Can the coronavirus be the source of comedy? Should comedians joke about it? Some comedians say we need levity now more than ever, and comedy can be a way to cope with the uncertainty and fear that may come with the pandemic.

This hour, we hear from comedians about their perspectives on comedy in the time of COVID-19. Our guests:


Abby Feldman's life has come full circle. After a comedy career that has taken her from Manhattan to Brazil to just within reach of the dark bat wings of the Kremlin, she's now waiting out the coronavirus pandemic in her childhood bedroom in Pittsford. Where her mother, she says, "keeps my supply of avocados replenished."

"It took a pandemic to appreciate this small town that I come from."


Politically driven comedian Bill Maher returns to Rochester for a 7:30 p.m. May 31 show at the Auditorium Theatre.

While Maher is well-known for his often-controversial talk shows -- first "Politically Incorrect," and for the last 15 years HBO's "Real Time" -- he's never stopped doing standup comedy. (Although his starring roles in "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death" and "Pizza Man" seem to have brought his film career to a halt.)

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Michelle Wolf certainly has a way with words. Whether those words are truth-telling or rabble-rousing depends on the listener’s perspective. But it was certainly both sides of that argument, after her appearance at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, that catapulted her into the upper realm of talked-about comedians.

Wolf has two shows here Saturday, 7 and 9:30 p.m., at Comedy at the Carlson.

Should anything be off the table when it comes to comedy? Are there topics or subjects about which comedians should not joke? The questions come after the recent broadcast of MTV’s Video Music Awards, where comedian Sebastian Maniscalco joked about safe spaces, trigger warnings, and participation trophies. Critics say he went too far and his jokes were out of touch. Others say the jokes were funny and he was just doing his job as a comedian, by poking fun. Comedian Dave Chappelle’s recent special targets cancel culture. Critics of that special say he’s punching down. Others say he should joke about whatever he likes.

Our guests debate if there should be limits when it comes to comedy. In studio:

  • Kai VonDoom, stand-up comedian
  • Katie Mueller, stand-up comedian
  • Ed Mello, stand-up comedian
  • Todd Gursslin, stand-up comedian

Rochester comics featured on Comedy Central series

Jun 26, 2019
Provided photo

Rochester's comedy scene will get a rare spotlight on national TV this week, when Comedy Central airs the latest episode of "Hart of the City," comedian Kevin Hart's program showcasing vibrant comedy cities across the United States.

Flour City and the wider region is the focus at 11 p.m. Friday, as three comedians with local ties -- Rochesterian Joél James, Rochester-born Zack Johnson, and Travis Blunt from Syracuse -- are featured, with live performances filmed at Photo City Improv as well as an interview segment with Hart.

What is the difference between parody and satire? The line between the two is often blurred, but both can be effective tools in making social and political commentary.

This hour, our guests discuss how to distinguish parody from satire and how both are being used – successfully or unsuccessfully – in the current comedy landscape. In studio:

The producers of the TV show "Family Guy" recently announced that they will be phasing out jokes about gay people. They say some of the things they felt comfortable joking about years ago are no longer acceptable. Reaction from viewers has been across the board, with some fans supporting the decision and others saying "Family Guy" should be an equal opportunity offender. 

We talk to local comedians about what they think, and about how joke philosophy can change over time. Our guests: 

  • Mrs. Kasha Davis, local drag performer
  • Darienne Lake, local drag performer
  • Yolanda Smilez, stand-up comedian, and CEO and co-founder of the Roc Awards
  • Sara Shipley, improviser and stand-up comedian
  • Jeff Andrews, comedian and teacher 

Comedian Louis CK is back on stage telling jokes, and he's making more enemies with his material. In a leaked set that he performed in December, Louis CK mocks school shooting survivors, and he mocks gender fluid individuals.

Our guests discuss the boundaries of comedy; how to push those boundaries; and when to offer space for someone to change. Our guests:

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: