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Four FringeTalk shows load up with comedians, social issues

Clockwise, from top left, Tim Meadows, Maria Bamford, Matt and Heidi Morgan and Joe Liss will take part in a live FringeTalk session on Sept. 17.
Provided by KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival
Clockwise, from top left, Tim Meadows, Maria Bamford, Matt and Heidi Morgan and Joe Liss will take part in a live FringeTalk session on Sept. 17.

Big-name comedians, mainly at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, have been a major part of the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival though its first eight years. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, that kind of show is not in the plans this year when the event opens next week.

But Friday morning, Rochester Fringe -- which runs Sept. 15 through Sept. 26 -- added a few high-profile comedians to this year’s virtual-only shows with an announcement that comedians Tim Meadows, Maria Bamford, Joe Liss and Matt and Heidi Morgan will take part in one of its live FringeTalk sessions. 

The humor will be cautionary, however. The session is called “…Too soon? Comedy in 2020.”

FringeTalk includes four free, socially minded conversations with an audience Q&A component. It debuts 8 p.m. Sept 16 with an episode called “Black Lives Matter & the Performing Arts.” Norma Holland will moderate, with the panelists to include Rochester performer and educator Thomas Warfield; Karen “KB” Brown of Harlem Dance Theatre and Garth Fagan Dance; and Jason Nious of Cirque du Soleil. 

The 8 p.m. Sept. 17 FringeTalk features Meadows, whose 10 years with "Saturday Night Live" was one of the longest runs for any cast member on that show. His extensive résumé includes writing and starring in films such as "The Ladies Man," and appearances on television shows such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Bamford is best known as a stand-up comic riffing on her dysfunctional family, but also has made extensive appearances in film and television, including voicing animated characters on shows such as "Bojack Horseman."

Liss is a Second City-bred comedy improviser who is also familiar for his appearances in the films "Major League" and "Wayne’s World 2." He has presented a play he co-wrote, "The Bicycle Men," previously at Rochester Fringe. Liss will serve as moderator of this episode of FringeTalk.

The Morgans have been the hosts at the Rochester Fringe’s Spiegeltent over the last few years with their cabaret variety show "Cirque du Fringe." They’ll be presenting a virtual version this year, "Quarantini," from their home in Las Vegas, as well as a new edition of their booze-fueled Shakespeare parody, “Shotspeare.”

Using Storytelling to Communicate Science” is set for 8 p.m. Sept. 23, with Holland once again moderating. She’ll be joined by actor David Calvitto, Marcy McGinnis of CBS News and Carolyn Hall of Works on Water.

Predicting the Future? Performing Arts in 2021” is 8 p.m. Sept. 24. Fringe producer Erica Fee will moderate, with a panel of Lisa Richards Toney, president & CEO of the Association of Performing Arts; Steven A. Adelman, the author of "Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide"; and Dr. Stuart Weiss, who heads Intelligent Crowd Solutions.

For tickets and information and tickets for the free FringeTalks, as well as the more than 170 virtual Rochester Fringe events, go to, or download the free 2020 Fringe App through Google Play and the App Store.

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.