far greater than she realizes. Midge and Deborah are forced to be strong women constantly fighting for prominence in a male-dominated profession. The downside Hacks exposes brings greater focus onto the sacrifices it takes to achieve and maintain success. What Deborah Vance has been forced to do somewhat parallels the career of the iconic stand-up legend Joan Rivers, she’s come to the hard conclusion that she cannot live by stand-up alone and has wisely diversified her brand into a profitable QVC and book empire.
One of the other downsides to a career in comedy that HBO Max’s Hacks has so effectively opened the door to exploring is that comedy is hard. Midge and Deborah both have succeeded by writing most of their own material. However, to stay current and relevant, Deborah is learning the hard way that she may be a bit out of touch with the times, and must accept the help of a young writer, Ava, to give her routines a fresh angle. Ava, however, is also quickly learning that writing comedy and writing stand-up are two vastly different animals, both hard and challenging. Watching these two women butt heads and learn from one another in this dark, comedic world is what makes Hacks imminently watchable.
Next: What To Expect From The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 4
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