After “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” wrapped its final scenes, two-time Emmy winner Alex Borstein took center stage at the Wolford Theatre, home base of the comedy’s fictional burlesque club for a music-infused stand-up show.
The special, titled “Corsets & Clown Suits,” is now streaming on Prime Video alongside the first four episodes of “Maisel’s” fifth and final season. In conversation with Variety ahead of Maisel’s final episodes, Borstein describes the 81-minute special, produced by Amazon Studios, “as a filthy TED talk with music.”
She explains: “You’re gonna learn some things that you may wish you could forget,” she jokes, elaborating on that it’s a “deeply personal and wildly fictitious journey I go on to figure out what perception is and how I am perceived.”
As an actor, Borstein is certainly respected. She has won two Primetime Emmys, two SAG Awards, and two Critics Choice Awards for her turn on “Maisel,” playing Susie Myerson, the unlikely manager to the titular comedian (Rachel Brosnahan). Plus she took home an Emmy home for her voiceover work as Lois Griffin on FOX’s “Family Guy.”
But in “Corsets & Clown Suits,” Borstein gets vulnerable, dishing on topics like dating after divorce and how women are conditioned to make themselves small, both literally (i.e. wearing corsets) and figuratively. In the self-penned show, she dives into these themes with the help of Barcelona-native musicians, Eric Mills and Salva Rey.
The stand-up set is also closely tied to her experience with “Maisel,” filmed on the Wolford Theatre set, which was built especially for the Prime Video show and torn down after Borstein’s special wrapped.
“It was really fun. That felt really, really cool to get to use that space,” she recalls. “I had been touring with this show before we came back to do ‘Maisel.’ And I think doing ‘Maisel’ and watching Rachel and Amy [Sherman-Palladino, the show’s co-creator and showrunner] got me to the point of saying, ‘Yes, let’s shoot this, let’s make this forever and not have it be an ephemeral piece. I kind of want to document this.’”
The works also parallel each other thematically. “Rachel spent the whole series making her living making people laugh, so it’s kind of got some similar blood in it — which maybe was inevitable — but I hope people enjoy it. I have no idea what to expect,” Borstein says.
Thinking about her time on Maisel, which explores Susie’s arc more vividly in Season 5, Borstein is particularly introspective, noting that her personal progression mirrored her character’s arc.
“Before Maisel, I had kind of quit, I had had my heart broken by another show’s demise, I had moved to Barcelona and said, ‘Never again.’ Then Amy courted me and I got into this relationship,” she explains. “Little by little, I was like, ‘I’m not going to get hurt again, I’m not going to open up, I’m not going to meet people. I’m not going to make friends. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.’ Here we are six years later, and I’m shattered my hearts in pieces on the floor.”
In addition to the hardware Borstein’s picked up for her stellar performance on the show, working on “Maisel” changed her.
“Much like Susie, I let people in a little by little. I cracked open,” she says, teasing that “Susie really revealed herself so much more in this season, and I feel like I kind of did the same. It’s a lesson: you can’t shut yourself off. You can’t say no to human contact and making connections. This is a really special group. And I am glad I got my heart stepped on.”
“Alex Borstein: Corsets & Clown Suits” is produced by Amazon Studios and directed by Scott Ellis. Borstein, Dhana Rivera Gilbert and Ellis serve as executive producers, with Sal Carino and Matthew Shapiro as producers.