Looking for a laugh? For those who don’t know, Netflix has a brilliant series of comedy specials from leading standup comedians, from John Mulaney to Hannah Gadsby, and they’re ready for you to stream on the TV streaming service right now.
Netflix was a forerunner when it came to quality comedy specials, filming the tour dates of high-profile comedians to create high-quality streams for you to enjoy at home. Netflix doesn’t stop there, either, with a mix of behind-the-scenes interviews, snippets of home footage, or meta-theatrical interruptions that could only be achieved onscreen.
While we recommend checking if your favorite comedians have their own special – by searching their name in the streaming service itself – we’ve also got out top picks of comedy specials to have you chuckling, belly-laughing, or gasping in shock as preferred. Read on for our favorite standup comedy specials available on Netflix.
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1. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette standup tour – rumored at the time to be her last – was the stuff of legend, packed with sold out shows and the terrifying prospect of this skilled comedian hanging up the microphone for good.
Gadsby expertly weaves humor from her sexuality and life growing up in Tasmania, all while critiquing the tension-and-release structure of standup, and how the nature of joke-telling twists trauma until it’s unrecognizable. A standup show to end standup shows, Nanette is both gut-bustingly funny and smart enough to teach you a bit about why you’re laughing.
2. Bo Burnham: what. / Make Happy
The eccentric standup of Bo Burnham is not to be missed. Burnham began his career making irreverent YouTube videos, and most recently directed the hit 2018 movie Eight Grade – but it's his standup comedy that really shows him at his best. We’re listing two of his Netflix comedy specials, here, as both are equally worthy of your time.
The first, what., was released in 2013, offering a trippy, semi-musical comedy performance that constantly surprises you with its willingness to go off on a tangent at every opportunity. It features an excellent musical satire of the kind of manufactured pop songs put out by the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction, along with too many peak moments to count.
The second, Make Happy, released in 2016 – exclusively on Netflix – doubles down on the choreographed production design, musical genre takedowns, and audience misdirection that made what. so special.
3. Ali Wong: Baby Cobra
Ali Wong is a brilliantly fierce onstage presence – and no more so than in Baby Cobra, filmed when Wong was seven months pregnant and had plenty of sharp material on the topic ready to go.
Wong delves into pregnancy, modern feminism, and plenty of sex – with the kind of bold delivery and shocking laughs that will ring in your head for days afterwards. You can find her follow-up comedy special, Hard Knock Wife, on Netflix too, along with the romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe.
4. John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch
John Mulaney doesn’t have kids, or much musical talent – so why he made a musical children’s special inspired by the likes of Sesame Street is hard to pin down. Either way, the Sack Lunch Bunch is a brilliantly playful comedy show that’s continually willing to poke fun at itself. (When Mulaney asks one of the child performers their favorite Netflix special, they naturally answer “Nanette”.)
You’ll hear songs ranging from an ode to the humble noodle, to a brash duet on parents not paying enough attention to their kids – with hilariously out-of-place guests including David Byrne and Natasha Lyonne, along with a career-best turn from Jake Gyllenhaal as an underprepared entertainer called the Music Man.
5. Jenny Slate: Stage Fright
Jenny Slate’s standup isn’t just funny – it’s otherworldly. In this hour-long comedy special for Netflix, Slate jokes about paranormal sightings in her childhood home, looking like Anne Frank as a child, and making love to the moon in one beautifully-twisted meditation on the self and way our identity is forged.
It’s very, very weird – but the Netflix format gives us a look behind the scenes too, with interviews with her family and candid moments backstage to show the apparatus behind the fever-pitch humor we get to see onstage.
6. James Acaster: Repertoire
James Acaster is one of the best British comedians working today, and his four-episode Netflix series Repertoire is worth watching in all four parts.
While each hour of standup functions separately, they each carry common themes about identity, the weirdness of words and mannerisms, as well as the joy to be found in treating the absurd with the utmost seriousness.
7. Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter-Life Crisis
Taylor Tomlinson has turned 25, and she’s very aware of it. Her Netflix standup special Quarter-Life Crisis is basically one long hour of expert side-eye, as Tomlinson squarely takes aim at her own life choices in the muddied waters of young adulthood – as well as the divergent paths of those growing up faster than her.
If you like jokes about bad dates, growing up in Texas, and self-deprecation, Quarter-Life Crisis is the Netflix standup special for you. If you’re in your mid-20s, especially, this is an hour of comedy you won’t want to miss.