If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission.
These days, we all need to find a way to chuckle here and there. The world is a dark, scary place sometimes, so finding lightness is essential to survival. Whether it’s through a joke book, a funny mug, or, better yet, a Netflix comedy special.
Stand-up comedy is one of the most revered entertainment art forms and for good reason. It’s hard to become a stand-up comedian, let alone a successful one. It’s even harder to get a special on Netflix and develop enough material to fill a full hour of laughs, and yet all of these comics have done it. And they’ve done it very well.
No matter what your sense of humor is or which stand-ups you’ve enjoyed in the past, all of these Netflix comedy specials should be in your Instant Queue. The best comedy specials on Netflix all contribute to the comedic field in a distinct way, combining real-world insights with humor, and making light of things that the rest of us probably take too seriously. These diverse comics are all working toward the same goal — to make us laugh — from radically different angles and unique styles. Some are wholesome, some are raunchy and some you won’t believe you’re laughing at, and yet here we are.
If you’re a comedy nerd or just dipping your toe into this space, pick a few specials from this list to get you going. Each one is absolutely hilarious in its own right, and they’re all available to stream from any device. All you need is a Netflix password. (We see you Netflix moochers… we see you).
Here are the best Netflix comedy specials available to stream right now.
1. Bo Burnham — Inside
This comedy special from the great Bo Burnham was released this past year, and has become one of the most culturally relevant pieces of creative content of our time. Burnham created this comedy special during the COVID-19 shutdown in the backhouse of his home, and it’s one of the most emotionally raw, painfully honest and melancholically hilarious specials I’ve ever seen. It’s a series of filmed skits, songs and structured bits that encapsulate everything this past year has been for so many of us. Burnham has his finger on the pulse more than almost any other comedian of his time, which creates some incredibly dark moments, as well as hilarious commentary you’ll instantly resonate with. This is an absolute must-see, if you only watch one special on this list, let it be this one.
2. Dave Chappelle — The Age of Spin Live at the Hollywood Palladium
If you love stand-up comedy, Dave Chappelle is a must-watch. He’s on the dirtier end of things, sure, but he’s also one of the greats when it comes to comedic timing, style, natural flow and raw talent. You’ll find yourself laughing at things you’d probably be horrified by in other contexts, and his racial commentary provides insight into life as a black man in America.
Sit back, relax and enjoy a master comedian who will certainly go down in history as one of the funniest performers of all time.
3. John Mulaney — Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
Is there any comedian cuter than Saturday Night Live alumni John Mulaney? Not really. He’s just the best. His tone is a perfect balance of self-deprecating, curious, sarcastic and solemn. His matter-of-fact delivery will have your sides stitched by the end of the bit. And the hilarious stories about his childhood? Forget about it.
This is one of the best clips from his latest Netflix stand-up special, Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, where he draws a genius parallel between today’s situation in the White House and a horse loose in a hospital. Take a sneak peek and watch the rest on Netflix, you won’t be sorry.
4. Aziz Ansari — Right Now
Aziz Ansari has been out of the spotlight for a while now after allegations of sexual harassment, but this comedy special, released in 2019, addresses his recent experiences with witty humor and dynamism many audiences will appreciate. He goes after woke culture, family life, the experience of fame and even the #MeToo controversy directly. He sacrifices some potential for self-preservation in service of a larger narrative about what’s important, and it also happens to be quite entertaining.
5. Richard Pryor — Live in Concert
He’s one of the greats for a reason, and his award-winning, infamous 79′ show is available to watch on Netflix. If you’re a comedy aficionado, you should definitely check it out as a seminal piece of work that earned him a nomination for Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics. This was the first film to exclusively focus on a comedy special, so it quite literally laid the groundwork for the rest of the specials on this list. In it he tackles issues of the day, namely racism, and the parallels between his commentary and current news headlines will make you seriously reflect in between laughter fits.
6. Hannah Gadsby — Nanette
This is probably one of the most ingeniously unique anti-comedy specials we’ve ever seen. Hannah Gadsby, a queer Australian comedian takes, apart stand-up comedy as an artform (including her own work) and knits together a special that’s as heartfelt and deep as it is funny. Every joke has a story attached, and you’ll be riveted the whole time.
Tune into her experience in the comedic world as a queer woman and you’ll learn much more about this art form than you’d have ever imagined.
7. Ali Wong — Hard Knock Wife
Ali Wong is truly a one-of-a-kind comedian who’s shattered so many barriers. She performed her first brilliant comedy special, Baby Cobra, while eight months pregnant with her first child, and her second Netflix comedy special delivers even more laughs. We’re not sure if the OG comedy gods would have guessed that a tiny female pregnant comic would’ve been one of the most successful comedians of her day.
Her commentary on child-rearing, marriage, household gender roles and sexuality is all fantastically funny. She’s as raunchy about her own sex life as she is blunt about her experiences as a woman in comedy. She’ll pry your eyes open to what it’s like being a female comic in today’s day and age, and make sure you learn something.
Buckle up and let this one wash over you.
8. Hasan Minhaj — Homecoming King
Hasan Minhaj brings youthful, introspective humor to the issues of immigration, patriotism and immigrant belonging in his comedy special Homecoming King. The Daily Show talent and son of Indian-American immigrants weaves together commentary on his life experiences without hitting the classic talking points of Trump, Muslim bans and events other comedians have covered before. He recounts hilarious tales of childhood and high school, trying to fit in with a “bunch of Ryan Lochte’s” running around, and will give you a fresh perspective on the U.S., racism and the state of affairs for brown-skinned individuals.
6. Chris Rock — Tamborine
Chris Rock’s return to the stand-up stage after years of family raising does not disappoint. He’s gained experience — in raising black children to be prepared for life in America. It’s as honest as it is hilarious, with his signature voice and energy that’s recognizable from anywhere.
His notes about his children and the ending of his marriage reflect a comic who’s grown up, been in the adult world for a while and has a lot to say about it. We’ve watched this comedian evolve and transform through his life and this special creates a new chapter for us all to experience with him.
If you’re a parent, married or experiencing adulthood alongside Chris — you’ll love it.
10. Trevor Noah — Afraid of the Dark
Trevor Noah is a man among boys. This South African’s comedic style and intellect landed him the host’s chair on The Daily Show and the VERY tall task of replacing Emmy-award winning comedian Jon Stewart. He’s pulling it off, and very well we might add.
Three years ago, in an effort to sharpen the blade and keep his stand-up skills in check, he sold out the Beacon Theater in New York City. His special delivers on everything we’ve come to expect from this comedian. It’s smart, witty, the jokes are concisely delivered and his commentary on life in the United States is embarrassingly accurate.
If you want an outsider’s perspective that’s light but powerful, smart but accessible and will have you giggling the whole time — Trevor’s your man.
11. Chelsea Peretti — One of the Greats
This special is from a few years back but holds up very well and is required viewing for anyone who loves good stand-up. Chelsea Peretti establishes herself as a very talented, on-the-pulse female comedian with spot-on societal observations delivered from her relatable POV.
She’s badass, ready for anything and hits all of her marks when it comes to entertaining in a radically honest, hilarious fashion. Sign on for this one if you’re looking to check off one of the greatest female comics of this generation.
12. Neal Brennan — 3 Mics
The style of this honest, deeply emotional and hilarious special is unlike anything else on this list. Neal Brennan was a lesser-known comic who came out of the shadows as the co-creator and co-writer of The Chappelle Show on Comedy Central with Dave Chappelle.
In this special, he switches between mics on stage, each with a different theme. One for one-liners, one for emotional discussion and one for classic stand-up. It’ll keep you on your toes and fill you up by the end with the perfect mix of everything you’re looking for in an hour-long special.
13. Marc Maron — End Times Fun
Marc Maron is the comedian we all need right now to process what the f*#k is happening in the world. His dry, transparent, apocalyptic humor is precisely what we’re all thinking deep down inside, and he explores the human race’s end of days with relatable hilarity. From nuclear warfare to environmental meltdown, he tackles it all, and will leave you feeling a little lighter about our impending doom. It’s worth a watch.
14. Jerry Seinfeld — Jerry Before Seinfeld
No list of stand-up specials would be complete without a hall-of-famer. Jerry Seinfeld has a special up on Netflix right now that’s unlike any other, and will give you a perspective on his life that you’ve never seen before.
Jerry Before Seinfeld explores his childhood, dreams of being a comedian, early family life and rise to fame. It’s everything you want from classic Jerry Seinfeld — it starts with an observation, grows with time and laughter, and you always wind up somewhere great. This time around he’s mixed in some personal stories and reflections from his life looking inward, rather than outward, which makes this special even more worth tuning into.
Check it out if you want to learn the backstory behind one of the GOAT comedians.