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The 30 Best Stand-up Comedy Specials on Netflix (2018)

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The 30 Best Stand-up Comedy Specials on Netflix (2018)

Somehow it’s been almost two years since we last updated our list of the best stand-up specials on Netflix. We haven’t even done one of these since they started pumping out a special every single week. That’s some kind of huge oversight on our part. Half the specials on the last version of this list are no longer even on Netflix, as they’ve transitioned from licensing stand-up specials to owning their own massive stand-up library. Between that turnover and the tremendous amount of fresh ground to go over here, with probably 100 new specials to consider that weren’t even available when we last did this in 2016, there’s been a lot of churn here. If you haven’t been keeping up with the regular weekly flood of new stand-up at Netflix, here’s your short list to the best of the best, including a few all-time classics that predate the Netflix era.

30. Tom Segura – Disgraceful

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As much as he wants to insist he’s a grump, stating that “the meaning of life is ‘fuck this place, let’s go home,’” Tom Segura’s a warm personality with the right ratio of prickliness to genial understanding. A lot of comedians wax comedic about how much fun douchey behavior is, but Segura is able to phrase that joy in a way that feels fresh. Letting an elevator door close on someone, he says, is “like the inside of my body hugging the outside of my body.”—Graham Techler


29. Bill Burr – I’m Sorry You Feel That Way

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Bill Burr’s onstage persona is sharp, unwavering and nearly arrogant. This attitude defines him as a comic, and is even evident in his latest special’s title, I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. But make no mistake, Burr’s concern for your feelings is anything but authentic. Unless, of course, we interpret “I’m Sorry” as an expression of pity rather than regret. In that case, “It’s pathetic you feel that way” would truly be an appropriate alternate title for Burr’s raucous special—and a perspective that arms Burr with the observational insight required to continuously churn out incredible sets.—Maren McGlashan


28. John Hodgman – Ragnarok

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Filmed on the eve of the Mayan Apocalypse in 2012, Hodgman acknowledges that the fear of the end of the world is very common, but the way he celebrates it will only be fully appreciated by a chosen few. Beneath the steely veneer of John Hodgman’s millionaire shtick lies a comedian who’s part of a very special club, the kind that is always accepting new members. It helps if you’re someone who knows what Ragnarok is, in which comic book it is prominently featured and who is famous for drawing that comic book. It helps more if you’re someone familiar with ambergris and could also hold an extended debate about the intricacies of Watership Down. Most of all, it’s going to help if you’re not the kind of person to be put off by sober musical interludes and singalongs right out of A Prairie Home Companion. If that sounds like you, then there’s a very special place for you in the shade of Hodgman’s formidable goatee. —Tristan Cooper


27. Wyatt Cenac – Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn

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Wyatt Cenac’s Netflix exclusive isn’t just a good document of his relaxed style of storytelling. Occasionally the camera zooms out from Cenac and the small Brooklyn club he’s playing and focuses on small puppet shows recreating the story he’s telling. It’s a clever way to add a bit of visual punch to his tales of the tension between young black men and the gentrification of the Brooklyn he knew as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s.—Garrett Martin


26. Eugene Mirman – Vegan on His Way to the Complain Store

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This special is a great way to see how confident Eugene Mirman is onstage. He’s never been a retiring type, but he’s willing to roll with the punches of a riotous Q&A segment and willing to pull people onstage to stage a fake wedding with him as the officiant. And he doesn’t shy away from the fact that his life has changed now that he’s a public figure that can hobnob in Mexico with the former members of R.E.M. and can get recognized in a Guitar Center for his work on Delocated. Because, like everything else in the special, his small measure of celebrity yields some pretty funny moments in his life, like getting shaken down by the Mexican police with Michael Stipe.—Robert Ham


25. Neal Brennan – 3 Mics

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Brennan’s deconstruction of stand-up has a clever ring to it, but one that could easily grow tired without some greater point. After all, stripping down any cultural medium to its constituent parts hopefully reveals some greater truth about it. That truth comes about when Brennan steps before the “emotional stuff” mic located at center stage and veers away from more expected fare, both in terms of subject matter and delivery. He holds his viewers captive with starkly told stories about his emotionally deficient childhood and the clinical depression he’s managed ever since. In these moments, he doesn’t quip, he doesn’t weave his way towards a joke; instead, he allows each confession to hold its very heavy weight. Brennan admits how, outwardly, his depression simply makes him seem chill, according to his many black friends. “Neal, man, you don’t give a fuck,” he says, imitating their response. “Well that’s because I’m sad,” he says.—Amanda Wicks


24. Maria Bamford – The Special Special Special

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Lots of comics are celebrated for their perceived “edginess,” but few performers are willing to go to the avant garde extremes of Maria Bamford. In The Special Special Special, Bamford lays bare comedy’s Freudian core by recording an entire hour-long set in front of her parents (and only her parents) in her childhood home. The result is something like an HBO special as directed by David Lynch and one of the most original stand-up performances in recent memory. Whether The Special Special Special ultimately comes off as adorably intimate or just unsettling is up to the viewer, but either way it’s a hell of a high-wire act. —Hudson Hongo


23. Ali Wong – Baby Cobra

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Baby Cobra is more than the product of a carefully honed craft. It is an unusual portrait of transition: from young adulthood to adulthood, single life to marriage, marriage into motherhood. It is also the first network special to feature a deeply pregnant comedian, which is not a gimmick but a very practical undertaking. Wong refuses to slow down for the simple reason that slowing down, especially for a woman and mother in Hollywood, is the first step in a long fade to obscurity.—Seth Simons


22. Marc Maron – Thinky Pain

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Is Marc Maron finally likable? Maron’s always been an incredible comedian and, in recent years, a talented and insightful interviewer on his podcast WTF. But those skills always came under a rage-filled veneer as Maron’s on-stage persona lashed out at the world around him, the women he dated and the goings on in his head. It was hilarious but a little off-putting. The Marc Maron in Thinky Pain is gentler, bringing a humility to his heady, introspective comedy that’s a welcome change. Starting with an anecdote about comedy legend Bill Hicks and continuing onto Maron’s fears of being an old dad or his midlife crisis, Thinky Pain still showcases all the best parts of Maron’s comedic voice, it’s just speaking a little softer. —Casey Malone


21. Fred Armisen – Standup for Drummers

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The title isn’t just a gag. Armisen, who was a professional drummer for indie rock bands before segueing into comedy, devotes a solid chunk of this hour to jokes that will mostly be appreciated by drummers or anybody who’s ever been in a band with one. He riffs on awkward soundcheck banter between drummers and sound men, about the common nuisances of touring with a drum kit, and about how bad non-drumming members of a band are at keeping time. This has to be the only stand-up special to start with a drum solo, include jokes about paradiddles, and feature cameos from Sheila E., Blondie’s Clem Burk, Green Day’s Tre Cool, Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and legendary session drummers Thomas Lang and Vinnie Colaiuta. Early on Armisen talks about the pride of being a drummer, and how it means “you’re just better than everybody.” That pride suffuses the entire special, undercut only slightly with a touch of tongue-in-cheek self-mockery.—Garrett Martin


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