The best stand-up comedy on Netflix (January 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.

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.

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 US 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 non-stop 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, Nanette might very well be the last performance we get from Australian comic Hannah Gadsby, who uses the show to deconstruct the very nature of stand-up comedy and the human experience. 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

Michael Che: ‘Michael Che Matters’

In his hourlong Netflix special, the Saturday Night Live comedian throws you into the most uncomfortable situations and guides you out along a trail of jokes. The sullen face and sharp wit that power Che’s SNL Weekend Update bits are on full display as he tackles racism, gun control, and the confusing theory that evil people from different eras go to the same hell. You know, all of the tough topics we all think about. Che’s subject matter: and his lack of political correctness: is definitely liable to offend some people, but we’d rather see him confront such issues than skirt around them.

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

Aziz Ansari: ‘Buried Alive’

Aziz Ansari’s explosive energy and excellent comedic timing help make this special one of our favorites, and he supplements his natural comedic tendencies with a real dedication to research and writing. Though fans of Parks and Rec know Ansari best as the hyperactive Tom Haverford, his stand-up specials: and his popular scripted Netflix series Master of None: display the diverse writing chops that go along with his natural talent. Whether he’s in the middle of a well-rehearsed monologue or taking quick-witted jabs at the spectators in the front row, he always seems within himself and on top of his game.

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.

Watch it now on:

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

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