Get your queue in order.
Finding the right comedy special on Netflix all depends on your mood. Do you want dark? Political? Mainstream? Jeff Dunham?
In the past few years, Netflix has stepped into the standup market with its own original comedy specials, but it’s still home to dozens of must-see classics and more contemporary offerings to fit any mood. If you need a quick laugh, start here.
The best standup on Netflix
1) Sarah Silverman, A Speck of Dust
Silverman’s debut Netflix special finds her in a contemplative mood: She explores a near-death experience, losing people she loves, a whopper of a question about God, and the slow erasure of women’s rights. Yes, there are poop jokes, too. —Audra Schroeder
2) Maria Bamford, Old Baby
It’s segmented into standup sets in living rooms and bookstores, on sidewalks, and in front of her husband, artist Scott Marvel Cassidy. With no traditional stage, Bamford is able to fold her natural surroundings into the sets. She discusses making it in Hollywood and the struggle of true love and acceptance next to a fluffy tree, which she later hides behind. That scene segues into a living room, as Bamford enters like it’s a sitcom. It’s two Marias, separated ostensibly by one wall. —A.S.
3) Hasan Minhaj, Homecoming King
Minhaj’s first Netflix special is a touching, incisive, and physical experience. The Daily Show correspondent riffs on immigration, family, and the emotional heft of 9/11. He covers every inch of the stage and eschews a mic in favor of eye contact, making the special more of a one-man show in which he addresses the audience and beyond. —A.S.
4) Ali Wong, Baby Cobra
Wong filmed this Netflix special when she was nearly eight months pregnant and devotes a good part to addressing taboos and double standards regarding women and pregnancy. Nothing is off limits, from sexuality to stereotypes, but Wong also drives home a point about women in comedy, and where motherhood fits in. –A.S.
5) Dave Chappelle, Equanimity/The Bird Revelation
Dave Chappelle returns with two new specials that are a bit more timely than his previous two. Here he does a bit of atonement for those comments on Trump and tries to expand his thoughts on trans issues. He also takes a swipe at the sexual assault allegations flowing through Hollywood and offers a hint about why he left comedy.
6) Reggie Watts, Spatial
Watts’ standup is typically part existential exploration, part beat-making, but in this special, we even get a surreal play that will make you never want to cohabitate again. Watts switches streams often but always keep the humor absurd. “This is an experimental show,” he remarks. “You might not even see this on Netflix.” –A.S.
7) Norm Macdonald, Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery
Hitler, suicide, the moon landing, dogs: Macdonald’s special has it all. The comedian is a master of the blunt-force punchline and his material can be divisive, but here we see Macdonald older and more introspective. “I’m trying to be a better person,” he says towards the end; then he uses that line to launch into a joke about murdering his family. The journey from A to B is part of the thrill. —A.S.
8) Colin Quinn, The New York Story
Quinn delivers the story of his hometown like a caffeinated history teacher, checking off decades and boroughs and ethnicities. It’s an immigrant story, but also a look at New York City’s ever-changing landscape. The standard setup/punchline combo does not apply here. –A.S.
9) Amy Schumer, The Leather Special
In her first Netflix special, a leather-clad Schumer muses on fame, male and female anatomy, body image, and gun control. She also compares part of her anatomy to the Upside Down from Stranger Things. —A.S.
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10) Jen Kirkman, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)
Jen Kirkman’s 2015 Lance Bangs-directed Netflix special explores divorce, childlessness, and aging, but there’s no bitter aftertaste. Kirkman adds her unique viewpoint to every story, and expertly builds up and tears down a joke, poking holes in supposed norms about marriage and family. She’s just holding a mirror up to society, man. —A.S.
11) The Standups
In the last six months, Netflix has released more than a dozen hourlong standup specials, with a focus on big-ticket names: Silverman, Chappelle, Schumer, C.K. It’s become a destination for comedy fans who want that marquee access, but it’s also experimenting with formats and voices. The Standups is Netflix’s way of experimenting with both. It’s a series of six standup specials from Deon Cole, Nikki Glaser, Fortune Feimster, Nate Bargatze, Beth Stelling, and Dan Soder: Comedians who might not be marquee names but that Netflix thinks are worth your time. —A.S.
12) Dave Chappelle, The Age of Spin/Deep in the Heart of Texas
Netflix is now home to two Chappelle specials as he makes his return to televised standup. In Deep in the Heart of Texas, Chappelle talks about his domestic life and his kids. Pair that with The Age of Spin, filmed in 2016, in which he looks back on bombing at a comedy show, takes a dig at Key and Peele, and holds forth on Bill Cosby. —A.S.
13) Brian Regan, Nunchucks and Flamethrowers
Brian Regan is unofficially known as “the king of clean” but it’s his approach to comedy that sets him apart from his contemporaries. His special compliments his body of work, sticking with silly observations, funny voices, and a non-political, goofy sense of humor. Going crass has never been Regan’s forte.He also stays away from heavy political commentary. In the special, he only briefly references the president. At one point he jokes about not talking about politics at the dinner table because he doesn’t want to get yelled at.—Adam Weightman
14) How To Act Black
DeRay Davis’ long-overdue streaming special places the raw and unapologetic comedian on a course for stardom. Refreshing and honest, the comic takes on his Hollywood adventures and breaks down race, police violence, the nuances of relationships, and even Harambe. —Kahron Spearman
15) Garfunkel & Oates, Trying to be Special
The musical duo (Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome) goes meta. Trying to be Special is a special about funding a special, and in between, there are songs about pregnant women, handjobs, and egg-freezing. —A.S.
16) Neal Brennan, 3 Mics
Broken up into three segments, Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics is a master class in storytelling, emotional arcs, and one-liners. The Chappelle’s Show co-creator talks about depression, family, success, failure, and swings the mood wherever the set takes him. —A.S.
17) Michael Che, Michael Che Matters
Michael Che found his groove as an anchor on SNL’s Weekend Update, and he’s at his best when he’s being honest and flipping expectations. He expands on that in his first Netflix special, breaking down racial slurs, musing on language that’s gotten him in trouble, and imagining being friends with Donald Trump. –A.S.
While you might be familiar with the comedian’s work from her roles on The Kroll Show or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, what you might not know is that Peretti is a “direct vessel of god.” In her Netflix special, Peretti takes her absurdity to the next level with legendary jokes that deal with ego and hot girls who use the hashtag #nomakeup on Instagram. —Greg Seals
19) Iliza Shlesinger, Confirmed Kills
Shlesinger is a Netflix favorite, and her confirmed specials now sit at three. In Confirmed Kills, she offers observations on body image, feminism, and party goblins. She’s a physical comic, and her dizzying rainbow of voices is on full display. –A.S.
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20) Tracy Morgan, Staying Alive
There are some jokes that wheel back to others, but the special ends up being a therapeutic session for all to see. He’ll make a wildly filthy zinger about Caitlyn Jenner: “I’ll fuck the shit out of her—I’ll get her pregnant!” Then in an instant, he’s making you laugh about his deep depression, and his wife, Megan, pulling him through the darkness. Through the vulgarity, there’s a new softness and understanding. Morgan finds humor riffing about men being emotionally stunted. He says it in a way that’s more cautionary life lesson, and it’s powerful. —Kahron Spearman
21) David Cross, Making America Great Again
It would certainly be interesting to see how this special would shake out if filmed after the election, but Cross doesn’t hold his tongue. He goes after Trump’s America, gun lobbyists, and Republicans’ stance on immigration, and ties it all up with a bit involving a Restoration Hardware catalog that will really rile you up. —A.S.
22) Marc Maron, Too Real
“How do you have fun?” Maron asks the crowd. On one hand, it’s a wryly rhetorical question designed for laughs, but to hear the comedian tell it, he genuinely doesn’t have an answer. Maron finds inspiration in the mundanities of everyday life, bemoaning his mother’s inappropriate emoji usage and heroically recounting the time he left a Rolling Stones concert early to beat the arena traffic. Comedians constantly seek meaning in their own mortality and banal circumstances, but Maron’s jokes avoid frivolity while also steering clear of nihilistic old geezer territory. (Leave that to Lewis Black.)—Bryan Rolli
23) Trevor Noah, Afraid of the Dark
The Daily Show host’s first Netflix special finds him in New York City, offering up quick and dirty observations on his adopted city. The South African comic uses comparisons of his home and New York for foundational, scene-building material, but he really shines when he breaks out of that formula and gets a little more political. Noah’s personal history informs this as well, and his musings on Trump, immigration, racism, and tolerance urge us to think globally—and outside our bubble. —Audra Schroeder
24) John Mulaney’s New In Town
Though his Fox sitcom Mulaney has received a less than stellar reception, it’s not because of this comedian’s lack of material. The former SNL writer and co-creator of the character Stefon might look like your squeaky-clean Irish Catholic white guy in a suit, but there’s a bent to his perspective that makes his comedy so addicting. —G.S.
25) Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Before Seinfeld
Jerry Before Seinfeld is dated by default, as the comedian revisits the material he crafted in his first five years of standup. Anybody even vaguely familiar with his record-smashing eponymous sitcom should recognize his bits about men being magnetically drawn to other men working on things in the neighborhood, or arbitrarily deeming the middle finger an offensive gesture. (“I try to remember I’m only one finger away from a compliment, so it’s not that bad!”) But the special’s biographical nature also allows Seinfeld to weave the story of his own beginnings into his time-honored gags, as well as several fascinating cutaways that give viewers some insight into the comedian’s upbringing. —Bryan Rolli
26) Anthony Jeselnik, Thoughts and Prayers
Jeselnik caught flak for tweeting out a joke the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, so he devoted his Netflix special to exploring the refrain we’ve seen in the wake of countless tragedies, especially from politicians: My thoughts and prayers are with ______. “Do you know what that’s worth?” he asks. “Fucking nothing.” Jeselnik’s line of attack is slow and controlled. —A.S.
27) Aditi Mittal, Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say
Mittal’s the first Indian woman to star in a Netflix special, and for many in America, it’s an introduction to the comedian. She confidently holds forth on Bollywood, dating, Indian culture, stereotypes, family, and feminism; she goes bilingual and slips into character for the second half. She gets to say whatever she wants here. —A.S.
The Scottish actor, TV host, and comedian steps back into the world of standup with his new Netflix special. There’s a terrible Bill Cosby joke, but the rest is razor-sharp and self-effacing observational humor about his life’s great failures. Ferguson also gets in some great behind-the-scenes drinking stories from his time at CBS. —Bryan Rolli
29) Russell Peters, Almost Famous
Don’t let the title fool you. Peters is a legit success, and he uses this special to look back at all the stamps on his passport and offer up his observations. Peters is known for his crowd work, but he’s perfected it here, riffing on stereotypes and occupational hazards. —A.S.
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30) Zach Galifianakis’ Live at the Purple Onion
Long before he was Alan in The Hangover franchise, Zach Galifianakis was storming the stage in San Francisco, baring his belly and spouting out bizarre punchlines about The Amazing Race while playing the piano. If all that doesn’t entice you, then an appearance from Zach’s brother Seth is sure to seal the deal. —G.S.
31) Lucas Brothers, On Drugs
The Lucas delivery method is something like improv; they’re always yes-anding each other, adding affirmations after delivering a line. That makes the flow of the set more conversational and applies some dramatic tension to a joke about bringing the movie Scream to a Black Panthers party, and being stopped by a cop with a gun who, it turns out, just wanted a selfie. “So we took the picture with him,” comes the punchline. “Because he had a gun.” —A.S.
32) Bo Burnham, Make Happy
You’re right to be wary of the label “musical comedy,” but Burnham’s sense of humor expands beyond that. With Make Happy, Burnham takes aim at fragility with “Straight White Male,” trolls with the searing “Kill Yourself,” and muses on the life of Kanye. –A.S.
33) Aziz Ansari’s Buried Alive
Though he’s only been performing for 10 years, Ansari already has built up quite a back catalog of specials and performances. Buried Alive, a Netflix original, finds Ansari returning to his signature delivery but this time with a new perspective on the concepts of marriage and relationships that can only come with age. —G.S.
34) Carlos Ballarta, El Amor es de Putos
Do you know about the intricacies of public transportation in Mexico City? Carlos Ballarta explains it well. In his hourlong special, the Mexican comedian holds forth on relationships, national identity, the mechanics of riding the bus, and why Trump’s proposed wall will fail. His vibe is a bit reminiscent of Mitch Hedberg, but he’s more of a storyteller, dude. —A.S.
Patton Oswalt’s follow-up to 2016’s Talking For Clapping starts off with some jokes about Trump, but it doesn’t linger there. He adds in jokes about robocalls and genetic testing, but Patton Oswalt: Annihilation takes its time getting to the true annihilation. Oswalt uses the second half to explore grief and loss after his wife’s unexpected death and opens up the special beyond just setups and punchlines. The filthy closing bit is a beautiful tribute. —A.S.
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Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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