While most of the major streaming platforms are steadily bulking up with original content to compete with the red "N" trailblazer, the one edge Netflix has over its rivals is the stand-up comedy special genre. Prominent and up-and-coming comedians alike headline hourlong shows, produced and recorded by Netflix at a stop or few along their scheduled tours. It's an affordable way for Netflix to draw our eyeballs, but the streaming giant churns out so many that it could be hard to decipher which ones are worth the watch (some of them definitely are not.)
From dry wit and hysterical anecdotes to droll societal reflections and comical coping, these are the best Netflix stand-up specials you can stream right now.
Aziz Ansari: Right Now
In his most recent special, Aziz Ansari successfully takes on relevant topics and squeezes all the satire out of them. The comedian begins by tackling the elephant in the room: last year's sexual harassment allegations toward him. He also identifies which of his past jokes don't hold up, which is extremely self-aware and offers laughs at his expense. Right Now showcases his comic growth and maturity, making it a must-watch for Parks and Rec or Master of None fans.
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous
Everything John Mulaney says borders on comic genius, but Kid Gorgeous is as relatable as the former Saturday Night Live writer has ever been. From lunatic lessons in street "smahts," to exposing college as a money-guzzling sham, Mulaney's narratives are ones that kids and adults alike will find hysterical. When you've finished Kid Gorgeous, New In Town and Comeback Kid are right there waiting.
Iliza: Elder Millennial
Iliza Shlesinger is such a comedy fixture on Netflix that, four specials in, she continues to go by just Iliza. In her latest release, she makes staggering social observations on women her age (mid-30s) without isolating her larger audience or deviating from her comedic form. In Elder Millennial, Iliza puts thought into not only what she says on stage, but how she presents the material. Her signature gestures, facial expressions, and impressions will make you wish you were her friend. Confirmed Kills, Freezing Hot and War Paint are available on Netflix, too.
Dave Chappelle: Age of Spin
Dave Chapelle’s return to main-stage comedy after a decade of being a virtual recluse tackles hot-button topics with a prowess that suggests he never left. Released in hand with Deep in the Heart of Texas, Age of Spin covers a disorienting timeline of American scandals through raunchy anecdotes. They amount to the concession that he (and older generations) are a tad out of touch, but should at least attempt to talk it out. Chapelle has since released another set of Netflix specials called Equanimity and The Bird Revelation.
Bo Burnham: Make Happy
If musical satire is your cup of comedic tea, Bo Burnham's Make Happy will satiate your laugh cravings while also making you question your existence (to a healthy degree, of course). It morphs from hilarity into sadness, into thought-provoking, then back to hilarious again. While there are plenty of burst-out laughing moments, there are also some very serious mentions of mental health and depression. Bo hasn’t returned to stand-up since Make Happy, but he recently wrote and directed the excellent coming-of-age film Eighth Grade.
Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats
Simply put, Chelsea Peretti is one of the greats. Her ironic hubris conveys the true intention of her special, which primarily explores the matters of ego and self-esteem. She succeeds in deconstructing the overconfidence modern society instills in certain people, toying with the gratification that she imagines comes with waking up a man. From her meta jokes to ingenius business plans, Peretti’s uninterrupted monologue is comedy gold. You can watch her antics in the NBC series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Birbiglia is what you'd call the "everyman." My Girlfriend's Boyfriend's story revolves around a car accident that makes him reconsider his life, primarily his marriage. Marriage, he decides, is pointless. Which is pretty awkward, considering he's married. He offers a thorough explanation through intelligent arcs about relationships and romance. In a way, the special is a roundabout love letter to his wife. It's wholesome, yet hysterical. Watch Thank God for Jokes, next.
Donald Glover: Weirdo
Modern renaissance man Donald Glover brings his unfair share of talent to Weirdo, his first Netflix special. We get to see a different side of the rapper-writer-actor that no one expected: he's actually quite nerdy and shy. His Home Depot story is arguably iconic (you'll see what we mean when you watch Weirdo for yourself). If the special leaves you wanting more Donald, you can watch Community, Atlanta and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Patton Oswalt: Annihilation
Oscar winner Patton Oswalt strikes a tone with his stories that other comics fail to replicate; perhaps it's his narratives about hope and loss, or contemplative observational skills — either way, Oswalt's attempt to outpace modern madness lands perfectly. Without seeking sympathy, he turns his past grief into comic art. Annihilation delivers hearty laughs with an occasional gut punch, but it's Patton Oswalt at his prime. Talking for Clapping is likewise excellent.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Everything about Nanette is witty, groundbreaking and outright hilarious. Though the Tasmanian comic says 16 minutes into her Netflix debut that she thinks she needs to quit comedy, she delivers an hour-long exploration into the genre's play on stereotypes and tropes through her experience as a lesbian. But she also implicates herself with a bold sincerity every viewer will admire. Sadly, Nanette is Gadsby's only stand-up special, but she currently stars in her own off-Broadway show called Douglas.
Chris Rock: Tambourine
Chris Rock, like Chapelle, returned after a decade-long hiatus from stand-up with new material about what a long career in comedy gets you. In a small venue, Rock deals with fame and what happens when you live a high-profile life. He discusses his past infidelities without turning the comedy special into a therapy session — he is an advocate for the future, but getting there requires airing out the past. Watch his previous 2008 special Kill the Messenger, or any of his four dozen movies.
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
With Ali Wong, you can't go wrong. She presents some of the most brutally honest comedy about parenting, adult friendships and the changes that happen to your body when you're pregnant. Her open dialogue is raunchy, boisterous and painfully relatable. She's a master of gestures (specifically twerking) with witty punchlines to match. Babies can't keep her away from the stage, which is totally fine by us. Baby Cobra is required watching after (or before!)
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.