Laughter might not be the best medicine according to the WHO, but in a time like this, it could do a lot of good to lift your spirits. When it comes to comedy specials, Netflix is a wellspring. Of all the hilarious, rib-hurting specials out there, we’ve compiled a list of the top 15. Humor is a subjective thing, but here’s a list of our favorites to help you get your laughing stock. [Featured image credit: imdb]
1. Eddie Murphy — Delirious
It’s a shame that all the newer generations have to reference Eddie Murphy is Shrek. In his prime, Eddie Murphy was a certified superstar.
Starring in some of the funniest movies of the 80s, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, and Trading Places, Murphy was purely one of the funniest human beings on the planet.
Delirious was his first special at the age of 22 years old. Its his energy, confidence, and showmanship that make Murphy’s performance in Delirious one for the record books.
I mean, just get a look of that red leather suit!
2. Richard Pryor — Live in Concert
Richard Pryor is heralded by many comedians as the best comedian of all-time. Live in Concert was his landmark special that changed the landscape of comedy forever.
In his keen observations, biting social commentary and profane dialogue on race, drugs, and death, Pryor up-ended the world of stand-up comedy. In this special, Pryor re-established the stage as a medium of insight that blended harsh truths with hilarity.
Pryor is vivacious, possessed with a presence that dominates the stage throughout the entirety of the special. Live in Concert is an absolute must for any fan of stand-up comedy.
3. Hannah Gadsby — Nanette
Nanette is one of the most moving comedy specials you’ll ever see. The Australian comedian, making her introduction to American mainstream comedy, opens her show playfully enough, with self-deprecating humor and tongue-in-cheek jokes. A little while in, however, the show takes a hard turn toward dead seriousness.
Gadsby relates stories of growing up as a lesbian in a society (Tasmania) where in which a majority considered homosexuality a crime. Later on, she describes horrifying incidents of the unspeakable abuse that she was subjected — leaving the viewers absolutely speechless.
In what’s been called an anti-comedy special, Nanette is at times thought-provoking, at times heartbreaking, and is a testament to the frustration, anguish, and indignation that fueled the #MeToo movement.
4. Dave Chappelle — The Age of Spin
The comic mastermind behind The Chappelle Show — debatably the best American sketch-comedy TV show of all-time — returned to the stage after a 10-year hiatus. In fact, after he left The Chappelle Show, base rumors circled that he had gotten addicted to crack and disappeared off the face of the earth.
While off screen for some time, Chappelle was not forgotten, and when he made his triumphant return with The Age of Spin, America was reminded of his legendary comic status. Needless to stay, Chappelle had not lost his sense of humor during the hiatus. No, the comic picked up right where he left off, delivering heavy-hitting jokes on race, celebrity, and OJ Simpson.
Since then, Chappelle has released two more specials on Netflix but this one is definitely the stand out of his stand up.
5. John Mulaney — Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
When it comes to comedy, John Mulaney is about the hottest ticket in town. With four recorded specials, a broadway tour with Nick Kroll, and a new Mr. Rogers-esque neighborhood show, John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, the 37-year-old comedian continues to fire on all cylinders.
With the gusto of an energizer bunny and a penchant for pizzazz, Mulaney unleashes an hour of relentless funnies. Using Radio City as a dazzling backdrop, Mulaney relates personal stories of his troublemaking adolescence, observations on school assemblies, and one terrifyingly accurate horse metaphor.
6. Maria Bamford — Old Baby
Old Baby fully captures Maria Bamford’s animated eccentricities that makes her such an endearing and stand-out comedian.
In one of the most uniquely filmed specials, Bamford performs her routine in front of a changing rotation of friends in different locations, including a sidewalk, bowling alley, and theater. Accompanied by a film crew and one ceramic pug, she playfully revolves through the colony of voices and personalities she carries in her wheelhouse while haplessly attempting to pawn her merch in this whimsical special.
7. Bill Burr — You People Are All The Same
Right now, Bill Burr is one of comedy’s heaviest hitters; a comedian’s comedian. Currently, Burr has three specials on Netflix, but You People Are All The Same is arguably his best.
The unapologetic comedian, known for his brutal honesty and profane tangents — see the Youtube recording of his tearing down the entire city of Philadelphia just to win them over with his tirade — bears a pent-up rage that translates into hysterics.
Of all his specials, You People Are All The Same captures him at his best. Whether his rants are centered on plastic surgery, relationships, or reality TV, it’s captivating comedy that will have you in tears.
8. Trevor Noah — Afraid of the Dark
While millennials might cling to the Jon Stewart-era Daily Show, you got to respect The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Leastwise for the comedians it’s given rise to.
On this list alone there are two comedians who made their claim to fame on Noah’s Daily Show — Hassan Minhaj and Michelle Wolf — not mention its other knockout stand-ups: Ronnie Cheng and Roy Wood Jr. As such, you could say that Noah has a taste of what’s funny AKA a good sense of humor.
On Afraid of the Dark you can watch Trevor Noah in his element on stage. The late-night Comedy Central host jokes about cultural differences, race, and the rise of nationalism in the face of Brexit. Touchy subjects those may be, Noah finds a way to engage the audience with his humor. If there is any one comedy clip that you need to watch today, check out his bit on Great Britain’s colonization of India.
9. Michelle Wolf — Joke Show
Speaking of former Daily Show correspondents. While Michelle Wolf certainly got her foot in the door on the Comedy Central TV-show, the 34-year-old comedian made major waves with her incendiary White House Correspondents Dinner speech.
For nearly 20 minutes, the comedian roasted everyone from the president, his colleagues and staff, other senators, and the entire journalism industry. In fact, her roasts pack so much heat that the dinner would from thenceforth indefinitely feature a historian rather than a comedian.
Two years later and the comedian is burning down the stage. In Joke Show, Wolf delivers harsh truths about the lascivious aspects of nature, grim sources of technological comforts, and the definition of privilege in this day and age. With all thrills (and plenty of shrill) Wolf tells it like it is on cancel culture, feminism, and air-conditioned oppression.
10. Mike Birbiglia — My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
Although he has a number of specials on Netflix, Mike Birbiglia is likely the least known comedian on this list. While he doesn’t quite get the mainstream airplay as other big comedians, Birbiglia is one stand-up that you don’t want to sleep on.
In My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Birbiglia endearingly tracks love and relationships throughout the course of life while upholding a staunch opposition to marriage.
His goofy mannerisms and clear self-awareness add to this deeply affecting special, in which Birbiglia masterfully weaves the silly with the sincere.
11. Marc Maron — End Times Fun
Since the success of the Netflix series Glow, Marc Maron has risen from a C- celebrity to a C+ celebrity. While, in addition to Glow, the popular podcast host of WTF has slowly crept in to more acting roles in comedy movies, indie flicks, and even a spot in the Joker, Maron is a without doubt a comedian at his core.
His latest special, End Times Fun, features the heady comedian ranting about collective apathy in the face of a doomed political landscape, prophecies in religion, and comic-book movie fanaticism. While his other specials — particularly Thinky Pain — are worth viewing, his latest End Times Fun is a must watch for social and satirical commentary of the day.
12. Hasan Minhaj — Homecoming King
In Homecoming King, the charismatic Hasan Minhaj delves into topics of family, religion, and culture that which he weaves into humorous personal stories punctuated with the occasional Drake reference.
Minhaj describes in this special how he had to navigate his upbringing in the United States as an American-born child of Muslim immigrants. In addition to his sentiments, the comedian’s humor transcends race, color, creed, and class.
13. Ali Wong — Baby Cobra
Ali Wong is one the hottest comedians in the market right now, period. The comedian, actress, and writer is blazing forth a career with no signs of slowing down. Back in 2016, her first special, Baby Cobra, was released — making Ali Wong a household name in comedy.
Since then, Wong has landed a role on the series American Housewife, released a second critically-acclaimed special, Hard Knock Wife, co-wrote and starred in the Netflix film, Always Be My Maybe, and, most recently, penned a book called: Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life.
14. Bo Burnham — Make Happy
Former prodigal viral star, Bo Burnham demonstrates that his comedy warrants every bit of the tween adulation he received on Myspace. His Make Happy set is an extension of the comedy of his adolescence with addition of a maturing wit.
It features original, genre-spanning music that is both funny and insightful — see his track “Pandering” about the state of modern country music. Burnham likes to keep his audience on its toes with quick switches, finely-synced audio, and a touch of pyrotechnics. Make Happy was a milestone for the promising comedian that continues to make it in the world of funny.
15. Anthony Jeselnik — Fire in the Maternity Ward
If you’ve ever been offended by comedy — nay, any statement, expression, or sentiment in your entire life — this comedy may not be for you. Jeselnik’s cold, steely demeanor is the perfect fit for firing off some of the most heinous, ridiculous, and profane one-liners to hit your ears. See also Jimmy Carr.
That said, slowly and surely, be it seconds or minutes, despite all your uncomfortable deliberate effort, Jeselnik’s carefully crafted comedy will force you to laugh. You might need to pencil in a confession for the next day, but this special is worth the trip to hell and back.