The Real History Behind The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Trip to the Catskills ‘Borscht Belt’

In the second season of Amazon’s award-winning 1950s-set comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the show takes its protagonist away from the Manhattan milieu where her journey from housewife to comedienne began. And, just as the show draws on real comedy history in its New York City scenes, Midge Maisel’s adventures out of town likewise rely on an important part of that past.

When Midge and her family get away for the summer, they head up to the Catskill Mountains, the New York State region that played home to a number of mid-century resorts that drew city residents — most notably, a subset of Jewish New Yorkers — looking to escape the heat. As a result of their demand for entertainment, the resorts became a hothouse of comedy talent. While today, what became known as “the Borscht Belt” is probably best known for its depiction in Dirty Dancing, Midge’s assumption that everyone she knew would know what it meant to “go to the Catskills” would have been reasonable back then. And even if that type of holiday has faded from fashion, the impact of the Catskills can still be felt throughout American comedy.

TIME spoke to Jeremy Dauber, a professor of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture at Columbia University and author of Jewish Comedy: A Serious History, about the true story behind Mrs. Maisel‘s summer vacation.

TIME: Why the Catskills? How does this particular region become part of the history of Jewish comedy?

Dauber: What would become known as the Borscht Belt was the result of very concrete physical situation. New York City would bake in the summer. Air-conditioning hadn’t been invented yet, so people wanted to get away from the asphalt and the cement and the concrete as much as they could, so they went up …read more

Source:: Time – Entertainment


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