The 25 Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Netflix Instant (June 2016)

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10. Louis C.K. – Live at the Beacon Theater

The unassuming way that C.K. takes the stage in this self-financed, self-distributed special—no announcement, no shutting off of the house lights, no opening act—says everything about how much confidence he had stored up at this point. He’s conversational, silly, and cares little about segues as he describes someone’s asshole exploding and then drops some anecdotes about his kids.—Robert Ham

9. Jen Kirkman – I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)

What makes this hour of material so refreshing is that everything Kirkman discusses is the sort of subject that women are unfortunately supposed to be ashamed about in our culture. She’s supposed to be still reeling from her divorce and sad that she’s a childless single woman, living on her own at age 40 who will get discovered dead in her bathtub with her face eaten off by a cat. Instead, Kirkman is light on her feet, happy about her current situation and ready for the adventures that the second half of her life will bring.—Robert Ham

8. Jim Gaffigan – Beyond The Pale

Beyond The Pale was Jim Gaffigan’s first big standup special that launched his career as a big-time, standup comedian. Released in 2005, this was the special that introduced the “Hot Pocket” routine, along with an additional hour of hilarious classics. —Eric Gossett

7. Hannibal Buress – Live From Chicago
Live From Chicago is an enjoyable mixture of bizarre anecdotes, cultural commentary and uniquely Buress-ian non sequiturs. Of course, given the comic’s rising star, the biographical humor concerns topics like international travel and an encounter with Scarlett Johansson instead of shitty roommates, but none of that has dulled Buress’ signature weird edge. For example, he prefaces one bit about a palm reader and a jizzy hand with the disclaimer “this joke doesn’t connect to anything,” a line that could precede much of his vintage material.—Hudson Hongo

6. Todd Barry – The Crowd Work Tour

I knew that Barry’s Crowd Work Tour—a set of dates where he took the stage with zero prepared material, interacting with the audience and using his quick wit as his guide—would be a raging success. And watching this film from director Lance Bangs, which follows the comedian on his West Coast run of dates, has proven me dead right.—Robert Ham

5. John Mulaney – New In Town

John Mulaney’s New In Town starts silly and doesn’t stop. Mulaney’s boyish energy and looks couple with his goofy inflection to give the entire special a high energy that the comic gently grounds by focusing on his life. Mulaney digresses, but each joke—including the definitive Ice-T on Law & Order: SVU routine—is so deftly weaved into the larger story that you never feel a single segue. Instead of a well-rehearsed performance, New In Town feels like an old friend showing up to dinner with stories he can’t wait to tell you. As a special bonus to those who would watch the special rather than listen to the record, the opening credits are done up like an early eighties sitcom, with a theme by Reggie Watts. —Casey Malone

4. Chelsea Peretti – One of the Greats

After years of paying her dues, Chelsea Peretti has more than earned her moment in the spotlight. Considering the special’s title, it’s tempting to ask the obvious question: Is Peretti indeed one of the greats? Long answer—for anyone who has tracked her growth, it’s clear that she has always been a voice to be reckoned with. In this way, her special only reiterates what any serious comedy fan had long ago determined. Short answer—yeah, she’s pretty friggin’ great.—Mark Rozeman

3. Louis C.K. – Chewed Up

Louis C.K.’s 2008 special Chewed Up is definitely one of his strongest. Filmed at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, Mass., C.K. covers everything from the difference between girls and women to destroying his body by eating copious amounts of Cinnabon. —Eric Gossett

2. Mike Birbiglia – My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia’s one-man show about a tough break-up and sleep disorder that he eventually adapted to a book and feature film, looked for a while like the defining work of his career. And yet My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend manages to improve on Sleepwalk in almost every way. In it, Birbiglia tells us about coming to terms with the compromises in his romantic relationships, both today and as a teenager, as well as his views on marriage after the events of Sleepwalk, and it’s all wrapped in the story of a terrifying car accident that turns into a bureaucratic nightmare. Birbiglia’s an incredible storyteller, jumping from the present to his adolescence and to the recent past seamlessly, never dropping a thread and using every small tale to reinforce the larger story. —Casey Malone

1. Eddie Murphy – Delirious

Before Eddie Murphy came on to the scene, no other comic had the audacity to take the stage in tight, red leather. Delirious is Murphy’s masterpiece—a snapshot of fearless 22-year-old not giving a fuck about anything. Of course, this was 1983, and some of Murphy’s attitudes towards women, homosexuals and AIDS were dated to say the least (he’s since apologized for some of the material). To modern ears, this is caustic stuff (and interesting from a sociological standpoint). But the real highlights here are Murphy’s firecracker energy and his spot-on impressions of James Brown, Elvis and Stevie Wonder, as well as his own exaggerated tales of growing up. But despite its warts, Delirious is still a monumental stand-up performance—it’s clear who Murphy idolized, and who he would influence in the years to come. And with its off-color moments, the fact we’re still talking about it three decades later says something for Murphy’s genius. —Mark Lore

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