So I don’t like movies that much, and I’ve run through all of “Orange is the New Black,” “Archer,” “Adventure Time,” “Breaking Bad,” “American Horror Story” (not season 3, I will not), “House of Cards,” “Orphan Black,” “Doctor Who,” and “New Girl.” So I sometimes find myself wanting to watch something for only an hour and also wanting to laugh: Enter Netflix comedy specials.
But sifting through comedy specials sucks. I know I’m almost always going to get 15 minutes in and feel disappointed. I think comedy routines that include stale bits that hinge on gender and race stereotypes are boring and usually offensive-in-a-not-OK-way and I have noooooo idea why comedians use them anymore. And then when I try to Google it, all that usually comes up is lists of specials Netflix has already taken down. Guys, they just took down Julia Sweeney’s “God Said Ha!” WTF!?
That being said, here are the five best comedy specials I’ve found that are on Netflix right now. I didn’t count any that everyone knows are funny or that everyone’s going to watch because the comedian is uber-famous (so no Eddie Murphy, Margaret Cho, Amy Schumer, George Carlin, Aziz Ansari, Louis C.K., etc.), and I have to note that out of 152 available comedy specials, only 17 even include women. Go watch them before it’s too late! Run! Then tell me if you find anything else that’s good, because in these trying times I could always use a good laugh.
Bo Burnham is an online comedy prodigy who got famous on YouTube with comedic songs and has mastered the art of Vine, who got a record deal with Comedy Central at 19 and has recorded two specials at the age of 23 (HE’S FOUR YEARS YOUNGER THAN ME WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE). Burnham does musical comedy and meta-comedy mixed with magic tricks. It gets kind of dark and weird, but when I was done watching it I felt like I had A) been thoroughly entertained and B) gotten real insight into the comedic creative process.
John Mulaney was a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” and now that he’s worked his butt off doing multiple stand-up comedy tours for the last several years, he’s got a new show debuting on FOX in the fall. Congratulations, John Mulaney! He grew up in Chicago at the same time that I was growing up in Chicago, but he has the vocal cadence of a person who grew up in Chicago in the 1930s. His bit about “Law & Order: SVU” is so funny that when I rewatch the special I laugh just knowing it’s coming up.
Moshe Kasher does shows everywhere and runs a podcast called The Champs with Neal Brennan. What charmed me about Kasher in Live in Oakland was his gentle disdain for his audience and sort of everyone (it could be me but I really appreciate people who gently disdain others). He’s neurotic and irritated in a way that reminds me of myself when someone starts defending misogynists in my Facebook feed, which is to say that I watch Live in Oakland when I want to feel vindicated with well-put teasing.
Gary Gulman was a runner-up on “Last Comic Standing” which confuses me because I like his special better than most of the specials the winners of “Last Comic Standing” have recorded. “In This Economy?” is the only special to which I’ve given five stars and it is a genuinely fantastic special for broke people. He operates on absurdist humor — for example, providing a way to evaluate whether or not you’re the ice cream man so that you can tell when you should get your oil changed.
Reggie Watts is one of the stars of “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and has been making music and performing for almost 20 years. I actually found “Why Shit So Crazy?” short on jokes but long on awesome performance, but hell, a lot of people will feel that way about Bo Burnham, too, and Watts’s music is better. He’s the chillest of the comedians on this list and has an understated way of turning conventions on their heads.
What’s your favorite comedy special? Whose tour should I check out? Comment below!