Your favorite TV show may one day vanish from Netflix as quickly as you binge-watched it, but the service’s inventory of stand-up comedy specials has been consistently robust. Trevor Noah impersonating President Barack Obama in a music video in Afraid of the Dark is right next to Bill Burr poking fun at European obesity on Paper Tiger, which isn’t far from Kevin Hart opening his What Now? special as a spy fighting duo with Halle Berry.
All of that is in an impressively comprehensive collection of stand-ups that Netflix has gone to great lengths to build. Their big idea is to invest in quality content users can’t turn away from. And they’ve certainly put up the cash to do so. The streaming giant reportedly paid Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock a combined $100 million for just a handful of specials. Between the two of them, Tiffany Haddish and Katt Williams managed to land a respectable seven Netflix specials. You get it yet? You could spend hours on a loop of just those shows and hear anything from Drake’s dad being compared to a “Black Inspector Gadget” on Haddish’s Black Mitzvah to Williams likening President Donald Trump to a pothead on Great America. The jokes have range. Just saying.
There’s something for everyone, which can be a gift and a curse. At times, that dilemma of choice can feel like a lot for any one person to sift through. But don’t worry, Global Grind took the time to go through Netflix’s comedy library to bring you the 15 funniest stand-up specials for you to binge.
14. Deon Cole – Cole Hearted
For a little over an hour, Black-ish costar Deon Cole takes you through his warped thoughts on disappointing threesomes, male bonding over ass appreciation, and how weight can prevent people from being kidnapped. Cole Hearted is the perfect title for a comedy special in which ridiculous views on Black people’s limited seafood palette are delivered with heartfelt temerity like your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving. You come for the unapologetically Black analysis of life, but you stay for Cole’s unique brand of Arby’s conspiracy theories that will surely leave you rethinking life as you know it.
13. Michelle Buteau – Welcome to Buteaupia
Beyoncé comparisons and diaper explosions share a cozy space in the comedic mind of Michelle Buteau on her special Welcome To Buteaupia. Don’t let her adorable freckles and cartoonish facial expressions fool you, The First Wives Club star can recall telling Jennifer Lopez she’s had sex with the entire zodiac calendar, and healing someone from post-traumatic stress disorder with her breasts with the sweetness of a mother telling her child a knock-knock joke. It’s the way she makes her far-out thoughts hit close to home that makes Welcome to Buteaupia a must-watch.
12. Sam Jay – 3 In The Morning
If Sam Jay isn’t on your radar, 3 In The Morning will feel like a vulgar missile coming at you at the speed of nonstop wit. The Saturday Night Live staff writer’s first comedy special shatters conventional wisdom on everything from Elon Musk’s villainously suspicious space travel to her own sexuality. Having an uncle constantly asking her if she’s still a lesbian, using chivalry against toxic masculinity, and looking the same as the man to whom she lost her virginity are just pieces of the satirical avalanche she dumps on you over the course of an hour.
11. Leslie Jones – Time Machine
Leslie Jones was the funniest person in every SNL sketch she was in during her five-year tenure, and her first stand-up special since leaving in 2019 is a reminder of that and more. In Time Machine, the 53-year-old comedian tackles the subject of age head-on, advising women in their 20s to stop looking for Prince Charming when they reach their 30s, and comparing the vaginal changes that come with aging to an angel turning into a fire-breathing dragon.
10. Michael Che- Michael Che Matters
Saturday Night Live star and co-head writer Michael Che’s deadpan delivery of the most uproarious jokes usually has the comedian walking the fine line between offensive and hilarious. Michael Che Matters turns that sliver of a space into a punch line with his quips about America’s remembrance of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and the absurdity of “Black Lives Matter” being a controversial statement.
9. Ali Wong – Baby Cobra
Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra is the difference between a gimmick and a statement. The comic performs this raunchy special while in the third trimester of her pregnancy, so when she rips into society’s low expectations for fathers compared to mothers, it adds a level of profundity to the humor that keeps you hooked for the entire hour. Baby Cobra launched Wong’s career into the stratosphere and led to a career-shifting role in Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe, so don’t wait to dive into the show that created the next comedy star.
8. Tiffany Haddish – She Ready
If you’ve ever heard Tiffany Haddish yell, “She ready,” just know you better be too, or the realness of her humor could catch you off guard. Only an irreverent mind like Haddish’s could suggest cremating her dead uncle and putting him in a sandwich bag because he enjoyed sandwiches, or thinking an abusive partner loves her because they purchased her a Sleep Number mattress. Her psychotic breaks, foster home upbringing, and homelessness are all made fun of onstage, which the entertainer calls her safe space. She Ready is the funniest therapy session you may ever watch.
7. John Leguizamo – Latin History for Morons
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons will undoubtedly be the most amusing history lesson you’ve ever sat through. In this quirky hybrid of stand-up comedy and Broadway theatrics, Leguizamo, a “self-professed ghetto scholar,” uses the Kardashians’ love of NBA players to explain how the sexual conquests of White European conquistadors of the 1500s led to Latin people’s muddled genealogy. Gasps of shocks aren’t far behind bouts of uncontrollable laugher as the pain of Latin historical erasure is delivered in easy-to-digest doses.
6. Wanda Sykes – Not Normal
The opioid epidemic, the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, and racism are not laughing matters —unless you’re watching Wanda Sykes’ Not Normal. The veteran comedian (she has been in the business for more than 30 years) used her 2019 special to put how abnormal the world really is right in your face. Is it normal for a comic to feel smarter than the President of the United States? Is it normal for Black people to chastise their kids for playing? Is it normal for a presidency to be so stressful that it ages the American people? Sykes knows the answers to these questions, and for 66 minutes she’ll have you fighting back tears of laughter as she explains the world.
5. Chris Rock – Tamborine
The best satire is often the ones in which comedians distill the complexities of life through punch lines so relatable they sound like they’re revealing your inner thoughts. Chris Rock’s Netflix stand-up debut, Tamborine, is a master class in laughing through the pain as he explores punching young Black boys to prepare them for the world, the pitfalls of marriage, and why the “bad apples” argument for racist policing wouldn’t fly in other life or death professions such as airline pilot. Released more than 20 years after Rock’s televised stand-up debut on HBO, Tamborine is proof that one of the sharpest comedic minds of all time can still cut deep.
4. Kat Williams – Pimp Chronicles Pt. 1
At one point in time, Katt Williams was the king of comedy, and his 2006 special Pimp Chronicles Pt. 1 started the coronation. After kicking off the special with a smoke session in the back of Snoop Dogg’s Cadillac as he advises the comic to channel greats like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, Williams is a torrential comedic storm that leaves no celebrity untouched and every audience member fighting for breath. Whitney Houston smoking her knee caps, Michael Jackson forgetting he was a Black man, and Martha Stewart going to prison all fall victim to Williams’ brand of absurdism.
3. Eddie Murphy – Delirious
There was no comedian bigger than Eddie Murphy in the 1980s, and his first-ever stand up special Delirious was a no-holds-barred reminder of that fact. Decked out in a red leather jumpsuit and gold chains like a member of New Edition, Murphy spent 70 minutes ripping into any and everything people hold dear like a man deliriously drunk with stardom. He tells Stevie Wonder to shut the fuck up, complains about James Brown’s incomprehensible singing, and even impersonates Michael Jackson as an emotional wreck lacking masculinity. The show begins with homophobic generalizations about gay people transmitting AIDS through kissing that are outdated, so proceed with caution.
2. Dave Chappelle – Sticks & Stones
Dave Chappelle is incontrovertibly the most important living comedian, and Sticks & Stones is some of his finest work. How many other comics can tell their son they would probably get shot in a school shooting and jokingly equate a man’s right to abandon his child with a woman’s right to abortion, and have you surprised at how funny you find it? That’s the appeal of Emmy Award-winning stand-up: Finding the humor in the uncomfortable truths of reality. His commentary on the LGBT community is cringe-worthy and tone-deaf, but this is some of the best comedy you’ll see on Netflix.
1. Richard Pryor – Live in Concert
You can ask Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and almost any Black comedian who has made you laugh and they’ll tell you Richard Pryor is the prototype. The wisecracking icon’s 1979 stand-up special Live In Concert is truly a timeless example of comedic brilliance with jokes about lethal police strangleholds being brushed away by police as part of the job still ring true today following the gruesome deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner. If you want to see where your favorite Black comedians got their style from, spend the next 78 minutes with one of Pryor’s best stand-up specials ever.