Hilarious stand-up comedy specials you can stream this weekend

Alexandra Plesa 4 December 2018 NEWS

These stand-up specials on Netflix and Stan are the perfect pick-me-up.

What makes for a good comedy special? While the material itself is undoubtedly the most important ingredient for a successful production, the comic’s stage presence as well as the editing and the background are just as essential as the quality of the jokes. Shady framing, for instance, can take the viewer out of the moment and affect the pacing of the routine. After all, a comedy special is the crowning achievement of a successful comic, so it’s even more exciting when a comedian chooses a location close to their heart, filming in front of an audience they already trust. It makes it easier for them to connect with both the viewers who are clapping for them in person and those chuckling at home.

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On that note, we paid attention not only to the jokes when putting together our list, but also to the quality of the comedy special in general. You’ll notice that the titles listed below are all available to stream on Netflix, but we wanted to give a special shout-out to Stan. The Aussie streaming service wins bonus points for gathering some of the country’s highest profile comedians and giving them the chance to star in their own specials, showcasing the best that the local industry has to offer. Without further ado, here are 15 hilarious stand-up comedy specials you should stream when you’re in need of a pick-me-up.

Top 15 hilarious stand-up specials

  1. One Night Stan
  2. Ali Wong – Baby Cobra
  3. Chelsea Peretti – One of the Greats
  4. Chris Rock – Tamborine
  5. Trevor Noah - Son of Patricia
  6. Richard Pryor - Live in Concert
  7. Jim Gaffigan – Beyond the Pale
  8. James Acaster – Repertoire
  9. Maria Bamford – Old Baby
  10. Hannibal Buress – Comedy Camisado
  11. John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
  12. Jen Kirkman – I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)
  13. Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King
  14. Aziz Ansari – Live at Madison Square Garden
  15. Eddie Murphy – Delirious

1. One Night Stan (2017)

One Night Stan is a collection of six feature-length comedy specials coming from some of the country’s best performers. The list includes Wil Anderson, Tom Ballard, Celia Pacquola, Tom Gleeson, Sam Simmons and Judith Lucy. From Pacquola’s tales of what it’s like to be a woman in her 30s to Anderson’s consistent charm, these specials have something for everyone. If you’re looking for a comprehensive starter guide to Australia’s stand-up scene, you’re in the right place. All six specials are available to stream on Stan.

Who's in it?

  • Wil Anderson
  • Tom Ballard
  • Celia Pacquola
  • Tom Gleeson
  • Sam Simmons
  • Judith Lucy

2. Ali Wong – Baby Cobra (2016)

Wong has come a long way since being named one of the "10 Comics to Watch" by Variety back in 2011. She wrote for popular sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, appeared in several movies and TV shows, and continued to perform as a stand-up comedian. However, her Netflix specials are some of her best work, with Baby Cobra in particular, earning her praise as a groundbreaking comedy genius. The special incorporates jokes about pregnancy, hoarding and sex.

3. Chelsea Peretti – One of the Greats (2014)

Chelsea Peretti may be known for her stint as Gina on acclaimed series Brooklyn Nine-Nine and her formidable Twitter presence, but the comedian also delivers on the stand-up front. One of the Greats is a packed hour of comedy gold, with bits about what it’s like to do comedy and how uncomfortable it can be for a woman to eat a banana in public. Peretti is a force to be reckoned with, whether she declares that she’s a direct vessel of God or discusses the agony of making small talk. At the end of the day, her Netflix special is truly one of the greats.

4. Chris Rock – Tamborine (2018)

This is Rock’s sixth comedy special, the first made for Netflix. The talented comedian once again proves that he’s just as sharp as ever, dazzling the small Broadway crowd with some smart observations about gun control, the police, raising kids, race and bullies. It’s an intimate gathering during which Rock doesn’t shy away from provocative or even offensive jokes, but he somehow manages to deliver them in a respectful manner, making some interesting points. After you’re done laughing, you’ll have a lot to think about. In our book, that’s the best kind of stand-up.

5. Trevor Noah – Son of Patricia (2018)

Trevor Noah is a gifted entertainer. He does a fantastic job hosting The Daily Show and wrote a delightful book, Born a Crime, which details what it was like for him to grow up in South Africa. If you’ve read the memoir, you already know that Noah’s mother, Patricia, is a bad-ass, and she comes off as a hero in his latest Netflix special as well. Just released, Son of Patricia draws its name from an important lesson his mother taught him about how to deal with racism. Besides this bit, Noah also delivers jokes about a memorable trip to Bali, tacos, the time he met Barack Obama and trap music. It’s a colourful mix of topics, but one thing’s for sure, you’ll be laughing your heart out by the time it’s over.

6. Richard Pryor - Live in Concert (1979)

Pryor influenced an entire generation of comedians and Live in Concert is probably one of the best stand-up specials of all time. If you’re into stand-up, you can’t ignore it; it was the first feature-length film to entirely focus on a stand-up comedy routine. The comedy legend’s material is pretty dark, but Pryor manages to find the funny in his pain as he talks about everything from growing up poor in a brothel to having a heart attack. He was a skilled observer and an even better entertainer, instantly memorable. Stream his finest work on Netflix.

7. Jim Gaffigan – Beyond the Pale (2005)

This comedy special really put Gaffigan on the map, showcasing just what a sharp and hilarious entertainer he can be. The routine, an instant classic, includes bits about Hot Pockets, laziness and holidays, making it the perfect special for this time of year. His self-deprecating humour is compelling, but his observations on American eating habits are what really take the cake – pun intended.

8. James Acaster – Repertoire (2018)

This isn’t one special, Repertoire is actually four feature-length specials in one. It’s a lengthy one-man show, something unique among Netflix’s current offerings. Think of it as a miniseries, with each episode tying to the others but able to function on its own as well. If you’re looking for something offbeat, you can’t go wrong with this one. Acaster shines when talking about linguistic curiosities, The Wire or that time he served on a jury. Each part can be watched as a standalone show, but we advise you binge the entire thing in one go, as this will make you more susceptible to catching the show’s nuances and callbacks.

9. Maria Bamford – Old Baby (2017)

Bamford has a fruitful relationship with Netflix as her series, Lady Dynamite, was universally praised by critics. This stand-up special is no different, following Bamford as she delivers her routine in settings that vary from intimate to grandiose. Her stand-up is far from traditional, as she doesn’t always rely on punchlines to grab the audience’s attention. Instead, she tells stories, skilfully squeezing jokes about Facebook likes or nosy neighbours in between. Bamford’s material embraces the darker side of life, with honest observations about mental illness or family trauma. Despite these heavy subjects, her enthusiasm, charisma and candour mesmerise. This old baby isn’t out of tricks just yet.

10. Hannibal Buress – Comedy Camisado (2016)

One of Hannibal Buress’s best qualities is his chilled demeanour. It’s like watching your stoned friend on stage having a conversation with himself. Yet, his special is sharp and focused, with Buress riffing on everything from losing his ID to dating to his now infamous Bill Cosby moment. The jokes flow with ease, the punchlines land and the audience is hooked. This is Buress at his best, even managing to turn an observation about his LASIK eye surgery into a fabulous bit about blindness and conspiracy theories. He makes the whole thing feel effortless, which takes some real skill.

11. John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (2018)

This special won Mulaney an Emmy, so there’s no wonder it found a spot on our list. On the lavish stage of Radio City Music Hall, the former Saturday Night Live writer reminisces about his childhood and his time at SNL, jokes about church and school assemblies, and delivers an amazing bit about Trump’s presidency. Mulaney has a special talent for pointing out the absurdity in the mundane and making the audience chuckle thanks to the sheer level of detail he brings to his performance, the comedy growing which each new thing Mulaney decides to reveal when telling a story. By the end, it’s clear that he has totally earned that stage, leaving the audience breathless.

12. Jen Kirkman – I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) (2015)

Many comedians incorporate bits about dating, relationships or weddings in their routine, but few manage to stand out quite like Kirkman. In her special, she delivers hilarious truths about what it’s like to be a childless, single woman in her 40s. What’s especially appealing is the fact that Kirkman is in no way limited or ashamed by her situation, as society dictates she should be. Instead, she’s excited for everything to come and manages to share that enthusiasm with the audience. She’s neurotic and unapologetic; more importantly, she’s willing to reveal her most mortifying moments in a hilarious manner.

13. Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King (2017)

Homecoming King asks for more from the viewer than a typical comedy show – mainly more patience and an open mind. There are times when minutes go by without any jokes, but the points Minhaj makes are more than worthy of the audience’s attention; he’s a great storyteller and you will be hooked from the moment he walks on stage. Minhaj has the background and lived experience to expose realities some of his peers can’t perceive, which translates to some eye-opening and funny revelations.

14. Aziz Ansari – Live at Madison Square Garden (2015)

Aziz taped this special in front of a huge audience at Madison Square Garden, but that didn’t make him any less charismatic or exuberant. Filled with pop culture references, his material covers relationships, smartphones and, thankfully, Ja Rule. The comedian isn’t afraid of entering vulnerable territory either, sharing stories about what it was like for his parents to adjust to life in America and opening up about the anxiety he feels when he likes someone new. His performance is polished, from the clothes he wears to the final act of hugging his parents on stage, but his honesty makes the special feel intimate and more like a conversation than a performance.

15. Eddie Murphy – Delirious (1983)

In this iconic special, Eddie Murphy takes the stage in tight, red leather and proceeds to deliver some spot-on impression of Elvis and Stevie Wonder, while also delighting the audience with tales of his childhood and observations about everyday life. Some of his views and attitudes are dated, so certain jokes didn’t age particularly well. But there’s an energy to the entire performance that more than makes up for it. If you’re a fan of Murphy or stand-up comedy in general, this one is a must.

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