Laughing—hell, even just smiling—plays such an important part in your life that you might not realize it. Seriously. Sometimes we take it for granted because of how frequently we might be lucky enough to do it, but if we didn’t find a few times a day, a few times a week to really engage and laugh with someone or something, things would feel pretty grim. Well, in 2020, things are already looking pretty grim; that’s why finding ways to laugh, or at least crack a smile are so important. Luckily, we’ve got Netflix, which has made a colossal investment into not only producing its own comedy specials from top-tier talent, but also hosting some old and absolutely classic routines.
From the new—some of these specials have been released within the last year—to the old—Richard Pryor’s Live In Concert was in 1979—Netflix has somehow found a way to cover pretty much all the bases on the comedy chart. And while it’s hard to call something as objective as humor or comedy “the best” or “the worst” or anywhere in between, everyone should be able to find something they enjoy on Netflix, and particularly on this list we’ve cultivated of 20 of our very favorites.
And the best part about all of this? If you’ve got a Netflix subscription (and we know you do), you can stop what you’re doing right now and start any one of these. Feeling like one might be for you? Give it a shot! Don’t like it after 10 minutes or so? Turn it off! That’s your prerogative. Just do it. Go with your gut. You like what you like. But in the meantime, here’s the ones we think you’ll enjoy—and the ones we think you’ll get the most out of.
John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
John Mulaney has three stand-up specials on Netflix, and Kid Gorgeous at Radio City is the most recent one. He’s also got a filmed stage show, an after-school special of sorts (which we’ll get to in a little bit), and several seasons of Big Mouth, the hit animated series where he voices one of the main characters. Mulaney has great material, but where he really gets people on board is in his delivery—he really sells his jokes, and he does it well! Mulaney has the experience of working on SNL in his back pocket, and some of his funniest material comes when crossing paths with superstars like Mick Jagger. And Mulaney doing Jagger is something probably worth seeing in this life. He might just be the best stand-up working right now, and Kid Gorgeous is a great place to start. —Evan Romano
Ali Wong – Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife
Both of Wong’s Netflix specials feature the comic performing pregnant. Like, very pregnant. Both specials find Wong at her raunchy best. Both specials entail such a degree of bodily humor you can almost feel every woman in the audience nodding vigorously in agreement and every man in the audience shifting around uncomfortably. Of course, it would be wrong to corner Wong as a parent comic or an Asian comic; while much of her material in these specials broach both identities, the sets also spiral off into so many other pleasantly awkward corners. Most rewarding, though, is watching the specials back-to-back, as Wong retracts some of her pre-parent remarks for some parental realities. It’s just about as funny and real and uncomfortable as stand-up comedy gets. —Josh St. Clair
Dave Chappelle – 8: 46
One of the all-time greats proved he’s very much still got it with this timely, impromptu half-hour. 8: 46 (which isn’t actually on Netflix, but instead on the streaming network’s ‘Netflix Is A Joke’ YouTube channel) refers to the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck, killing him in May 2020. 8: 46 isn’t gut-bustingly hilarious like some of his others (though it does manage some big laughs between heavy concepts), but mostly proves that he’s still one of our absolute prestige thinkers and cultural voices. —ER
Richard Pryor – Richard Pryor: Live in Concert
A lot of the entries on this list are newer, but it’s important to make sure you’re keeping up with the foundational entries in the genre. There’s a reason why Richard Pryor is cited as an influence by everyone from Chris Rock to Dave Chappelle to John Mulaney. Live in Concert (which Rock calls the “greatest special ever shot) is eternally funny, but it also features Pryor’s musings on things like the police, which sadly remain all too relevant today. —ER
Bo Burnham – what.
Bo Burnham signed his first Comedy Central Records deal when he was 18. The former YouTube star has since transitioned into film and TV and away from stand up comedy. what. is one of Burnham’s last traditional comedy shows—though, “traditional” means almost nothing in a Burnham set. His stage act is composed of original music and what you might call “meta comedy,” or constant reference to himself as a comedian in a performance. The act, however, never feels pretentious. In fact, Burnham is one of the few comedians able to lampoon celebrity, fame, and comedy without inviting the same attention. And he was so tired of himself as a subject that he turned the camera on others and began working in filmmaking. His debut film was Eighth Grade—definitely worth a watch after what. —JS
Ray Romano – Right Here, Around The Corner
In Ray Romano’s first comedy special in 23 years, he takes folks back to the Comedy Cellar and Village Underground in NYC where he used to perform his original stand-up routines, and it’s a sort of homecoming. Shot as if you’re sitting in the front row, Romano relays tales of how his career began, the usual family story (which son is up to what these days?) and just how special it is to come full circle. It’s a joy for his old-school fans, and who knows? Maybe you’ll get a Ray Barone reference thrown in too. —Adrianna Freedman
Middleditch & Schwartz
You’ve probably never seen a longform improv show before, so let two familiar comedians (Parks and Recreation star Ben Schwartz and Silicon Valley‘s Thomas Middleditch) walk you through for the first time. It takes a little bit of time to get acclimated, but once you figure out the way that Schwartz and Middleditch are creating an entire very funny story off the top of their heads, themselves playing every character at the drop of a hat, you’ll really appreciate everything that’s happening in these three hour-long specials. Not only is their craft incredibly impressive, but, more importantly, it’s super funny too. —ER
Tiffany Haddish – Black Mitzvah
Black Mitzvah is a delight, as Haddish regales her hilariously and many times raunchy road to womanhood, ranging from how she got super drunk in Miami to celebrating her Jewish heritage with a religious milestone. And it wouldn’t be Tiffany Haddish without some karaoke and dancing to keep viewers cracking up in their seats. —AF
Patton Oswalt – Annihilation
This special (not related to the sci-fi movie and book of the same name) is Oswalt at his funniest and most raw. While he spends some time on fairly routine politcal humor, Annihilation is at its best when Oswalt tells stories about the greatest drunk fight he’s ever seen, and the last half hour, when he opens up about the personal tragedy of losing his wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara. —ER
Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats
Peretti is best known these days for her role as Gina Linetti on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but her 2014 Netflix special One of the Greats is one of the funniest comedy hours in recent memory. Not only does it include her thoughtful and ‘so funny it’s true’ type jokes on things like dating and modern culture, but it also gets experimental with the format of a ‘comedy special,’ cutting her routine in with segments of her in character, sometimes even as a clown. Peretti was a writer on Parks and Recreation before she was part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and it’s clear that she’s got the comedy chops to eventually have many more entries on lists like this one. —ER
Eric Andre – Legalize Everything
There’s no one in comedy quite like Eric Andre. In his new special Legalize Everything, the comedian brings a hybrid of his outrageous, absurdist persona from The Eric Andre Show and seamlessly mixes it with some stories about smoking weed with his mother and fan encounters, told from what would seem to be his real personality. It’s timely, with very funny takes on the (now-cancelled) TV show Cops, and and more cultural revelations. And as smart as it is at some points, you can’t forget that this is still Eric Andre—so he’ll be taking his clothes off at some point too.
John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch
John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch may have been made by a stand-up, but it’s definitively not stand-up. It is a comedy special, though, and it’s a pretty incredible one. Made in the format of the after-school specials he grew up with Mulaney leads this special with a group of talented kids, merging surrealist songs, routines, and bits for one of the most entertaining and insightful hours you’ll see. Music fans will be delighted when David Byrne makes a guest appearance midway through, and Jake Gyllenhaal continues his delightfully weird streak with a late performance of his own. Check this one out if you’re in the mood to mix things up. —ER
Taylor Tomlinson – Quarter-Life Crisis
Taylor Tomlinson’s comedy style is not overly raunchy, yet her stories about being too old to party yet too young to settle down might make you feel like you’re making a new friend… somewhat. And especially now, with COVID-19 making many social situations feel like things of the past, it’s nice to see someone to make us feel nostalgic for the good old days—four months ago. —AF
Mike Birbiglia – Thank God For Jokes
Mike Birbiglia has a handful of specials available on Netflix, and all of them are worth watching. But Thank God For Jokes might find the comedian at his most thoughtful; he opens the special by dissecting the anatomy of being an early person vs being a late person, and it’s all off to the races from there. Birbiglia has a calm on-stage demeanor that can really be easy to watch for anyone looking to nod their head in agreement and laugh a lot after a stressful day. —ER
Hannah Gadsby – Nanette
Nanette was Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s breakout international moment. And for good reason. The hour-long set feels more like a one-person show than a traditional comedy routine. In it, the comedian says that she’s done with comedy and that she has to retire. Through several personal and highly revelatory stories, Gadsby inches closer to one of the most raw and impactful moments in recent comedic history. Nanette does what so many great works of art only attempt: it widens a viewer’s humanity. —JS
Jack Whitehall – Christmas With My Father
If you’re a fan of British humor, chances are you’ve probably heard of Jack Whitehall. Although he loves to include guests into his comedy, this one is special, since the guest of honor is none other than his father. While telling stories of childhood holiday traditions, he somehow manages to create a Christmas extravaganza, complete with the cast of Queer Eye. And judging from how his father approaches comedy, it’s no wonder that Whitehall grew up to be as hilarious as he is. —AF
Bill Burr – Paper Tiger
Showing up on The Mandalorian isn’t all Bill Burr is up to these days—he’s still one of the biggest stand-ups alive. His latest special Paper Tiger, is a strong portrait of who Burr is today. His jokes at the surface level are coming through the loud Bostonian persona that he puts forward, but his process and thinking is always more thoughtful than you might initially expect.Burr talks about Colin Kaepernick and Stephen Hawking, among others, in Paper Tiger, so dig in and get ready. —ER
Gabriel Iglesias – I’m Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungry
Never one to hold back on food and family jokes, Iglesias takes the time in this special to discuss some of his favorite stories—surviving a death hoax, somehow finding the guts to imbibe a chocolate shake, and his encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus, take a shot every time he mentions something his son did—there’ll be plenty of opportunities for that. —AF
Eddie Murphy – Delirious
Are there any other comedy specials where you can remember the comedian’s outfit off the top of your head? Eddie Murphy is a legend in 2020 for Delirious before he even starts his first joke—if you haven’t heard his jokes yet, you surely have seen this look before. Murphy’s special goes to the limits (and he’s said he regrets some of his punchlines), but Delirious (and Raw, for that matter) are essential viewing in 2020. In the midst of Eddie Murphy’s comeback—he released Dolemite Is My Name and hosted a great SNL episode last year, and has Coming to America 2 and a new stand-up special due out this year—checking in with his classics is a pretty damn good idea. —ER
Adam Sandler – 100% Fresh
Like Murphy and Romano before him on this list, Sandler also made his return to stand-up with a special recorded for Netflix. In a way, you could say that 100% Fresh got Sandler’s renaissance started even before Uncut Gems or his own SNL hosting appearance. Sandler’s special is funny, and his tribute song to Chris Farley is a tear-jerker that will make you laugh, smile, and probably cry, too. —ER
Evan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io