The 10 Best Stand-up Comedy Specials of 2017 (So Far)

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The 10 Best Stand-up Comedy Specials of 2017 (So Far)

When I started compiling Paste’s list of the best stand-up specials of 2017 so far, I didn’t think we’d make it to 10. I mean, we’re not even halfway through April; have there really been 10 specials worth watching? I couldn’t think of many off the top of my head, but when I actually looked at the facts (so cold, so hard) I realized it’s been a good year for comedy already. A good quarter-year for comedy. A tight three months. Not only are there ten hits on this list, but there are good ones that I had to leave off, is what I’m saying. A surfeit of snickers. So hey, if you’re the laughing sort, a comedy fan, here’s what’s good so far this year.

10. Roy Wood Jr: Father Figure
Comedy Central

[Wood] is somewhat tempered by the strictures of the short form pieces that he does for The Daily Show, which is why it is especially great to see him stretch out within the borders of his first hour-long standup special. Father Figure features the same pointed social commentary and interest in racial politics but with the threads wound more tightly around observations from his own experience. It’s such a tightly-constructed hour that it feels strange to point out that it is his first stand-up special and to hear that Wood feels like he found his comedic voice in 2006, almost a decade after he started.—Robert Ham

9. Louis C.K.: 2017

[On 2017] C.K. skirts closer to the edge without tumbling over and losing everyone’s trust in the process. While he’s there, he enjoys the weird ironies of loud party girl cheers in response to his defense of legal abortion, the palpable flutters of unease that he sets loose by jokingly calling his mom a whore. He’s been doing this long enough to know when to push the audience and when to pull them gently along with him. He’s smart enough to not risk the goodwill and cultural currency he’s earned over the past decade.—Robert Ham

8./7. Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin; Deep in the Heart of Texas (tie)

Chappelle is still at the top of his class, wholly at ease onstage and mischievous as ever. His winding stories have the same unscripted, manic feel as his classic material, perfectly crafted without seeming crafted at all. [Chappelle has] a tireless drive to play out his tiniest impulses to their most absurd conclusions.—Seth Simons

6. Kurt Braunohler: Trust Me
Comedy Cenral

Braunohler’s sudden turn to overtly political territory takes us off-guard completely, in a way that’s both refreshing and satisfying. His astonished appraisal of his own lucky circumstance as a tall, white man takes the form of very real, very specific and very disturbing statistics about police brutality towards black men. “The street I walk down is a fundamentally different one than a black man walks down, and a woman walks down,” says Braunohler, before launching into a series of absurd statements designed—in his words—to “undermine the authority given white speech.” Not to pat white men on the back for saying some basic human decency stuff, but this is a Comedy Central special, and I have to applaud Braunohler for using this particular platform so aggressively and responsibly, while never sacrificing the comic tone it’s in his best interest to cultivate.—Graham Techler

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