Netflix is making a major in-road into acquiring original stand up comedy specials from comics big and small, both American and abroad. In 2017 alone, Netflix has already released over 20 new comedy specials currently available for streaming, with new ones on the way So where to start? We’ve ranked all the new, 2017 specials from worst to best.
Katherine Ryan – “In Trouble”
This Canadian born comic based in the UK has a raunchy reputation across the pond, but her satirical take on a self-absorbed Brit, including obsessive Taylor Swift fans and 25-year-olds hitting the clubs, gets irritating in its own right.
Bill Burr – Walk Your Way Out
Bill Burr‘s tell-it-like-it-is ranting, filmed just a few months before the election, now feels passé. Burr is fed up with actresses complaining about body image standards or fat people demanding salads at McDonalds, and it’s just yelling with nothing new added to the conversation. Meanwhile, comedians higher up on this list have almost identical material and are that much more woke.
Jim Gaffigan – Cinco
A good nominee for America’s dad, Jim Gaffigan now has as many stand-up specials as children. Ironically for a Netflix special, he jokes about how binge-watching, once a foreign concept, has taken over his life, comparing starting a new show to a blind date. But you might grow tired of his clean comedy around minute 9 of his bit about the seasons.
Jo Koy – “Live From Seattle”
Jo Koy is simply a ball of energy. In one routine, he’s so excited to embarrass a woman in the audience when he makes a joke about how women laugh so hard they pee just a little. Those gender observations may not be groundbreaking, but he’s plenty animated to make it funny.
Trevor Noah – Afraid of the Dark
“The Daily Show” host’s latest stand-up special isn’t as political as you might think. But he shares stories of how, in the wake of a Trump presidency, even white people are asking Noah about moving to South Africa. Be sure to check out his extended conversation between a native of India and the first British colonizer.
Norm MacDonald – “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery”
Norm MacDonald‘s latest stand-up special starts already in progress, as though he were an old man aimlessly rambling to no one in particular. But in a good way! His cranky, meandering observations are secretly genius. Why aren’t the 14 people who have been to the moon famous, but “a girl with a big ass” is? Or why does the “I” in “I.D.” stand for “I” and the “D” for “dentification?”
Amy Schumer – The Leather Special
Internet trolls targeted “The Leather Special” to make it seem worse than it is, but that’s not to say this is Amy Schumer‘s best work. She’s at the peak of her fame, and her comedy, once self-deprecating and insecure yet sexy and confident, now veers more to reflect her star power. But it’s that fame that gave her a great routine about meeting and allegedly dating Bradley Cooper.
The Lucas Bros. – “On Drugs”
Pro tip courtesy of The Lucas Bros: don’t do ‘shrooms with a guy who looks like you. Cheech and Chong have been replaced by two twin “brothers” who do a lot of drugs. And high or not, good luck telling the two of them apart. Their material ranges from “juicy” O.J. Simpson puns to a hilarious two way phone call between Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley convincing him to do “Space Jam.”
Gad Elmaleh – Gad Gone Wild
Gad Elmaleh has been called the Jerry Seinfeld of France, and his clean, observational comedy fits the description. He gets big laughs in front of a Montreal crowd (with much of his material in French) poking fun at Americans for not even understanding the rules of their own language. I don’t even know where to put the emphasis in “emphasis.” Is it “EM-pha-sis,” “em-PHAS-sis” or “em-pha-SIS?”
Tracy Morgan – Staying Alive
Even God knew Tracy Morgan would be back. After getting hit by a WalMart truck and placed into a coma, Morgan saw the light but joked that God wouldn’t let him go early because he wasn’t good enough for it to be tragic. As for WalMart, Morgan says he still shopped there in his wheelchair. “After my settlement, everything went up one penny.” Morgan manages to maintain that good will, commenting on how his condition affected his family, his marriage and his sexual urges.
Jim Norton – Mouthful of Shame
Jim Norton has made an art form of cringe-worthy, dirt bag humor. He delves into an awkward sexual encounter with a famous porn star, a Tinder conversation that ended badly, and even prods a woman in the audience about the sordid details of walking in on her parents having sex. But his comments about transgender women may be the most boundary pushing yet.
Jen Kirkman – Just Keep Livin?
The title of Jen Kirkman’s “Just Keep Livin?” comes from an unfortunate tattoo she got specifically referencing Matthew McConaughey‘s catch phrase. Kirkman’s gift is her elaborate storytelling that builds to that punch line. She’s similar to Mike Birbiglia in ways, but more comfortable with her high-strung, hypochondriac eccentricities, using those traits to weave powerful feminist messages about polite cat-callers and confusion about her period into her standup.
Dave Chappelle – Deep in the Heart of Texas
This is the less great of Dave Chappelle‘s two new stand-up specials, but it’s still him back to top form. He casually addresses thorny political subjects and past indiscretions, including getting hit with a banana peel on stage and holding the future of four white boys in his hands after getting called the N-word.
Maria Bamford – “Old Baby”
Maria Bamford‘s erratic, scatterbrained comedy has always been an acquired taste, but her latest special proves she’s a manic genius. “Old Baby” earns points for its unique structure alone, in which Bamford performs her hour to increasingly larger crowds, starting with just herself in the mirror, even intercutting to her awkwardly selling merchandise. Bamford’s million voices are all in the service of tragi-comedy bits that navigate the perils of sex, therapy and show business, culminating in performing a dark role-play as her own mother.
Hasan Minhaj – “Homecoming King”
Fresh off killing it at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Hasan Minhaj moves away from political jabs against the President and devotes the bulk of his special to a highly personal, one-man show autobiography about his prom date. Minhaj zips around his extravagant stage and the cameras make him seem like a rock star. And through a few bombshell storytelling twists, he makes his own embarrassing high school days a teachable moment about racism in America.
Mike Birbiglia – Thank God For Jokes
No one is better at constructing hilarious, personal, soul-searching monologues of insecurity and Catholic guilt than Mike Birbibliography. In “Thank God for Jokes,” he transports you back to one of his most uncomfortable moments roasting David O. Russell in front of the Gotham Awards crowds. But he goes deeper by exploring the idea of jokes themselves as just one side of the story.
Louis C.K. – “2017”
Louis C.K. is at a point in his career when he can walk on stage and immediately start talking about abortion. Between that and a routine about how Christianity has “won” among religions, it feels designed to generate enraged trigger warning think pieces, but he’s smart enough that he can deflect and show dimension and ordinary-dude perspective to any argument. Though you may just enjoy him playing a game of sexual “chicken” with Matthew McConaughey and “Magic Mike.”
Sarah Silverman – “A Speck of Dust”
Sarah Silverman has always been great at making light of her own hypocrisies and insecurities. But one of Silverman’s strengths above someone like Amy Schumer is her ability to get deep and real in a moment, then pull the wool out from underneath us with a brilliantly unexpected and crass gag. She leads the audience to believe she’s telling harrowing stories about rape, abortion and a near-death experience, but Silverman always finds the gross silver lining.
Cristela Alonzo – Lower Classy
Cristela Alonzo has the congeniality, physical humor and occasional foul mouth of Melissa McCarthy built into her stand-up. She kills it when she cry-sings Sarah Mclachlan’s sad dog song while pantomiming shaving her armpits in the shower. But her best humor draws from her Mexican heritage. Even in her 4th grade fantasy of meeting New Kids on the Block, Alonzo reflects on how messed up it is that she couldn’t imagine giving Latinas a better job than as the band’s housekeeper.
Neal Brennan – 3 Mics
Most comedians excel at just one style of comedy. Neal Brennan aces three. At one microphone he delivers irreverent one-liners about how neck tattoos are the universal sign that you’re fine with the minimum wage. At a second, he waltzes through more traditional, topical stand up about lazy Catholics and boning our way out of racism (“It starts tonight, and I call Asians”). And at the third, he talks openly about coping with depression, his father’s neglect and, as a co-creator of “The Chappelle Show,” living in Dave’s shadow.
Dave Chappelle – The Age of Spin
Dave Chappelle has a hysterical habit of stumbling backwards and smacking his mic against his leg as he laughs at his own jokes. In this case though, he’s laughing not just at his own misfortune, including detailing four incredible encounters with O.J. Simpson, but at the hardships of the world. It’s probing tragic-comedy in a way only he can imagine. At one point he says Harambe got more sympathy than countless lost black lives. This hour proves why he’s an all-time great.
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