It takes guts to get up on a stage and pour one’s heart out to a bunch of strangers, hoping the laughs keep churning so patrons don’t shotgun their two-drink minimum and hit the exits. Luckily, there are plenty of comics ready and willing to take that leap of faith. Even luckier? You get a front-row seat to some of their best comedy shows, because a slew of them have specials streaming on Netflix. Ahead, 22 standup comedy specials, from timeless classics to blistering satire, that have us cracking up.
Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh
On paper, Adam Sandler’s 2018 Netflix special might read like a B movie, but when performed by the Sandman himself, the whole performance becomes the Happy Madison production we crave from the irreverent performer. Featuring Sandler’s known melodic artistry, his show-on-the-road offers up plenty of nostalgia and heartfelt humor, but you can also expect his trademark downpour of dick jokes.
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
Baby Cobra saw a very pregnant Ali Wong take the stage in 2016 and drop a killer show. So how does she top that? By launching into another frank and fearless attack on wife- and motherhood with another baby in her belly. In Hard Knock Wife, Wong dishes on the next stage of her life, while also showing off her impressive physical comedy and that signature biting wit.
Amy Schumer: Growing
Resident raunch queen Amy Schumer is a reliable go-to for a good time. But the comedian has gone through significant personal growth since her humble Inside Amy Schumer days. Not only has she gotten married, but she’s also had a baby. In 2019’s Growing, Schumer is still pregnant and getting very real about her birthing journey, including throwing up every day like the kid in The Exorcist.
Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers
There’s a very frayed line between making fun and outright offending. In that sense, Anthony Jeselnik could be considered a tightrope crackerjack, as this villainous comedian, often called the Dark Prince of Comedy, taps into shared experiences, and then drop-kicks all parties in the face with pitch-black punchlines. But he’s edgy without really singling anyone out. You’ll see what we mean when you queue up Thoughts and Prayers, a taboo take on the aftermath of tragedy.
Bo Burnham: Inside
The pandemic era produced some truly singular experiences: virtual concerts, empty awards shows, movies produced in COVID bubbles. Perhaps one of the best creations to come from this paradigm shift is Bo Burnham’s Inside. An inventive mix of music, humor, and lockdown anxiety, his deep-dive into a bizarro new world is a pseudo-fantasy tuned by hypnotic songs about Instagram, sexting, and the like.
Catherine Cohen: The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous
In case you haven’t been introduced, this is Catherine Cohen, a very busy millennial who hosts a podcast, writes books, and performs a stylized mix of cabaret and comedy in her spare time. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. A fascinating comic with the stage presence of a pro, Cohen drifts through standup and song, bridging the gap between the performance artist and the woman actually wearing the white go-go boots.
Chris Rock: Tamborine
Chris Rock’s most recent standup special, Selective Outrage, hit Netflix last March, and while it’s worth your time—if even just to hear Rock’s response to getting smacked by Will Smith—Tamborine, directed by Bo Burnham, is a better show. Diving into his thoughts on parenting and politics, Rock sends the Brooklyn venue into fits, his branded volume and introspection the driving force behind his mastery.
Chris Tucker: Live
After a hiatus from the stage, Chris Tucker delivers his first full-length standup show with Chris Tucker: Live. A Def Comedy mainstay in the ’90s and the star of cult-favorites Friday and Rush Hour, the headliner became a household name thanks to his high pitch and goofy antics. With his Netflix show, he plays to those strengths, winning over his hometown of Atlanta with infectious energy and hilarious anecdotes.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Starring an Aussie comedian baring her soul, Nanette challenges the conventions of comedy, redefining the meaning of self-deprecation from humility to humiliation and taking a stand to never make fun of marginalized and othered groups again. With a mix of heart and humor, Hannah Gadsby unravels the trauma behind the jokes, while also rattling the patriarchy with every punchline.
Hasan Minhaj: The King’s Jester
Another Daily Show alum, Hasan Minhaj has a couple fun Netflix specials, with The King’s Jester being his latest. But spending an hour with Minhaj is more than just entertaining; it can be moving. A Muslim American who weaves his own life experiences into his comedy, he explores freedoms, fatherhood, and more for a socially relevant show that’s as refined as his perfectly manicured appearance.
Jenny Slate: Stage Fright
She’s loaned her voice to delightful gems on the comedy spectrum, from the charming Marcel the Shell to the graphic Big Mouth. With Stage Fright, Jenny Slate pulls back the curtain on the woman behind that voice. In an unconventional take on the standup special, the comedian fuses storytelling and archival footage of her childhood with jokes onstage to deliver a show that’s “perfectly Jenny.”
Jerry Before Seinfeld
The man, the myth, the master of the puffy shirt returns to his old stopping grounds, The Comic Strip in New York City, to escort viewers down memory lane, sharing the evolution of his career from a ’70s comic with one joke to the legend now standing before them. It’s standup that steers clear of fodder deemed offensive and instead serves up an amusing origin story as comforting as your favorite diner.
Joel Kim Booster: Psychosexual
Fire Island may be his claim to fame, but JKB has been in the biz of making people laugh for seasons on seasons. A writer, producer, and actor, he’s loaned his comedic prowess to shows like Big Mouth, The Other Two, Shrill, and Search Party. So it’s only right the comic gets his own Netflix special. A good time riffing on leaked nudes, queer life, and cat cafes, Psychosexual is sorry-not-sorry at its funniest.
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous
Baby J, Kid Gorgeous, The Comeback Kid—no matter his sub-moniker John Mulaney will always be known as one thing: damn funny. A writer in the rooms of mega sketch comedies like Saturday Night Live, he often spills his guts on the big stage, covering personal topics including childhood alcoholism and having a baby with Olivia Munn. In his Radio City special, a polished Mulaney sticks to lighter fare, but drops a master class on how to deliver jokes with fully realized narratives.
Ms. Pat: Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?
Often, a comic waxes funny on a universal topic: menopause, marriage, misdeeds. Ms. Pat does that, but from a perspective that is entirely her own. Directed by Robert Townsend and produced by Wanda Sykes, this fan-favorite special is as captivating as it is truth telling, with Ms. Pat taking on poverty, the criminal justice system, and further obstacles in a blunt style from a boss on the rise.
Nikki Glaser: Bangin’
FBOY Island host Nikki Glaser gets the Netflix special treatment, painting the stage NC-17 with her explicit comedy stylings. Venturing into unfiltered territory, Glaser gets unapologetic about body image, feminism, and every comic’s favorite subject, sex. It’s a bit everyone can relate to. Even the pearl clutchers who pretend to have no idea what “pink parts” refers to.
Richard Pryor: Live in Concert
Comedy legend Richard Pryor takes the stage in this 1979 classic, tackling a wide range of topics including race, police, and his own health. Raw and uncompromising, he employs his trademark rhythm and pacing as he flexes his acting chops and mimic artistry, often toeing the line between the light and the dark. The result is revolutionary standup that continues to influence generations after him.
Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy
You might recognize Sheng Wang in the writing credits of the hit ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat; though he’s a relatively new voice in the standup spotlight, he’s been dropping zingers on prime time since 2015. For his debut hour, directed by Ali Wong, the comic adopts an unhurried style to dissect cultures, snoring, and the perks of an office job. It’s the kind of easy consumption that cuts through today’s chaos.
Steve Martin & Martin Short: An Evening You Will Never Forget for the Rest of Your Life
Two comedy legends team up for a dynamic comedy duel that sprinkles musical numbers in between yukking it up. Feeding off each other’s energy, Steve and Marty revel in mockery and mimicry, splitting sides with every punchline. It’s comedy gold, as they say. The only thing that could maybe make this night even more memorable? A surprise cameo from their third amigo, Selena Gomez.
Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter-Life Crisis
Your 20s are harder to navigate than you think. It’s a time when you’re old enough to know better but still find yourself dating douche-y DJs. Such is the shtick of Taylor Tomlinson’s Netflix debut that gives millennials permission to just say the hell with it. Getting mileage out of jokes that are universally relatable—you know, quips about dating, sex, adulting in the modern age—Tomlinson was born to make people laugh.
Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here
Tig Notaro, whose early career dates back to The Sarah Silverman Program in 2007, is no stranger to the stage. But it wasn’t until 2016 that the world took note, with her standup debut, Boyish Girl Interrupted, scoring an Emmy nom. With everyone paying attention, the comedian then dropped Happy to Be Here, a brilliant rumination on being a mom and battling cancer, elevated with flawless deadpan delivery.
Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark
Trevor Noah, the man who used to run The Daily Show desk and also played coy about possibly dating Dua Lipa last fall, has God-given charisma. That face, that accent, that’s hot. That said, he’s also incredibly talented with a mike and a comedic set. In Afraid of the Dark, the comedian gets introspective, meandering through thoughts on race relations and life under number 45. Enjoy.
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