Netflix is filled with great stand-up performances. This list isn’t going to rehash older performances from Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor like other so-called experts. Yes, those specials are great, but we’re focusing on the new – comedians who are working today.
Had these specials been released in the 1960s, some hipster douchebag would be holding these up well above any older material. These are the new classics you need to check out if you’re a fan of comedy.
10. Chris Rock – Tamborine
Chris Rock’s comedy specials are the thing of legends. Bring the Pain and Bigger & Blacker are on many lists of the best stand-up specials of all time. Unfortunately he struggled to translate his stage show unto the big screen, where he just repeated joke we’d already heard. With Tamborine, Netflix puts Rock back in his comfort zone, on stage telling sharp jokes.
9. Tig Notaro – Happy to Be Here
Tig Notaro was once Louis C.K.’s favorite comedian, until she focused the #MeToo movement on him and destroyed his career. Nobody was surprised at the accusations, as C.K. constantly discussed his sexual deviancy on stage. His brutal honesty was what made him great, and Notaro’s brutal honesty is what makes her great too.
8. Patton Oswalt – Annihilation
Patton Oswalt has always been known for his surreal sense of humor. When his wife died in 2016, fans were nearly as heartbroken as he was. Oswalt tackles the subject head-on in this brilliant and stark special directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. It’s fearless, honest, and a deep look into the pool of pain where many comedians draw their humor.
7. Dave Chappelle – Deep in the Heart of Texas
Dave Chappelle has four stand-up specials on Netflix, and the two-part Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas won him his first Grammy Award. It’s a return to form for the master comedian, who tackles issues of race, politics, celebrity, and living in the modern world.
6. Michael Che – Michael Che Matters
Michael Che is best known for his post as a co-anchor on SNL’s Weekend Update. In Michael Che Matters, he proves he has comedy chops that extend to the stage too. Che tackles issues like white people saying nigger, Black Lives Matter, abortion, sexism, gentrification, and everything in between. It’s an authentic reflection of how people feel while pulling no punches.
5. Jen Kirkman – I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)
Jen Kirkman is a genius at broaching topics that are typically off limits. She rides a line of self-deprecation matched only by Conan O-Brien. She comes off as almost giddy about mistakes and missteps most would be embarrassed about. This special flips the script on all your misconceptions about what women really think.
4. Mike Birbiglia – Thank God for Jokes
Mike Birbiglia is a fan of comedy, and it shows in his latest stand-up effort. If you’ve not seen them, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and What I Should Have Said Was Nothing are among the most hilarious stand-up specials of all time. In his latest effort, Birbiglia delves into the consequences of comedy while poking fun at religion, one of the most dangerous subjects to mock in public.
3. John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
John Mulaney looks like a fresh-faced kid right out of college. His comedic style is much more intricate and wise than you’d think upon first glance. This special showcases his unique storytelling ability and his knack for focusing on the most hilarious details. I’m aware the video is for The Comeback Kid, but I couldn’t find the trailer for Kid Gorgeous, so watch them both.
2. Anthony Jeselnik – Thoughts and Prayers
Anthony Jeselnik is one of the darkest comedians working today. His jokes are typically short one liners that tackle the most offensive topics you can imagine. Nothing is off-limits to Jeselnik, and he’ll joke about anything from terrorism and abortion to death, failure, rape, and everything in between. Thoughts and Prayers is a master class of how offensive comedy can work in any generation.
1. Neal Brennan – 3 Mics
If you’ve never heard of Neal Brennan, you’d probably be surprised at his lengthy comedy portfolio. In 3 Mics, he redefines the stand-up special, creating what’s easily the best special in modern times. On mic one, he reads one-liners off cards, a la Steven Wright. On mic two, he performs traditional storytelling stand-up, a la his longtime comedy partner Dave Chappelle. On mic three, he tells deep, insightful stories of his depression and personal life. This is a master class for anyone looking to redefine the comedy game.