Going out on a limb here, you could probably use a good laugh. Fortunately, a lot of the best stand-up comedy is more than just silly stuff. Today’s most popular stand-up comedians have expanded their vision to become more like camp counsellors and philosophers who can also tell a mean fart joke and make you laugh out loud. Fortunately, it’s fairly obvious where to turn for The Funny these days because no streaming service has invested in stand-up quite like Netflix. Forget the world and stream some acerbic humour because we’re listing the Top 25.
1. Richard Pryor, Live in Concert
Length: 78 minutes
Rock’s spiritual predecessor is also on Netflix—a legendary standup where, 40 years earlier, Pryor broke down his experiences as a black father, the absurdity of American policing, and a host of other raw topics. It’s no wonder Eddie Murphy considered it the single greatest stand-up comedy routine captured on film and why it influenced hundreds of comedians who followed. Pryor was bold enough to do what had never been done before: release a movie in theatres that consisted solely of his stand-up. The result is an uproarious hour delivered with his unmatched manic expertise. It’s a must-watch (and must-rewatch) for comedy fans and truly one of the best comedy specials of all time.
2. Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
Length: 64 minutes
Two years after busting through with Baby Cobra, Wong did it again, rocking the stage with a prodigious pregnancy belly and a fiery attitude. The follow-up to a hit special can be a highwire act, but Wong makes it look effortless. It’s a stellar performance filled with aggressively honest observations about motherhood and the grotesque expectations we place on women. It’s also a kind of op-ed for treating all mothers better that happens to be uproarious and shocking. Wong’s performance is balletic. She puts her whole body into it, but her absolute best feature is the ability to perceive with pinpoint accuracy how absurd so many things we consider “normal” really are. That and channelling the desire to collect checks in her pyjamas by voicing a piece of tofu for Pixar.
3. Sarah Silverman, A Speck of Dust
Length: 71 minutes
In typical Sarah Silverman fashion, this is simultaneously her filthiest and most heartfelt. Not only does it feature her coolly telling jokes that bring about profound shame and belly laughs, but it also offers an origin story for her comedic superpowers, which involve serial bedwetting, sleepaway camp, and her dad gifting her two raunchy joke books the year she learned to read. The next time someone tells you that comedians just can’t say anything taboo anymore because of the PC Police, sit them down with a giant tub of popcorn and press play on the story Silverman tells about her sister’s freshman year at college. Then, watch the rest after they’ve recovered.
4. Daniel Sloss, Jigsaw
Length: 60 minutes
When he was a little kid, Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss got a powerful lesson from his father about life, the universe, and everything. The rest of the special is a banger, but the heart of the hour is his explanation of the Jigsaw analogy for finding love—and the explanation for why he’ll probably die (happily) alone. Sloss manages to spin a self-help guru truism into something gracious and awkwardly funny, splitting the audience between those laughing and those who will probably break up within a few months or hours. In fact, Sloss openly credits his Netflix special as directly leading to hundreds of breakups and divorces. Don’t be sad, though. The point is that sometimes those splits are for the best.
5. Jim Jefferies, Bare
Length: 76 minutes
There are few comics who get away with saying anything they want quite like Jefferies. The bombastic Australian went for everyone’s jugular in this special with an impish “telling it like it is” glee. Beyond offering excruciating detail about his dating life and his appreciation of certain uncomfortable sex acts, he went long on the absurdity of how America deals with its epidemic of gun violence. That’s why you see clips of this special crop up in regular rotation. Jefferies expounds on Australia’s gun ban and skewers gun culture in the United States in an extended bit that remains sadly relevant.
6.Trevor Noah, I Wish You Would
Length: 60 minutes
Noah absolutely explodes on the stage in this energetic special. Shifting away from The Daily Show, Noah proves again to be a powerhouse of observational comedy, narrowing his eyebrows at the abject stupidity of political figures, bigots, and life’s tiny absurdities. As with his book Born a Crime, Noah riffs on his upbringing as the child of a Xhosa woman and a Swiss man. He also unsurprisingly hammers the American government and its various sex pests, trotting out a shocking amount of incredibly good impressions. It’s a Jim Carrey-esque side to Noah that hasn’t really been seen until I Wish You Would, and Noah emerges from the event as a rock star of comedy.
7. Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King
Length: 72 minutes
Homecoming King is very much an extension of his politically charged show, Patriot Act. Yes, he sets the jokes up and knocks them down, but Minhaj shines more as a storyteller, especially here with American flags projected on big screens behind him. This is a special about growing up as a second-generation Indian Muslim immigrant, mocking and celebrating the differences he noted between him and his father after 9/11. The political gets merged with the personal, and Minhaj masterfully navigates both with his gigantic eyes and freewheeling energy. Unlike other specials, the camera work here follows Minhaj, letting him directly address the home viewer as much as the theatre audience, creating a remarkably intimate tone for an intimate series of topics.
8. Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From The Hood To Hollywood!
Length: 65 minutes
The multitalented Tiffany Haddish makes headlines for collaborating with Snoop and Lil Wayne, but her bread and butter is still funny as hell. And sometimes, when we are extra lucky, she even does so during stand-up gigs. This particular entry is full of raunch and verve while Haddish tells anecdotes about her rise in the entertainment industry.
9. Patton Oswalt, Annihilation
Length: 66 minutes
Annihilation is really two specials in one. The first is a whip-smart, ludicrous routine about politics and the bizarre wonders of everyday life. The second is a reflection on losing your soul mate. Written, polished, and performed in the year after his first wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara, died, his stand-up is a magnum opus to the early phases of profound grief. The same Patton that lovingly mocks Star Wars is still around, but he’s angrier and messier, pushing through a lot of darkness to find his own weird version of the light. The special feels like someone who’s returning to what he knows best to find some stable ground and using that foundation to build something new.
10. Hannibal Buress, Comedy Camisado
Length: 67 minutes
Buress stands alone. No one else finds the same simple surrealness in life or delivers it with his detached, jovial irritation. His down-to-earth vibe comes cleanly through in this masterful special, where he essentially delivers a fireside chat about weird interactions he’s lived through—from a police officer going full fanboy in a crummy airport to the nuisance of having to show ID as someone in his 30s. Buress’s comedic gift is finding a punchline on top of the first punchline. He fills all the nooks and crannies with extra little gags and deadpan additions that keep the laughter flowing. Comedy Camisado is like inviting your funniest friend into your home to hang for a bit.