Comedians are often considered to be truth tellers. But in recent years, critics say they have largely become party props, while pushing the typical limits of civility. Michelle Wolf has been criticized for her performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner; Samantha Bee offered a limited apology for her remarks about Ivanka Trump; Robert De Niro rallied the audience at the Tony Awards by firing an epithet at President Trump.

Our panel of comedians will discuss where the line is, and if there should be one. In studio:

We're joined by legendary actor, writer, and comedian John Cleese. He'll be in Rochester next month for a screening of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" at the Kodak Theatre.

Cleese joins us to discuss his career and the impact Monty Python has had on the development of modern comedy. We also discuss the role of comedy and satire in today's political climate. Our guests:

  • John Cleese
  • Chris Thompson, comedian, engineer, and activist
  • Allison Roberts, founder of Estrofest comedy troupe and co-founder of Impact Interactive
  • Dr. Terry Browne, professor emeritus of theatre at SUNY Geneseo, and author of "Playwright’s Theatre: The English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre"

A recent article in (585) Magazine aimed to cover the Rochester comedy landscape. The article was bolstered by many photos, and yet it featured almost entirely men. Why? Women in comedy responded, saying this is rather typical of how women tend to be dismissed in this field.

We discuss women in comedy, and the challenges they can face. In studio:

*You can read the follow-up piece to (585)'s initial article here.

The movie It broke box office records for late summer, which means two things: Stephen King remains popular, and clowns remain horrifying. Okay, that second part is probably unfair, but Pennywise the Dancing Clown has cast a frightening figure in the film.

So why are we so afraid of clowns? It didn't start with the book version of It, which dropped in the mid-1980s. In facts, it goes way back in literature. But modern-day clowns want to make the case that we don't have to be afraid. We explore the history of our fears and the reality of this offbeat profession. Our guests:

  • Roscoe the Court Jester
  • Richard Hughson, member of Flower City Vaudeville
  • Sky Sands, comedian
  • Abby DeVuyst, librarian, improviser, and actor

What happens when we blend politics, journalism, and entertainment? In one sense, we get appearances like Sean Spicer at the Emmys this past weekend. We also see such blending at Geva's Summer Curtain Call, and the White House Correspondents' Dinner in years past.

But the Spicer appearance sparked some backlash amongst those who say it waves away the serious problem of lying for an administration; people who are more vulnerable aren't laughing at Spicer's star turn. So where is the line? Our guests:

Tina Fey’s sketch last week set off a debate about sheetcake feminism.” Fey urged viewers to ignore white supremacists who rally in places like Charlottesville and Boston. Instead, she urged them to support local bakeries and scream into their sheetcake, while refusing to engage.

Critics have said that Fey’s message is covered in privilege, and reflects the divide on the left that surfaced during the January Women’s March. Our guests  discuss it. In studio:

We have a conversation with comedian Mike Birbiglia. You may know his work on This American Life, or his films, Sleepwalk with Me and Don't Think Twice. Birbiglia is a comedian who not only makes you laugh, but also makes you think and feel. He's coming to Rochester this week, but first he's our guest as we talk about his sleep disorder, truth in comedy, and more.

We also talk with local people in comedy about their craft and their goals while they are on stage. Our guests:

  • Mike Birbiglia, comedian and filmmaker
  • Yolanda Smilez, stand-up comedian and CEO and co-founder of the Roc Awards
  • John Forrest Thompson, educator, creative consultant, improviser, member of the sketch comedy troupe Thank You Kiss and co-founder of the new Focus Theatre and Training Center
  • Andrea Holland, public speaking coach and cast member of EstroFest Comedy Troupe

She was so good when she came to Rochester for "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" that we're inviting her back. Paula Poundstone is coming to Rochester for a show of her own.

We discuss her comedy: her style, her willingness to riff on her own personal issues, and more.

A recent CNN documentary explored the link between success in comedy and mental illness. Many of the most successful people in comedy have struggled with depression and other ailments.

Our panel discusses how they choose -- or choose not -- to incorporate their own struggles into their work. Our guests are all stand-up comedians:

  • Kelsey Claire Hagen
  • Kyle Baker
  • Andrea Springer

Is American satire dead? Author Malcolm Gladwell says it is.

Think Tina Fey was great as Sarah Palin? Gladwell calls it "toothless." Jimmy Fallon as Donald Trump? Pathetic, made even worse by Trump's repeat appearances on the show. Gladwell says the best satire is not just about an accurate portrayal; it's about making a point, and moving the public. But is Gladwell being unfair? Are there great satirists working today?

Our panel discusses the value of satire, and why we don't see nearly as much satire as other forms of comedic expression. In studio:

  • Kerry Young, director, teacher, and veteran on the theater scene
  • Tim Ryan, Geva Comedy Improv
  • Tom Proietti, resident scholar in media at St. John Fisher College