A laugh, a chuckle, a guffaw, a giggle: We’ll take any of ’em!
In these trying times of social distancing, nothing feels more essential than a feel-good break from reality — the kind that pushes your smile to its limits, works out your core, and reminds you of the magical outside world we all once knew. Luckily, Netflix is stacked with great stand-up specials primed for the job.
From hours that made our favorites famous to recent routines from comedy vets, here are 22 of the funniest stand-up specials now streaming on Netflix ranked by how much they’ll make you laugh.
Note: Some of the best comedians have multiple specials. To avoid any one performer dominating this list (*cough* John Mulaney *cough*) we’ve applied a one entry per comedian rule, but shouted out other performances of theirs that we’ve loved.
At least on Netflix, Tiffany Haddish’s performance energy is unparalleled. For her special, titled Black Mitzvah, Haddish imbues coming-of-age anecdotes with effervescence and physical comedy that just can’t be beat. She explores stardom, growth, and peeing in a Uber. Adult stuff! If you’re looking for high energy and the greatest ponytail to grace the small screen, you’re in the right place.
How to watch: Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah is now streaming on Netflix.
Michelle Wolf’s second streaming special (and first on Netflix) is everything the comedian does best: humblebragging disguised as self deprecation and incisive commentary about sexism that doesn’t feel pedantic, all delivered with a cheeky smile. Wolf’s greatest comedy weapon has always been that she doesn’t seem like someone with the power to destabilize the unsuspecting audience with words alone, but she absolutely nails it, every time. — Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Michelle Wolf: Joke Show is now streaming on Netflix.
Comedy’s favorite father of five has plenty of Grammy-nominated works on Netflix, but Cinco is one we just keep coming back to. In his fifth one-hour special, Jim Gaffigan meditates on the birth of his fifth child as well as the morphing political climate in 2017. We get tons of great Gaffigan moments, including his uproarious look at binge-watching.
How to watch: Jim Gaffigan: Cinco is now streaming on Netflix.
Wanda Sykes is a legend for a reason — and we need her unfiltered guidance now more than ever. In Not Normal, Sykes lands razor sharp observations on the state of the country, exploring topics like the medical care biases and the current administration. She also talks about her own experiences with aging, introducing us all to the iconic “Esther.”
How to watch: Wanda Sykes: Not Normal is now streaming on Netflix.
Act Happy is a uniquely hilarious stand-up special because it features a live band on stage with Todd Glass, and the way he plays off that band and uses it to accent his jokes and stories makes for Glass’s best special yet. His fast, dynamic, stream-of-conscious comedy is on fire here as he digs into the minutiae of life and the backing band is icing on the cake. — Kellen Beck, Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Todd Glass: Act Happy is now streaming on Netflix.
Nanette is a masterpiece. Framed as Hannah Gadsby’s decision to “leave comedy,” this one-hour special examines why self-deprecating humor can be damaging to comedians already in the margins. Gadsby reflects on her experience as a lesbian performing in the often biased and unforgiving comedy world and departs her Netflix debut with a mic drop for the ages.
How to watch: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is now streaming on Netflix.
In his Netflix debut, Late Night host Meyers brings the broad likability that drives his talk show, that has kept him prominent in comedy since his days at Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update desk. His takes on fatherhood and married life aren’t revolutionary, but they’re comfortably personal and absurd enough (like the titular bit) to make an impression. He also takes advantage of Netflix unlike anyone else, with the “SKIP POLITICS” option for anyone who wants to get through a comedy hour without hearing a word that rhymes with “grump.” — P.K.
How to watch: Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby is now streaming on Netflix.
Katherine Ryan may have been born in Canada, but her appearances on 8 Out of 10 Cats, Your Face or Mine?, Taskmaster, and more shaped her into British comedy personified. From her delightfully unique speech patterns to her transatlantic perspective, Ryan will provide a breath of fresh air to any American streamer. Her second Netflix hour Glitter Room is just as good, and reveals more about her life as a single mom.
How to watch: Katherine Ryan: In Trouble is now streaming on Netflix.
For a while, it seemed like Adam Sandler’s best days were behind him. And then 100% Fresh arrived on Netflix. Filmed in various venues of varying sizes with absolutely no segues or real structure, Sandler shows that he not only still has some of the best comedy chops in the business, but that he’s still capable of surprising all kinds of audiences with his humor. — K.B.
How to watch: Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh is now streaming on Netflix.
Late night fans have known about Taylor Tomlinson for a while. Now, all of Netflix can bask in her glory. Whip-smart and spectacularly cynical, Tomlinson offers a painful and real look at what being in your twenties means these days. Sure, it can be fun. But also, it’s a nightmare? You understand. If you love her hour special, be sure to check out her Netflix debut in The Comedy Lineup.
How to watch: Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter-Life Crisis is now streaming on Netflix.
After a decade-long hiatus, Chris Rock returned to stand-up via Netflix comedy special. Full of pitch-perfect takes on his personal and professional evolution as well as the changing times, Tamborine provides a snapshot of a moment not soon to be forgotten. Rock’s perspective is valuable as always, but his insights never roam too far from funny.
How to watch: Chris Rock: Tamborine is now streaming on Netflix.
Amy Schumer is always entertaining, but watching her perform in Growing was especially wonderful. Contemplating the birth of her first child and recent marriage, Schumer talks about how she has changed since first entering the public eye. It’s a raw, feminist laugh fest that provides touching insights on the role we play in our and others’ growth. Plus, she describes what hyperemesis is like and for someone, somewhere that is some extremely relatable shit.
How to watch: Amy Schumer: Growing is now streaming on Netflix.
From Freezing Hot to Unveiled, there’s a lot of Iliza Shlesinger content to love. Still, nothing quite beats her debut hour War Paint. It’s the special that brought us the witch pharmacist, the “correct” Southwest boarding announcement, and Shelsinger’s demonic goat scream. You love to see it!
How to watch: Iliza Shlesinger: War Paint is now streaming on Netflix.
Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix debut, developed for stage with The Moth and a national tour, tore down the wall between standup comedy and live storytelling with this brilliant hybrid. Minhaj talks about his childhood, his family, his experience as an Indian American and an emerging comedian, all with equals measures of contemplation and lively humor. Homecoming King’s DNA carries the sequence present through out his career — one which, by any indication, is just beginning. — P.K.
How to watch: Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King is now streaming on Netflix.
Quarantining with the family? Ryan Hamilton’s Happy Face is the stand-up special for you, your age 10+ kids, and your parents. With folksy observations about big city life, hot air balloons, and being single, this sharp, quotable, and silly 2017 special is the perfect hour-long break for just about anyone. It’s sweet! Sweet is very nice. Sweet is very funny. — Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor
How to watch: Ryan Hamilton: Happy Face is now streaming on Netflix.
Tig Notaro brings an unbelievably deep level of vulnerability with her special Happy To Be Here and mixes it with some of the most casually delivered jokes. While bringing the audience into her life, thoughts, and feelings in what should feel like a discomforting invasion of privacy, Notaro’s mastery of comedy and being on stage keeps everything welcoming and warm. Also, the final 15 minutes of the special is a single joke that is basically a masterclass of sustained suspense. — K.B.
How to watch: Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here is now streaming on Netflix.
Hari Kondabolu’s comedy is pointed and painfully relevant. With jokes about racism, Indian stereotypes, and observations of all the mind-numbing things going on in the world right now, Kondabolu somehow manages to wrangle laughs out of some of the most infuriating facets of life in Warn Your Relatives. — K.B.
How to watch: Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives is now streaming on Netflix.
Musical comedy genius Bo Burnham combines the fun of a live concert event with private reflection in the surprisingly moving Make Happy. Burnham offers up his iconic observational skills, but uses the setting of his performance to introduce reflections on insecurity and fear. Not the most uplifting item on this list, but impactful in shaping our understanding of this comedian and ourselves.
How to watch: Bo Burnham: Make Happy is now streaming on Netflix.
As with Meyers’ Lobby Baby, Noah — a seasoned standup — inadvertently uses his specials to flex the sheer charisma that got him a talk show host gig in the first place. Just as he does on The Daily Show, he cheerfully dismantles Western society for all its idiosyncrasies and frivolity, but never without a degree of affection for the bizarre world he now calls home. — P.K.
How to watch: Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark is now streaming on Netflix.
One of the Greats is obviously a tongue-in-cheek title, but that’s not to say it’s necessarily inaccurate. Watch it, and you’ll come to realize that, hey, it is pretty damn great.
The special opens with a montage befitting Peretti’s outsize confidence, familiar to Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans from her role as Gina. A faux-gravelly voiceover narrates the “trials and tribulations” that led her to this moment, from an awkward childhood to a pre-show soundcheck. The set that follows is pure Peretti: deftly written jokes covering everything from male-comic clichés to shitting vs. vomiting, delivered loads of loads of personality, an irresistible swagger, and just a touch of the surreal. — Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
How to watch: Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats is now streaming on Netflix.
Marriage isn’t for everyone. In his spectacular special My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Mike Birbiglia breaks down the ins and outs of the institution as he recounts his decades of dating experience. Heartfelt, hysterical, and beautifully staged, this hour of intimate storytelling will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. His 2019 special The New One follows a similar format, but on parenting.
How to watch: Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is now streaming on Netflix.
In her first stand-up comedy special, Ali Wong brought a fire with her onstage that tore down the theater in Seattle and spread across the world, grabbing the attention of millions with her unabashed stories of her pregnancy, her relationship with her husband, and eating ass. Her hilarity and ferocity paired with the seven-month-old fetus growing in her stomach makes for a fantastic sight and one of the most iconic stand-up specials of all time. — K.B.
How to watch: Ali Wong: Baby Cobra is now streaming on Netflix.
Renaissance man Donald Glover graced the comedy world with only two specials, but his 2011 Comedy Central hour Weirdo remains the best of the best. Glover’s storytelling talents and knack for observational comedy combine to form a cohesive journey that feels like hanging out with the coolest friend you’ve ever had. If you’re not still quoting this special, then you’re missing out.
How to watch: Donald Glover: Weirdo is now streaming on Netflix.
John Mulaney’s Kid Gorgeous is one of those comedy specials that has already become part of pop culture. Bits like “there’s a horse in a hospital” and “street smarts” were iconic the instant Mulaney performed them, mainly because his highly relatable (and eminently quotable) delivery is universally hilarious. Mulaney tells jokes like he’s an early 20th century radio announcer dropped in the middle of our insane times and finds what’s funny in just about every aspect of modern life. Have some street smarts. Stream Kid Gorgeous. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City is now streaming on Netflix.
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