Stand-up comedy has reached new heights with help from Netflix. The streaming platform even has an entire Instagram, @netflixisajoke, dedicated to promoting their endless comedy series and specials. Not sure where to start? Check out the following comedians, each with a unique style to suit you. Watch to laugh, or just so you can start catching your friend's constant references to well-known comedy routines in casual conversation. Either way, there's a comedian who you'll soon find yourself Youtube–stalking, whether it's their sets from the early 2000s or their work on your favorite current comedy shows.
For: a part–tragic, fully–comic display of dark wit
Neal Brennan: 3 Mics (2017)
This one–man show has three mics on stage—one for deadpan one–liners, one for traditional stand–up, and one for a vulnerable discussion on mental health. Neal Brennan, in his laid-back, wise–cracking style, will make you laugh with his key to ending racism (spoiler: it’s “fucking”) and then make you cry with his heart–breaking account of his relationship with his father. His ability to juggle the weight of his emotional insights with his dark comedy shows us how tragedy and comedy intersect, rather than being opposing genres. In the special, he explains, “Things can be overwhelming and scary and hurtful, but thankfully my brain can descramble things… and form a joke.” And his are absolutely hilarious.
For: observational humor embedded in a quirky, slightly surreal experience
Anyone who’s seen Chelsea Peretti’s character in the cop–comedy series Brooklyn Nine–Nine can expect a similar display of dry, sardonic humor in her unique stand–up special. She cuts to the chase with her observational jokes, often avoiding transitions between bits altogether. Such jumps between varying subject matter, however, are awkward pauses that her quirky personality leans into. She’s not here to let you get settled in, she’s here to stir shit up while staying low–key about it. Case in point: “If you really want to piss off a really hot girl, like a model–hot girl,” she says, “Go into her social media, find a photo where she just looks smoking hot—and you’re just a regular girl—go into her comments and say, ‘People say I look just like you.’”
For: feel–good, self–deprecating humor
It’s hard not to be immediately hooked on John Mulaney’s brand of feel–good, self–deprecating humor. While his latest special, Kid Gorgeous, won an Emmy this past year, his earlier specials deserve equal attention. His witty, anecdotal style hasn’t changed much over the years, but his delivery is noticeably more toned–down when he’s not trying to physically cover ground at Radio City’s massive venue. Mulaney structures his comedy around a stockpile of relatable stories from his life, which he vividly narrates with light–hearted enthusiasm and dry self–awareness. He highlights the humor in the everyday, skirting dark and emotional material and avoiding digging too deep into political issues—his entire bit about our current president in Kid Gorgeous never even mentions him by name. He comes off as so wholesome that it’s hard to believe that, according to his hilarious accounts, he used to be quite the partier.
For: anyone who knows the struggle of pooping in a public bathroom
Strutting around stage in an animal–print bodycon dress and a third–trimester baby bump, Ali Wong radiates comedy in her mere physical presence. Her appearance works perfectly to underscore her pregnant lady sass (yes, she’s pregnant in both specials) and the bodily humor she enjoys so much. Whether she’s comparing breastfeeding to parallel parking or describing sex with her hairless husband as “making love to a dolphin”, her jokes will appeal to anyone, pregnant or not, who’s not afraid to laugh at a fart joke. In every vividly–narrated story, she’s brutally honest, explosively passionate, and intimately relatable. Just be prepared for nearly an entire minute of her just making queefing sounds into a mic.
For: a heartfelt and hilarious account on growing up as a child of immigrants
Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (2017)
As a child of immigrants, Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King struck a particularly emotional chord with me—he had me crying of laughter to crying actual tears in the span of a single punchline, multiple times. But no matter your background, his wide–eyed enthusiasm is immediately contagious and his sharp perspective will have anyone struck by his wit. He’s not performing jokes just for a laugh—they’re also teaching moments. In every struggle he describes—from not knowing about a baby sister for years to being rejected by his prom date’s family—a shared sense of triumph accompanies the well–deserved laughs that he pulls from the audience. By the time his closing remarks roll around, not only will your abs feel sore from laughing so hard, you’ll also walk away with a deepened sense of empathy.
For: dirty British humor that will shock you into laughter
Jimmy Carr: Funny Business (2016)
Jimmy Carr will, at times, make you feel bad for laughing. But it’s impossible not to—he loves to push his R–rated jokes one step further, taking your average dirty joke and then right when you think you know where he’s going, flip it on its head and make it worse (or better, depending on how you see it). His crass punchlines are as initially off–putting as his resemblance to Goosebump’s Slappy the Dummy, and his deadpan delivery only amps up the shock factor of his punchlines. What makes you stick around is the fascinating display of Carr’s incredibly fast wit and impressive improv ability, both of which shine especially in his hilarious exchanges with audience members. My final warning to you is that he’s a quintessentially British performer—get ready for a barrage of “cunt”s, “wank”s, and “finger–blasting”s like you’ve never heard before.
Can't get enough? Here are some other equally hilarious options:
Ellen Degeneres: Relatable (2018)
Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia (2018)
Katherine Ryan: In Trouble (2017)
Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust (2017)