The best stand-up comedy on Netflix right now (September 2019)

Sit down and watch some of the best stand-up comedy on Netflix

For most comedians, stand-up is revered as the purest expression of the art form. Though onstage comedy dates back to ancient Greece, contemporary stand-up has its roots in American vaudeville shows and the British music halls of the 19th century. From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle, talented orators — regardless of style, race, or gender — have entertained audiences with laughter across the centuries.

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These days, you don’t have to buy tickets or DVDs to see good comedy: You can stream it straight to your brain from your internet pipeline. Netflix boasts an impressive collection of stand-up specials, and we’ve put together this list (in no particular order) featuring some of the best stand-up on the platform.

For more laughs, try our picks for the best comedies on Netflix. If none of this piques your interest, check out this month’s new Netflix additions.

Simon Amstell: Set Free

U.K. viewers know Simon Amstell best as host of Popworld and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, creator of Grandma’s House, and writer and director of the feature films Carnage and Benjamin. Chances are, though, that you’ve never heard of him. Well, consider Set Free your introduction. As many critics have noted, Set Free is basically a public therapy session, as Amstell uses his time on stage to work through a number of personal issues, including his relationship with his family, social anxiety, body image issues, and other mental health problems (yes, therapy itself is one of Amstell’s targets, too). If you don’t think that self-reflection can be funny, give Set Free a try. Amstell fans might have heard some of the material before, but to the rest of us, it’s new — and very, very good.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Whitney Cummings: Can I Touch It?

By her own admission, Whitney Cummings has evolved. “Generalizing about men and women paid for my house,” Cummings notes, referring to her two sitcoms, 2 Broke Girls, which she produced, and her short-lived starring vehicle Whitney. That was the old Cummings. While Can I Touch It? tackles similar material, it does so with more nuance and self-reflection than Cummings’ past work. Not that the comedian has lost her ability to shock, of course. The part of Can I Touch It? that everyone will be talking about comes in its second half, when Cummings brings out a custom-built sex robot that looks exactly like her before launching into an extended bit about how man-on-robot relations might pave the way for the next feminist revolution. Is it uncomfortable? That depends on how you feel about sleeping with an automaton. Is it raunchy, funny, and weird? You bet.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Aziz Ansari: Right Now

Eighteen months ago, an anonymous woman accused Ansari of sexual misconduct in a scathing article on Babe.net. Right Now, directed by Spike Jonze, is Ansari’s response. The comedian opens Right Now by expressing his shame and regret over the incident (although, notably, he never quite apologizes), then spends the rest of the special interrogating the effect of “wokeness'” on pop culture — and Ansari himself. Right Now is at its best when Ansari turns the spotlight inward, dissecting some of his older bits — an ode to R. Kelly, for example, that has aged spectacularly poorly — and re-examining his past behavior. No, it isn’t laugh-out-loud funny. It shouldn’t be. Compared to Ansari’s other specials, Right Now is surprisingly honest and raises some interesting questions. Given the context, that’s enough.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward

Anthony Jeselnik is still a bad, bad man — or, at least the character he plays is — but Fire in the Maternity Ward is the Comedy Central star’s cleanest, most accessible special yet. That’s not to say that it’s tame. Jeselnik still wrings laughs out of topics like white supremacy, abortion, and dropping babies. And yet, the cartoonish racism and misogyny that defined Jeselnik’s earlier work is gone, making it easier to appreciate Jeselnik’s craft — and his craft deserves appreciation. Unlike other off-color comedians, Jeselnik is a disciplined and patient performer. He takes his time, which makes his punchlines’ inevitable twists all the worse. Going into Fire in the Maternity Ward, many fans worried that the current political climate might dull Jeselnik’s edge. They shouldn’t have. Jeselnik might be a sociopath, but he’s a funny one, and Fire in the Maternity Ward proves that the comedian is still at the top of his game.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

John Leguizamo: Latin History For Morons

John Leguizamo premiered his one-man stage show Latin History for Morons in 2017, and the performance went on to earn a Tony Award for its exploration of the influence and importance of Latin Americans throughout U.S. history. Netflix brought the show to subscribers in November 2018, offering a chance for everyone who couldn’t make it to Broadway (or afford tickets) to experience the fascinating, kinetic history lesson taught by Leguizamo across 90 minutes of energetic explanation — complete with chalkboard and assorted props. While it’s not traditional stand-up comedy, the show’s one-man format and nonstop humor make it stand out from the crowd as both educational and entertaining.

Netflix

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

Widely regarded as one of the most groundbreaking, unique, and powerful stand-up specials in recent years, Australian comic Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette deconstructs the very nature of stand-up comedy and the human experience. Originally planned as Gadsby’s final stand-up show (although the comedian ended up launching Douglas in 2019 after Nanette’s wild success), Nanette is as hysterically funny as it is emotionally raw. The special debuted on Netflix in June 2018 to critical acclaim (it currently holds a 100-percent “Fresh” rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes) and almost immediately inspired countless think pieces celebrating Gadsby’s surprisingly layered exploration of LGBTQ issues, gender, mental health, and even art history. The brilliance of Nanette is best understood when you go into it without knowing too much about how the special unfolds, so we’ll leave it at that and hope to see you on the other side.

Netflix

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

The first stand-up special from former The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj, Homecoming King, won a Peabody Award in 2018 for its brilliantly crafted, tremendously funny exploration of the immigrant experience in the U.S. and Minaj’s experiences growing up in an Indian-American Muslim family. That Minaj is able to do so without resorting to the most expected, well-worn topics is what makes the special so unique, and the heartwarming — and occasionally heartbreaking — stories he shares about his life are the sort that often find as much common ground in the human experience as that of the immigrant experience.

Netflix

Jerry Seinfeld: Jerry Before Seinfeld

So, what is the deal with airplane food? Netflix threw a reported $100 million at Jerry Seinfeld for streaming rights to his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series and two stand-up specials, and the comedian’s first effort is a return to his comedy roots. Jerry Before Seinfeld explores the comedian’s early stand-up career before he became an icon with his titular sitcom in the 1990s. The special is part documentary, part stand-up, and all hilarious confirmation that Seinfeld’s brand of humor is timeless. If you’re a die-hard Seinfeld fan who can stand laughing for nearly an hour, Jerry Before Seinfeld needs to be in your Instant Queue.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Kevin Hart: What Now?

Anyone who told you that stand-up comedy and action films have nothing in common clearly never watched Kevin Hart’s latest special. Hart is as physically active onstage as anyone you’ll find, and the first 15 minutes of his 2016 performance sees him pissing Don Cheadle off during a game of poker, fighting evil henchmen with Halle Berry, and cleaning blood off himself before jettisoning from under the Lincoln Financial Field stage in Philadelphia. Once he starts, it’s an avalanche of humorous tidbits about his son being afraid of a glow-in-the-dark Batman, a scary experience while viewing The Conjuring, and what exactly a “preemie week” is.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here

If you’re unfamiliar with Tig Notaro, get familiar, because she’s both a wickedly funny comedian and an inspiration to cancer patients everywhere. In 2012, following a breast cancer diagnosis, Notaro took to the stage to air her grievances in a legendary set at L.A’s Largo club. Later, despite the fact that Louis C.K. sold copies of that Largo performance to raise money for Notaro, she used her series One Mississippi as a platform to call upon women to make their voices heard, prompting investigations that submarined C.K.’s career. In Happy to Be Here, as the title implies,Notaro is more jovial than ever, happily joking about her gender identity and performing bits of goofy physical comedy without any hint of hesitation. It’s both hilarious and heartwarming, and if you like comedy, you should see it.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Fred Armisen: Standup for Drummers

Rarely (if ever) will you see a stand-up special targeted toward such a niche subject or group of people. Fred Armisen: he of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia fame: doesn’t care. As the drummer and bandleader for Seth Meyers’ late-night house band (and, formerly, Chicago punk outfit Trenchmouth), Armisen is uniquely equipped to write drumming-related jokes, which he does with expertise and aplomb. The special is also definitely funny for the drumming impaired, thanks to Armisen’s incredible physical comedy abilities and his generally hilarious vibe, but most of the jokes will land better for those who hit stuff with sticks for a living.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Bill Burr: I’m Sorry You Feel That Way

This black-and-white Netflix exclusive is a microcosm of Bill Burr’s comedy: Simple, honest, and straight to the point. Burr dispenses with the preshow theatrics that dot many contemporary comedy specials, and gets right down to business. In this case, “business” is 80 minutes of Burr saying whatever he wants, and it’s absolutely hilarious. Despite the title, Bill really doesn’t care how you feel about, well, pretty much anything. He’s uniformly unafraid of broaching topics like how local weather affects interracial relationships (his wife is black), and his borderline-arrogant attitude works to drive the show forward. Burr is simultaneously approachable and intimidating, with a fast-paced New England accent that perfectly underlines his comedic style.

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Netflix

Chris Rock: Tamborine

The first of two comedy specials Rock will produce for Netflix as part of a very lucrative dealTamborine combines the kind of social awareness we’ve come to expect from contemporary stand-up performances with some more intimate, sensitive material. The first half of the program sees Rock skewering the “All Lives Matter” movement and commenting on the experience of being black in contemporary America; he hits mostly familiar notes, but with the same verve and vocal affectations that shot him to stardom in the first place. Later, he considers his personal shortcomings, exploring the many reasons behind his marriage’s failure, including admissions of a borderline porn addiction and a tendency toward arrogance. It’s an uneven show (directed by Bo Burnham), but if you like Rock’s comedy, it should hit home.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust

While Sarah Silverman hasn’t completely abandoned the shock-value jokes that put her on the map: and, let’s be real, she probably never will: A Speck of Dust sees the now-40-something comedian slowing her roll a bit, mixing some charm and sincerity into the acid vat. Silverman’s newest offering touches on a litany of personal subjects, including the death of a beloved pet, and imbues some of her routines with a biting sense of self-awareness that effectively serves new material while deconstructing the old. If you’re here for the gross-out punchlines, they’re still around, but it no longer feels like the focus of her comedy, and we appreciate it.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas

Nearly 17 years after taking the comedy world by storm with his legendary special, Killin’ Them Softly, Dave Chappelle returned to the stage with two hour-long stand-up performances released exclusively through Netflix. The specials, which constitute Chappelle’s first televised comedy work in more than a decade, prove that one of America’s funniest and most iconic laugh miners still has “it.” In The Age of Spin, recorded at the Hollywood Palladium, Chappelle details his four encounters with O.J. Simpson and riffs on the Bill Cosby scandal. Deep in the Heart of Texas, on the other hand, sees the unpredictable comic tackling more controversial topics, like gender identity and racial tensions, as only he can. Across both specials, the message is clear: Chappelle doesn’t care what you think, and he won’t neuter himself for the sake of political correctness.

Watch them now on:

Netflix

Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe

Jim Gaffigan Mr. Universe

While Jim Gaffigan’s first stand-up specials, Beyond the Pale and King Baby, focused more on his eating habits, Mr. Universe sees the affable comic switching gears to talk more about … uh … his eating habits. Gaffigan, who was once named “The King of Clean” by the Wall Street Journal for his family-friendly subject matter, returns to the stage with more than an hour of jokes that fit seamlessly into his wheelhouse. Mr. Universe does achieve more balance than his previous shows, however, with Gaffigan leaning less on his famous “voice” (a soft falsetto he uses to criticize his own material as it’s performed) and showcasing material that’s more diverse than ever. The show closes with a riotous bit wherein Gaffigan speaks to an American Express representative over the phone, while continually breaking the fourth wall.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Jim Jefferies: Bare

If you’re sensitive about coarse language, you might want to skip this one. Australian comedian Jim Jefferies is no stranger to offensive comedy: he was even once assaulted onstage by an angry fan. The attack didn’t deter Jefferies, though: it simply propelled him to new levels of popularity and vulgarity. Bare, Jefferies’ sixth stand-up special, features some of his finest and most deplorable work to date. His liberal use of certain volatile expletives lends a certain edge to his comedy, as does his subject matter. Bare runs the gamut from typical stand-up material (relationships and sex) to outlandish jokes centered around Paralympic pariah Oscar Pistorius, who was famously convicted of murdering his girlfriend. You might not agree with Jefferies or even like him, but you have to respect his chops.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City

John Mulaney Kid Gorgeous at Radio City

Following the overwhelming success of his first two specials: New in Town and The Comeback Kid: former SNL writer John Mulaney hit the big-time, as evidenced by the sellout crowd packing New York’s iconic Radio City Music Hall for his third taped performance (the second made specifically for Netflix). This time around, age has begun to catch up to Mulaney, who laments his body’s transformation into the “gross” period of life while acknowledging that he still kinda looks like a giant child. Thanks in part to some other comedic ventures that registered as both successes (Big Mouth) and failures (his short-lived sitcom Mulaney), the comic is sharper than ever here, mixing swaths of new subject matter in with his trademark self-deprecation.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Todd Glass: Act Happy

Let’s get this out of the way: Todd Glass’ style of comedy is not for everyone. The oddball comic’s first Netflix special opens on his tour bus, as Glass addresses his “band,” encouraging them to treat the tiny Lyric Theater as if it were a … slightly less tiny theater. Glass’ show is half super-scripted, Bo Burnham-style performance art and half car-crash ad-libbing. He’s unafraid to go on ridiculous tangents and improvise wildly, involving the crowd in ways that few comedians even attempt. Glass’ subject matter ranges from the extremely mundane (a woman’s candy-eating habits on a plane flight) to the extremely personal (his struggles with sexual identity and his heart attack), but it’s all infused with the same unbridled energy that makes him a joy to watch perform.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Richard Pryor: Live in Concert

Richard Pryor Live in Concert

Pryor’s no-holds-barred, profanity-laced comedic style influenced an entire generation of actors and stand-up comedians, as did the legendary stand-up film Live in Concert. Pryor’s physical, high-energy brand of comedy brings his jokes to life, as the troubled comic all but jumps off the screen. Live in Concert plays far better on a screen than it does through a set of speakers, as Pryor’s hyper-dramatized facial expressions truly bring his jokes to life. His manic mimicry is at its best when he’s joking about his own life, from snorting cocaine in front of grandma to stepping in the ring with Muhammad Ali. Forty years later, Pryor’s classic set holds up.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

As you might have guessed by reading this far, women are depressingly underrepresented both in stand-up comedy as a whole and in Netflix’s library. Reprising her extremely-pregnant role from Baby Cobra, the 2016 Netflix special which shot her to stardom, Wong riffs on the difficulties of pregnancy and parenting with no regard for the stomachs of her audience. “Motherhood is a wack-ass job,” she tells us while primed to pump out kid No. 2 at any second. She’s similarly uninterested in riding the fence of political correctness, addressing questions of race and gender with brutal honesty befitting her high-octane style. Her comedy isn’t for everyone, but it’s undeniably powerful.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

The Standups

This might be cheating, but we couldn’t in good conscience leave The Standups off our list. Rather than a single special from one comedian, this is an episodic show: two six-episode seasons are available to stream: that showcases a new comic for 30 minutes a stretch. Some are better than others, but they’re all worth watching, and they require a significantly shorter time commitment than the majority of our picks here. In particular, the episodes with Kyle Kinane and Aparna Nancherla are highlights of season 2, while Dan Soder stands out in the first season.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

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