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15 hilarious Netflix stand-up comedy specials you can stream this weekend
These stand-up specials on Netflix are the perfect pick-me-up.
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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.
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. Without further ado, here are 15 hilarious stand-up comedy specials available on Netflix you should stream when you’re in need of a pick-me-up.
1. Bo Burnham – Inside (2021)
A beast of a comedy special, Inside was performed by Bo Burnham alone, over the course of an unusual year plagued with lockdowns. The result is an eclectic collection of songs and sketches about his life indoors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Burnham is open about his deteriorating mental health, which makes this special clever and unnerving. It may also hit a little too close to home.
2. Kevin Hart – Zero F**ks Given (2020)
Straight from Hart's living room, this special promises to feature the comedian/actor in a way we've never seen him before: without any filter and fresh out of apologies. It mostly delivers, as Hart performs in PJs in front of a small audience and touches on themes revolving around living through a pandemic, sex, friendship, parenting and more. He has plenty to get off his chest – and a good chunk of it is hilarious.
3. Jerry Seinfeld – 23 Hours To Kill (2020)
Jerry Seinfeld returned in 2020 with a comedy special that sees the veteran take the stage at the Beacon Theatre in New York City to offer observations on everyday life. Subjects include talking vs texting, bad buffets vs so-called "great" restaurants and the magic of Pop-Tarts. The show is a combo of Seinfeld's classic crankiness with timely topics like iPhone dependency. The comedian is still on top of his game, making for highly enjoyable viewing.
4. 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.
5. 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 shines 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.
6. Chris Rock – Tamborine (2018)
This is Rock’s sixth comedy special and 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.
7. 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-arse 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 tells 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.
8. 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.
9. Jenny Slate – Stage Fright (2019)
Jenny Slate's first Netflix special takes the audience on a tour of the comedian's life, which gives it a unique, intimate feel. Her hilarious stand-up set is interspersed with clips from her childhood and interviews with her loved ones, offering a comprehensive look at Slate's behind-the-scenes shenanigans. This makes Stage Fright come across as fresh and vulnerable. You'll find it hard to look away.
10. Hannah Gadsby – Nanette (2018)
Australian comic Hannah Gadsby gave us a must-watch special with Nanette, a thought-provoking hour-long set that challenges the way we think about comedy. Featuring plenty of moving reflections on life, the stand-up routine is well worth the hype, showing that raw honesty goes hand in hand with excellent storytelling. Maybe it would be best described as one-woman show instead of stand-up comedy. Either way, it's a must-see event.
11. 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.
12. 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 dazzles with 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.
13. Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones (2019)
Described as a defiant stand-up special, Sticks and Stones is an edgy hour of comedy, to say the least. Chappelle takes on cancel culture, the opioid crisis and more. In fact, there's no one left unscathed by the time the special ends. Stick and Stones might leave you equal parts offended and entertained. You'll applaud Chappelle's cleverly-constructed insults anyway.
14. 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.
15. Jim Jefferies: Bare (2014)
Turns out, nothing is sacred for Jim Jefferies, at least as far as this comedy special is concerned. Touching on subjects like being a foreigner in the US and fatherhood, he delivers jokes that hit below the belt, so set your expectations accordingly. The special's portion on gun control went viral, so it's worth checking out Bare for that bit alone. You'll find plenty of other reasons to laugh out loud.
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What changed on our list?
- Bo Burnham: Inside
- Kevin Hart: Zero F**ks Given
- The Dark Knight Rises
Image source: Netflix
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