Emmy episode analysis: Luke Kirby (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’) ponders if comedy is worth it in ‘All Alone’

Among the performers who got Emmy recognition for Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel,” after not getting in for the first season, is Luke Kirby. Kirby scores his first Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Guest Actor for his portrayal of iconic comedian, Lenny Bruce, in the show’s Season 2 finale, “All Alone.”

After being booted offstage for talking about her friend’s pregnancy in her act, Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) goes to grab a drink at a bar and discovers Lenny, who is already drunk. As Midge details her struggles in the business, Lenny describes his own issues including having a warrant out for his arrest in Chicago and that he’s broke from all the legal fees he’s incurred. They both express their deep frustrations with the limitations that are placed on them. Lenny mentions that he has a spot coming up on Steve Allen‘s prime-time show and Midge offers to come along for moral support which Lenny accepts.

Midge arrives and gives Lenny a last bit of encouragement before he goes out on stage. He goes on camera and makes a brief unscripted joke about Elizabeth Taylor‘s recent marriage to Eddie Fisher. He then goes into a musical act with Allen about a couple that breaks up and the man finds solace in being successful but living the rest of his life alone. As Midge watches, she starts to come to a serious realization about what her own life will mean as she continues down the road of becoming a professional comic.

Will Kirby be triumphant on his first nomination? Let’s examine the pros and cons:

PROS

While the the amount of screen time is short, Kirby still manages to give a great performance. In addition to naturally inhabiting Bruce’s past performances (see below), Kirby plays the character with a hidden layer of sadness and darkness that we now know would ultimately consume his life.

Playing Lenny Bruce has been proven to get awards recognition in the past. Cliff Gorman won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play in 1972 for playing Bruce in the Broadway show, “Lenny.” For the film version of the show, Dustin Hoffman scored a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1974.

If “Maisel” goes on a sweep like it did last year, it’s not out of the question that Kirby could go along for the ride.

SEE 2019 Emmy nominations complete list: All the nominees for the 71st Emmy Awards

CONS

Outside of Kirby performing Bruce’s stand up routine, there’s really not much that’s laugh-out-loud funny about his character’s scenes.

Actors portraying real people have scarcely been nominated in the guest acting categories, not counting “Saturday Night Live” or people playing themselves. Only four have been nominated: Jon Hamm and Margaret Cho for respectively playing David Brinkley and Kim Jong-il on “30 Rock” (2012), Cameron Britton for playing Ed Kemper on “Mindhunter” and Matthew Goode for playing Anthony Armstrong-Jones on “The Crown” (both in 2018). None of them won.

Click here to see the actual performance of Lenny Bruce on “The Steve Allen Show” that’s depicted in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

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