×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The funniest stand-up comedy specials you can watch on Netflix right now

Netflix certainly offers its fair share of original dramas, comedies, and animated series. But it's also given standup comedians a powerful new platform. The streaming giant has established a breakneck pace in releasing new comedy specials, with as many as one new hour of comedy per week debuting on the service since 2017. With the comedy game being notoriously crowded, Netflix's commitment to quality standup has been a boon to veterans and up-and-comers alike, and the general positive response to their output means that they likely won't be slowing down anytime soon.

In fact, it's been observed that Netflix may be contributing to the dawn of a "new golden age" of standup, one which we haven't seen the likes of since George Carlin and Eddie Murphy dominated the form in the '80s. With a ton of quality offerings to choose from, here are the cream of the crop — the laugh-out-loud funniest comedy specials on Netflix right now.

Ali Wong, Hard Knock Wife

Ali Wong is an extremely funny woman, but before her debut Netflix special Baby Cobra in 2016, she was a relative unknown. That changed practically overnight, as the very, very pregnant Wong delivered an absolutely killer set of profane, edgy stand-up, leading to a much higher profile and the inevitable followup that dropped in 2018. Anyone expecting Wong to endure a sophomore slump had that notion shot down within the first few minutes of Hard Knock Wife, as Wong (just as pregnant as last time, this time with her second child) marched out onstage to the strains of the Wu-Tang Clan's "Triumph" and immediately set the tone: "I heard a rumor that all of the Asians in this city have congregated in this theater tonight. Thank you for coming with your white boyfriends, I really appreciate it." 

Hard Knock is a rapid-fire hour long set largely concerned with parenthood, pregnancy, and the difficulties inherent in each — but even non-parents will surprised by her insightfulness, and simultaneously floored by her hilarious stage presence and crack comic timing. Wong is a star on the rise; she's currently at work on a Netflix original romantic comedy co-starring Randall Park, plus a book of essays which is expected to hit shelves sometime this year. But to catch her in her most distilled form, look no further than Hard Knock Wife.

John Mulaney, The Comeback Kid

Former SNL writer John Mulaney's 2012 special New in Town announced him as a potential force in comedy, with his almost David Byrne-like physical presence and gift for hilarious turns of phrase. It was so successful that it led to a deal with ABC to develop Mulaney, a half-hour sitcom. The network promptly abandoned it after the pilot, and it was subsequently rescued by Fox. But that rescue was short-lived, and while the show did attract some positive critical notices, it was cancelled after only thirteen episodes.

Hence, the title of Mulaney's 2015 standup offering: The Comeback Kid, in which the comic takes on everything from relationships to religion to pet ownership to Bill Clinton, whom Mulaney met as a child. It's a high-impact set densely packed with gags, some of which seem to roll back around at the most side-splitting possible moments. And it's proof that Mulaney is never more in his element than when he's on the standup stage. The comic went slightly viral in 2018, when a bit from that year's Kid Gorgeous — concerning a police detective with the catchphrase "Street Smarts!" who once gave an assembly at Mulaney's school — drew the attention of the actual detective, who was none too pleased about it. Gorgeous is a great special in its own right, and that bit certainly got Mulaney a little more name recognition — but for the tightest set the young comic has yet put to film, check out The Comeback Kid.

Kevin Hart, What Now?

Kevin Hart is the rare comic who has no trouble selling out stadiums, or playing to stadium-sized crowds. The comic's brash, larger-than-life stage persona makes him perfect for larger venues, as the 2016 concert film What Now? (filmed at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl Champion Eagles) makes perfectly clear. But it's the contrast of that persona with surprising digressions into insecurity and vulnerability that really makes his stage material tick. And while Hart's been busy carving out a respectable film career, it's easy to argue that his considerable talents are perfectly suited for standup.

Once a comparably weak, James Bond-esque intro piece is out of the way, Hart takes the stage already holding the enormous, boisterous crowd in the palm of his hand. He begins by getting a ridiculous amount of comic mileage out of an encounter with a raccoon at his home, before swerving into such diverse topics as male friendships, parenting, and — in an inspired bit assisted by his two huge video screens — the perils of failing to respond to your girlfriend's text messages. It's a 90-minute long demonstration of Hart's star power, comic chops and one-of-a-kind presence, and if you're not yet a fan, What Now? will make you one.

Trevor Noah, Afraid of the Dark

In 2015, South African comic Trevor Noah was given a coveted yet nearly impossible assignment: he was tapped to replace the legendary Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's long-running series The Daily Show. After a start which couldn't have been anything but rocky, Noah has slowly settled into his role, acquitting himself admirably in Stewart's old seat. But for a display of just how formidable his comedic chops really are, his 2016 special Afraid of the Dark (shot in New York City the weekend before the 2016 presidential election) is more than worth checking out.

From an observational bit about New York traffic through the eyes of a foreigner ("People trust the traffic lights… I've never seen anything like it") to a closing piece about actual fear of the dark ("I know it's stupid to be afraid of the dark, there's nothing there… nine times out of ten"), Noah casually tosses off zingers while flitting from topic to topic with a vibe at once casual and restless. He's a thoroughly warm and engaging presence, making it easy to see why Comedy Central producers thought he'd be the perfect fit for their flagship series. Here's hoping that his tenure is just as long and successful as Stewart's, and — if it's not too much to ask — that he keeps dropping quality specials like this one.

Donald Glover, Weirdo

Few stars are as hot right now as Donald Glover, who began his career as a writer on 30 Rock and a main cast-member of Community. Best-known now for creating and starring in the FX comedy/drama series Atlanta and for his startling, revolutionary music video "This is America" (in his Childish Gambino rap persona), Glover has taken the long road to superstardom — and the 2012 standup special Weirdo was captured right in the middle of his meteoric rise.

Glover's a born storyteller, and he makes brilliant use of extended anecdotes to bring home his points. Even when those points are jaw-droppingly inappropriate, he lands them hard. Arguing that having AIDS is better than having kids, he succinctly points out the similarities between the two: "They're both expensive, you have them for the rest of your life, they're constant reminders of the mistakes you made, and once you have them you pretty much can only date other people who have them." Glover's animated and enthusiastic style is perfectly suited to his material, and, as we all know, he has charisma to burn. It almost doesn't seem fair for one guy to be so good at so many things, but if the acting, writing, producing, and rapping all happen to fall through, Glover can always fall back on his world-class standup skills.

Bill Burr, I'm Sorry You Feel That Way

If you've seen the Netflix original animated series F is for Family, then you're already familiar with the comic sensibility of Bill Burr. Family's creator and main voice actor, Burr is a comic who holds down the stage with a ferocious, almost Sam Kinison-like presence — and like Kinison (and Burr's animated counterpart Frank Murphy), he is never funnier than when he seems on the verge of completely blowing his stack.

Burr's crass approach to comedy may not be for everyone, but his 2014 special I'm Sorry You Feel That Way is the most on-point example of his loud, relentless, hysterically funny style. Seemingly taking a page from the George Carlin playbook, Burr hammers away at such gentle topics as gun control, domestic abuse, and religion, challenging his audience to stay with him while making some points which could mildly be described as "controversial" (on religion: "I actually resent the fact that I'm gonna get judged someday… dude, you made me, this is your f—up! You gave me freedom of choice, whores, and have me suck at math, and you don't think this thing's gonna go off the rails?!"). 

Burr's audience is up for the challenge, even if he occasionally has to ask them if it's getting too weird for them — not that it would matter. He's a comedy force to be reckoned with, and I'm Sorry You Feel That Way is his best standup work yet.

Steve Martin and Martin Short, An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

Here's a special sure to hit smack-dab in the middle of the nostalgia center for any comedy fans of a certain vintage: Steve Martin and Martin Short, two-thirds of the Three Amigos. In "An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life," they're back onstage together for a night of hilariousness — and, at times, banjos, which on one occasion prompts Short to remark, "Hanging out with Steve is like the movie Deliverance. It's all fun and games until the banjos come out." The special leans heavily on the duo's familiarity with each other to mine a ton of laughs.

Peppered liberally with asides and references to their decades of work in television and film, Evening doesn't shoot for edgy humor or gross-out gags. Some of the material might be considered downright safe, but the absolute pleasure of seeing Martin — who hasn't turned in a standup set since 1981 — and Short working the appreciative audience like the pros they are simply can't be denied. We may never get an actual Three Amigos reunion — which is probably for the best, since Chevy Chase just seems to sort of ruin everything these days — but Evening serves as a belated, welcome return to the comedy stage for two of the greatest comics of all time.

Sarah Silverman, A Speck of Dust

Sarah Silverman blazed her initial path in standup by courting controversy. Her early standup work (like 2005's Jesus is Magic) mined laughs by contrasting Silverman's attractive, easygoing appearance with the utterly profane, jaw-droppingly frank nature of her material, and that reputation has continued to follow her around throughout her career. For 2017's A Speck of Dust, however, Silverman tried a slightly different tack, easing off the vulgarity and relying on her peerless writing and comic timing to carry the day — and it worked out pretty well.

Not to say that the special doesn't feature any risque material — it does, but it's not the star of the show. Silverman's conversational, relaxed delivery and unflappable air of assurance are front and center here, as she tackles topics ranging from a recent medical scare to the insanity of working for a major TV network while displaying a Seinfeld-esque gift for deadpan observational humor. She's a comic who has grown by leaps and bounds since her standup debut, and if Speck of Dust isn't exactly the Silverman you're used to, it may very well mark the debut of the Silverman who is destined to be a major standup player for many years to come.

Leslie Jones, Problem Child

Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones has never not been funny, but it's taken the general public awhile to catch on. Her role in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot raised her profile considerably, but her criminally underseen 2010 Showtime special Problem Child put her on comedy fans' radar long before Ghostbusters made her a household name. In keeping with her brash manner and outsized persona, it's an hour of outrageous anecdotes both personal and broad, peppered with surreal asides on everything from basketball to Steve Irwin (whom she is convinced was the victim of a conspiracy by the entirety of the animal kingdom).

Throughout the set, Jones returns to a theme of self-improvement, calling out those who would judge her by her appearance and using easy exchanges with the crowd to help drive home some of her gags. But it's when those surreal, philosophical ramblings take over that she really shines, especially during her "favorite part of the show," in which she displays her merciless aptitude for improvisation by basically roasting select audience members. Jones is a comic powerhouse with swagger to spare, an incredible knack for playing to a crowd, and perhaps the most underrated sense of comic timing in the business — and in Problem Child, the full range of those talents are prominently on display.

Jim Gaffigan, Cinco

Jim Gaffigan is one of the most consistent (and cleanest) comics working today, and he's no stranger to Netflix. As you may have gathered by its title, Cinco is his fifth standup special for the streaming service. His deadpan, somewhat awkward manner and keen gift for observation make him seem tailor-made for the standup form, and even though he's had enviable success as a writer and actor, it's obvious that he is most at home on the stage. With Cinco, he brings an act that's been honed to a fine point. Fans won't find him breaking any new ground here, but when you're as consistently awesome at your job as Gaffigan is, that's not much of a complaint.

Gaffigan spends a lot of time taking shots at his favorite target — himself — while taking regular asides to offer up observations that are no less hilariously clever for being as clean as they come. He's a special brand of observational comic, drawing out odd juxtapositions and comparisons with a complete lack of judgment that serves to highlight the differences between all of us human beings while leaving nobody feeling excluded. Some comics are sharp, some are profane, some are downright vulgar (and many are all three simultaneously), but Jim Gaffigan endears himself to his audience by being none of the above — and proving that you don't have to be any of those things to be absolutely hilarious.