With the endless amount of comedy specials available on Netflix, it’s kind of tough to pick what to watch (not unlike the rest of their programming). Some of the streaming service’s stand-up specials date as far back as the ’80s, with more oncoming titles releasing on a weekly basis. It also seems like Netflix is producing their specials at a faster rate, with the recent wave of 60-minute stand-up sessions from comedians like Dave Chappelle, Louie C.K., and Ali Wong eating up the platform’s spotlight.
Obviously, the genre is a bit oversaturated, and it’s hard to find a comedian you truly adore through the hefty list of big names. Luckily, Screen Rant’s got your back. We’ve sifted through the 140+ stand-up specials available on Netflix to compile the best, brightest, and funniest comedy specials the platform has to offer. Take a peek below at the 15 stand-up specials that any comedy fan would find an essential view. (In no particular order.)
15. David Cross – Making America Great Again!
Some may know David Cross as Tobias Fünke from Arrested Development. Others may know the actor from the ’90s HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show. Regardless of how fans may be familiar with Cross, many will recognize his uncanny ability to deliver jokes in a dry, often overly exaggerated manner, one that is nearly unmatched by other comedians who dabble in the awkward and uncomfortable. His sarcasm and left-leaning political views are offensive to any conservative or religious type, and with his latest special produced by Netflix, David Cross: Making America Great Again, the comedian not only dances on the line of crudeness, he pummels it into the ground.
Cross is simply a cynical man with confrontational humor meant to challenge anyone who opposes his opinions. This is clear as day on his latest Netflix special, as Cross riffs on gun nuts in the NRA, the appeal of Donald Drumpf, police officers who murder innocent civilians, and the one thing every religion can share together, “techniques on touching little boys“. Offensive on many levels and delivered in a sometimes uneasy manner, Cross does what he does best on Making America Great Again!: get angry, point fingers at authority, and offend.
14. Louis C.K. – Hilarious
Life after 40 has been great for Louis C.K., and his stand-up special Louis C.K.: Hilarious makes that apparent. Despite being divorced and constantly poking fun of his age, he somehow seems like a finer, more polished comedian who is fearless on stage and offensive on many levels, yet exceedingly clever. Post-divorce Louis C.K. remains perhaps the best Louis C.K., and the one we all know and love today.
In Hilarious, Louis C.K. identifies as an older father and explains how frustrating it is to watch a Girls Gone Wild DVD, solely because he’s concerned for the girls in it. He explains how dumb men are and how they only want mindless sex with insane accuracy. And as random as C.K. may feel at times — at one point, comparing Ray Charles to Hitler — he always centers back to 0 by the end of his set. Louie C.K. is a true comic genius, delivering joke after joke with confidence and never once missing a beat.
13. Reggie Watts – Spatial
With his unmistakeable hair, colorful style choices, and large physique, Reggie Watts is one of comedy’s most recognizable (and brightest) stars. He’s constantly inventing new ways to make us laugh, and with Reggie Watts: Spatial, we’re introduced to his chaotic, experimental stand-up set in a whole new way. His Netflix produced special is 60-minutes of improv comedy alongside a comedy trope, impromptu music, incredibly smart and meta-dialogue, and dead-on impersonations of dialect from characters of all over the globe. Watts is nothing short of a wizard, really.
Reggie Watts: Spatial is for the comedy fan who enjoys meta, fourth-wall breaking humor that is too clever for most modern stand-up audiences. At one point during Spatial, Watts breaks off into a stand-up set impersonating other comedians by mimicking their comedic pacing and dialect while speaking only in gibberish. At another point during his set, Watts invites a tap dancer up on stage to tap battle with him, voice versus tap shoes. If you could massage your mind and just relax a bit, you might be able to open your mind enough to catch all of the insane jokes injected into Reggie Watts: Spatial.
12. Ali Wong – Baby Cobra
It’s not every day you see a pregnant stand-up comedian perform in front of a live audience, so it’s a special treat to see Ali Wong do it. Her confidence on stage is amplified by her pregnancy, as she weaves through joke after joke in her latest Netflix-produced special, Ali Wong: Baby Cobra, cleverly delivering laughs on the topics of sexuality and Asian culture without ever feeling rehashed from other comedians. We may have seen Amy Schumer spit out a joke on a sexual act, but Ali Wong does it so refined and calmly, we never expect the punchline to hit us as hard as it does.
A writer of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, Ali Wong spends some of her set poking fun at Vietnamese/Chinese heritage, claiming how some Asian cultures are “fancy Asian,” while others are “jungle Asian.” She jokes about sticking a thumb up her husband’s butt during sex and literally crushing a white man with her legs as he performs cunnilingus on her. It’s all hilarious, and coming from a pregnant woman makes all the images seem even funnier. Wong’s latest stand-up undoubtedly stands as one of the greatest Netflix has to offer.
11. Eddie Murphy – Delirious
Eddie Murphy’s first stand-up film, Eddie Murphy: Delirious, is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important comedy specials to make its way onto the small screen. The HBO special gave the then-SNL star a way to proclaim the most offensive jokes for an ’80s era of television and overuse explicit words more than 300 times within a 70-minute runtime. Just how many times Eddie Murphy curses in Delirious is a feat in itself, but it’s also amazing to see what the comedian once was, pre-Nutty Professor and Dr. Doolittle.
Murphy’s Delirious shows the comedian completely unhinged. Then 22-years-old, the actor’s usual toned down jokes are unleashed for an HBO audience ready to hear risque fun that still holds up as offensive in 2017. Although some of his jokes seem distasteful by today’s standards (Murphy uses several derogatory terms to describe gay men, as he was known to do in his heyday), most of his special remains hilarious, focused, truthful, and most importantly, hilarious.
10. Demetri Martin – Live at the Time
Demetri Martin is one of those comedians that you have to watch to really understand. His delivery is dry, and his mannerisms are kind of stiff and awkward. He often incorporates props or instruments into his act, such as a large sketch pad or a guitar. With Demetri Martin: Live At the Time — a clever name for a special if there ever was one — the comedian decides to roll up his entire being and persona into one special, almost as if he studied his own comedy in an attempt to reinvent his style and rekindle his fanbase. And boy, does it work.
Here, Martin uses a guitar and a harmonica to charm most of the crowd with clever jokes that are so subtle or wittily dry, they need the help of music to properly deliver. Martin’s knack for describing strange situations is uncanny, and his observational humor is…well, obvious, to the point and hilarious. Full of amusing insights and smart, witty observations, Demetri Martin: Live At the Time is one stand-up special you shouldn’t miss.
9. Hannibal Buress – Animal Furnace
From being sidekick characters in shows such as Broad City and The Eric Andre Show to supporting roles in movies like The Comedian and Neighbors, Hannibal Buress is a hot name in comedy, and his 2012 stand-up special, Animal Furnace, really helped kick off his stardom. It was 2012 when the comic saw himself on the writing staff of both Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, giving his name some more weight in the entertainment industry. And using that confidence, Buress perhaps recorded his best stand-up set to date with Animal Furnace, where he could freely tell jokes and deliver them in a manner that was calm, passive, and yet still very demanding.
Animal Furnace touches upon several topics that will gather the attention of the Y-generation and those wanting a new, fresher take on stand-up comedy. Buress often discusses the lighter sides of awkward happenings and observes his own characteristics in said situations, usually putting himself in a “well am I crazy, or are all these other people?” situations. His comedy is a mixture of laid-back and passively commanding, making Buress one of the better, more unique acts to arrive on the comedy scene in the past few years.
8. Bill Burr – You People Are All the Same
Anyone who knows Bill Burr understands just what type of comedian he is. Loud, hilarious, and super angry, Burr says what’s on his mind and yells about whatever he’s feeling particularly passionate about. His fury fills the stage as he controls his audience through moods, effortlessly switching from one topic to another and emotionally punching out what pisses him off the most until it’s on to whatever else makes him mad.
Burr’s 2012 Netflix exclusive, You People Are All The Same, showcases the comic at his very best: ranting, irritated, and at times, self-deprecating. He’s got a bone to pick with just about everything, it seems, and his confident stance on why he hates them never wavers. Burr vents on stage like it’s his only form of therapy, laughing at things that bewilder him and pushing his anger out for the audience to feel. You People Are All The Same touches on topics most comedians wouldn’t poke with a ten foot pole, like black people who keep weapons in their car and when you can hit women. Burr is undeniably intelligent, but his humor may be too unapologetic for some. Nonetheless, this is a solid effort from the Massachusetts comic.
7. John Mulaney – The Comeback Kid
With his childlike expressions and his boyish look, John Mulaney’s entire presence is something to laugh at (and with, thankfully). Mulaney is something like a grown-up Moral Orel, constantly riffing on his Catholic upbringing and crafting jokes on his once-innocent way of observing life. His Netflix special, The Comeback Kid, serves as a great effort from the comedian that could either act as a proper introduction to Mulaney’s sharp delivery and animated mic skills, or simply give fans of the witty comedian new material to gawk over.
The Comeback Kid is full of clean-cut jokes that aren’t necessarily wholesome, but rather reflective of situations that could be, at times, kind of lewd or ridiculous. For instance, Mulaney details how he’s such a small man that his own dog doesn’t see him as an alpha. To combat this, he’s forced to pretend to eat his food before his dog as a way to show his pet that he’s in charge. He also explains his hatred for the idiom, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” with pinpoint accurate reasonings for his loathing. Mulaney is simply a silly man excited to explain to an audience how ridiculous life can sometimes be.
6. Jim Jeffries – Bare
Australia’s Jim Jefferies knows how to keep things bold, controversial and funny, and he really doesn’t care who he offends. He’s the type of fearless comedian that can withstand any audience, and it shows fairly well with Bare when he delves into topics like gun control and pretty much scrapes the line of misogyny. It’s hard not to be offended by Jefferies’ humor, and it’s even tougher if you’re religious, a female, American, or, well, just about anyone.
But make no mistake, Jefferies is a smart guy. He intentionally phrases his jokes to poke fun and get under peoples’ skin, but even when he does so, he provides sound reasoning for why he’s doing it. His gun control rant is the biggest example of this, as he makes fun of America’s obsession with firearms and gives intelligent points that give the nation an absurd look at their deadly habits. Jim Jefferies: Bare is for those looking for a laugh full of shock, offensiveness, and shrewdness, but it’s definitely not recommended for the easily offended.
5. Marc Maron – Thinky Pain
Marc Maron is best known for his weekly podcast WTF with Marc Maron. He’s arguably more known for his podcast than being an actual stand-up comedian or funny man, but his special Thinky Pain seems like it could be Maron’s defining moment on stage. The humor is there, but rather than Maron doing a stand-up set, Thinky Pain seems more like a therapy session with a really clever, funny dude than anything else.
It’s a weird special that sits in between stand-up comedy and a guy rambling on with a group of close friends. Thinky Pain shows Maron in a small room full of onlookers as he rambles on a mic, apparently just spewing whatever ideas or talking points he’d like to the audience. It makes for more of an intimate TED Talk than anything else, but it’s wildly entertaining and solidly funny. Unconventional for sure, Maron’s Thinky Pain stands out as one of the coolest comedy specials Netflix has to offer.
4. John Hodgman – Ragnarok
John Hodgman is an author first and foremost, known for his remarkable knack for writing humor and understanding the art of comedy. You might recognize him best as a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But on Hodgman’s Netflix special, John Hodgman: Ragnarok, he’s known as one thing: being a self-centered, all important jerk.
For roughly one hour, Hodgman puts on this act as an odd character, acting as a pompous comedian who is performing on stage just hours before the Mayan apocalypse. It’s a weird premise, and Hodgman obviously took the time to gather its elaborative setup as he talks in front of a crowd, giving out apocalypse survival tips while wearing a ridiculous mustache and yellow-tinted sunglasses. Hodgman isn’t a professional stand-up comic in any sense, but rather a man who has decided to put on a large-scale performance piece as a funny guy who spews random facts and speaks like a quiet, nerdy adult. This is a required watch for those looking for a change of pace stand-up special.
3. Zach Galifianakis – Live at the Purple Onion
Bearded, fat, and brutally ugly (metaphorically), Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion shows just how ahead of the comedy curve the titular funny man was in 2006. He was anti-humor at a time awkward wasn’t as prominent in entertainment, and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! hadn’t aired yet. In his special, Galifianakis drunkenly spills one-liners and puns to a crowd that seems as happy to hear him speak as he is to drink beer and play the piano.
Live at the Purple Onion shows Galifianakis ruthlessly tearing into an old couple who are front-and-center in his crowd, red-faced and yelling into a microphone clever one-liners and crowd-working his way through a set that feels almost entirely improvised. All in all, it’s a typically hysterical stand-up set from the comedian, chopped up with segments of his brother (a persona also played by Galifianakis) talking about Zach, as well as providing details on the comedian’s personal life. It’s a hilarious special that deserves a follow-up.
2. Dave Chappelle – Deep In the Heart of Texas
Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special, Deep In the Heart of Texas, was recorded in 2015, and surprisingly still holds up as being topical two years later. Released in the first quarter of 2017, Chappelle saw a comeback that proved both successful (not just in monetary value for the comedian’s pockets) and hilarious for his stand-up career. Chappelle’s Show went off the air over a decade ago, but he certainly hasn’t lost his touch for comedy.
Although the special doesn’t feel very special, this set shows Chappelle just having fun in a loose hour segment that Netflix picked up to show its subscribers. That’s not a bad thing, but for those looking for something as focused as Chappelle’s Killin’ Them Softly, it’s something of a letdown. That’s not to say Deep In the Heart of Texas isn’t hilarious enough as is — it certainly is, and it’s perhaps the most enjoyable of Chappelle’s Netflix stand-ups — as he delves back into black comedy, depicting what it’s like for black males in America to feel constantly paranoid and wary of white people.
1. Chelsea Peretti – One of the Greats
Chelsea Peretti proves that she’s one of the better comedians to come to light as of late with her boldly named special, Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats. When you hear the title of Peretti’s Netflix special, one can’t help but be skeptical of her ability to hold a crowd and live up to the name. But when you actually watch the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star take the stage, she really does work her audience and punch relatable jokes at her absurd character that connect with many of the viewers.
Peretti spotlights topics like the pointlessness of small talk and the way male comedians simulate sex using their stool and microphone. She talks about hating hugs and the silliness of saying that you “rescued” a dog. She does so with confidence and her kooky stage presence, working her crowd fluently while director Lance Bangs splices in a healthy dose of meta humor, editing the special to make it seem as if a bunch of weirdos and dogs were watching Peretti perform. It’s a solid special from a talented female comedian, one that shouldn’t go overlooked.
What’s your favorite special currently airing on Netflix? Did we miss any of the greats? Share the wealth in the comments!