East Hampton native and Oscar winner Melissa Leo is back as comedy club owner Goldie Herschlag in Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here Season 2. The first episode of Season 2 airs this Sunday, May 6 at 10 p.m., but it’s already streaming on Showtime On Demand.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching I’m Dying Up Here Season 1, the show follows a group of young stand-up comedians in 1970s Los Angeles. The ensemble cast includes some terrific characters—including a mix of actors and actual comedians—trying to make their way in comedy. While Season 1 shows their early struggles, the new Season offers a look at what it’s like for a group that has found varying degrees of success.
Leo’s Goldie experienced both triumphs and troubles in the first season, but she’s on to new endeavors in Season 2. The character feels loosely based on late Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore, who died just last month, and serves as a tough, no nonsense shaper of comedy careers as well as a caring mother hen for the young people who perform on her stage.
In Season 1, the ultimate goal for every comic is to get on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Now, after all sorts of personal trevails—like drug addiction, living in a fellow performer’s closet or balancing work, family and art with a wife and new baby at home—many of the comedians have reached their goals in Season 2. The stand-ups have appeared on Carson, signed with agents, gone on tour, landed roles on sitcoms or television specials, and generally ascended to the next stage of their careers, and they’re finding things aren’t as rosy as imagined.
It’s now 1974 and Goldie is expanding her comedy empire by partnering with legendary Las Vegas comedian Roy Martin (Brad Garrett). But she’s also dealing with longstanding issues with her 18-year-old daughter, Amanda (Stefania LaVie Owen), who’s back at home.
The show’s official “pretty girl” comedian Cassie Feder (Ari Graynor) gets to see (sort of) the fruits of her labors as a star on the Girls Are Funny Too television special as Season 2 gets underway, but she’s wrestling with a secret—Spoiler Alert: It appears she has a child back home in small town Texas—that haunts her but also drives her to succeed.
Meanwhile, Nick Beverly (Jake Lacy), who made it to Carson in Season 1 but blew his shot thanks to a previously secret heroin addiction, is slowly revealing demons from his past while on tour with Bill Hobbs (played by real Chicago comic Andrew Santino) and troubled African American Vietnam veteran and Sonny & Cher writer Ralph Carnegie (Erik Griffin).
Ralph engages in all sorts of debauched adventures on the road with Nick and Bill, but a bad experience causes him to re-examine his job, act and friendships.
Ron Shack (Clark Duke) undergoes some major changes in Season 2 after he lands a recurring role on a TV sitcom, but his newfound success begins to cause a rift between him and best pal and struggling comedian Eddie Zeidel (Michael Angarano), the guy who shared a closet with him in the first season. After living so low on the comedy totem pole, Ron is flying high, but he finds this new life is full of its own set of problems.
Eddie continues paying his stand-up dues and ends up as a private driver for Martin, his comedy hero and Goldie’s new partner. He’s also trying to make a relationship work with Cassie, but it’s not always easy.
Hot up-and-comer Adam Proteau (RJ Cyler) is on the road to super stardom. He has a hit comedy album that opens the door to new opportunities and a hot romance with, we can guess, brash new female comedian Dawn (Xosha Roquemore).
Mexican comic Edgar Martinez (Al Madrigal), who gets busted for dealing drugs in Season 1, and Arnie Brown (guest star Jon Daly) start a risky business that threatens to end their affiliation with Goldie.
With all this going on, I’m Dying Up Here continues to look at topics such as sexism, racism, homophobia, sexual abuse, religious contradictions, the hypocrisy inherent in deciding what is decent and what is obscene, and the sacrifices so many women have to make in their personal lives in order to become successful professionally. Remember, it’s 1974—long before #MeToo was even an idea.
I’m Dying Up Here is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by William Knoedelseder. Before she read at the Dan’s Literary Festival last summer, Leo told us Showtime took a while to decide whether or not to renew the show for a second season. Not enough people are watching this excellent show. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Catch up with I’m Dying Up Here Season 1 on demand and get ready for Season 2, airing May 6.