The best stand-up comedy specials on Netflix

Laugh until it hurts with 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 British music halls of the 19th century. From Mark Twain to Kevin Hart, 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, check out the comedies on our list of Netflix’s best movies. If none of this piques your interest, check out this month’s new Netflix additions.

Jerry Seinfeld– Jerry Before Seinfeld

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 special is a return to his comedy roots. Jerry Before Seinfeld explores the 63-year-old’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 makes Che’s Weekend Update bits on SNL viral gold 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 stand-up comedy and action films have nothing in common never watched Kevin Hart’s latest special. The first 15 minutes of Hart’s 2016 performance has 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

Mike Birbiglia — My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

Mike Birbiglia My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

While some comics depend on raunchy or ridiculous subject matter, Mike Birbiglia thrives on the ordinary. Nearly all of his material — whether true or not — stems from everyday situations that we’ve all experienced at some point. This particular show is full of stories about past relationships that would be depressing if Birbiglia wasn’t the one telling them. Predictably, each of these doomed relationships plays out as a preamble to the one he now shares with his wife, Jen Stein. Birbiglia’s casual demeanor imbues the performance with a sense of authenticity, as if he actually has no idea how he gets into these situations. The show flows so naturally that, at times, you feel like you’re just listening to a story from a friend at a cocktail party.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Neal Brennan — 3 Mics

If you were a fan of Chappelle’s Show  — and who wasn’t? — you’re probably a Neal Brennan fan, even if you didn’t know it. Brennan, who worked on the show as both a writer and producer, is best known as Chappelle’s creative co-pilot, but he’s also more than capable behind the microphone. The aptly named 3 Mics sees the comic alternating between three separate styles of performance. At the first mic, Brennan reads one-liners off of cue cards. At the second mic, he tells sincere stories about his life and his insecurities, temporarily abandoning comedy to give the show a sense of weight and authenticity. At the third mic, he performs traditional stand-up, with long builds in story form. In doing so, Brennan manages to make you feel for him, creating a sense of authenticity that’s often missing from comedy shows. Plus, he’s really funny.

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 definitely funny for the drumming impaired, thanks to Fred’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 pre-show 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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