The world is not a fun place right now with what feels like uncertainty and bad news at every turn. It’s safe to say that now more than ever we could use some laughs, so we turned to the experts and asked a bunch of stand-up comedians to recommend their favourite stand-up comedy specials of all time.
My favourite stand-up special is available free of cost on YouTube, it’s Doug Stanhope’s Before Turning the Gun on Himself. As a comedian, he’s my idol. He’s not in the market place or managed by any agency and doesn’t gig often but he’s been doing stand-up for 30-35 years. He has a cultish following and I’m part of that cult because he’s hilarious and the last twenty minutes of this special are so poetic because he says everything he needs to about being an artist and the art form in a very unique way.
Bridget Christie: Stand Up for Her on Netflix – Christie’s special is criminally underrated, and I urge everyone to see it as soon as they can. In the special, she breaks down sexism, the politics of gender and equality. And she does it with the sharpest, wittiest humour and is thought-provoking at the same time. With the unfortunate gender-based violence that has seen an upswing during the lockdown, I think we should all just pause and watch this special. It will give you so much perspective that you may feel you’re missing. If you enjoyed Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, make sure you watch Christie kill it in Stand Up for Her.
Chris Rock: Bring The Pain has one of my favourite comedy bits and I highly recommend it. Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady is also a really funny special. What I like about her is she gives a different perspective to a lot of things we’ve all already spoken about. It’s also nice to have another comedian who has an annoying voice, but obviously she’s way more successful than I am.
Brian Regan – I Walked On The Moon has one of the funniest premises I’ve ever seen. I was listening to it once while I was on the treadmill and I almost fell off laughing. I don’t think I’ve laughed that much at a special in a long time. Also Maria Bamford: Plan B. I think she’s so unique and it takes a while to understand what she’s trying to do but the voices and transitions she does, I haven’t seen anything like it.
Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill – an absolute timeless gem from my favourite comedian in the world. It’s from the 1990s, but you’d barely know it because the material is just timeless gold.
Bill Burr: Paper Tiger on Netflix – my favourite from the last year. I’ve always been a fan of Bill Burr, but he really took it up a notch with his opening half-hour this time. Watch at your own peril if you’re easily offended.
Jim Jefferies: Fully Functional – it’s 8 years old, but Jefferies’ airplane armrest bits is one of my favourites and this special is worth it for that one bit alone. He’s offensive, unapologetic and a genius storyteller. Watch everything else he has on Netflix as well.
My favourite specials are Repertoire by James Acaster because it’s four specials in one and each one has world-class writing and performance elements. He’s probably my favourite comic alive right now. Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is another one, for obvious reasons. Just a landmark achievement in stand-up comedy. Paula Poundstone’s Cats, Cops and Stuff is a beautiful example of traditional stand-up comedy and crowd work, killer jokes and nothing else. Also anything by Mitch Hedberg.
My recommendation would be Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust on Netflix. Her comedy is effortless, endearing and free-flowing. Even though she is addressing a room full of people, it still feels like she is talking to you alone. What I enjoyed the most is the way she deals with sad truths and discusses sensitive matters without offending anyone.
Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh on Netflix – I love this show so much because it’s surprising and fresh at every moment. It’s shot across several shows and masterfully edited.
Judah Friedlander: America is the Greatest Country in the United States on Netflix – Another special shot over multiple gigs at Comedy Cellar, New York. It’s 80 plus mins of relentless crowd work and jokes.
Zoë Coombs Marr: Bossy Bottom on Amazon Prime Video – very funny and very experimental. I saw it live at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and laughed again at every joke while watching it on Prime.
Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America on Netflix is classic comedy and observations but so so funny. Also Michelle Wolf: Joke Show on Netflix which is funny and plain aspirational.
Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend on Netflix, definitely check that out. Bill Burr: Paper Tiger is also a big one. All of Jaspal Bhatti’s Flop Show is on YouTube so check that out as well. Wherever you can find it, Richard Pryer Live On The Sunset Strip is probably the greatest comedy special of all time. Also Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here.
Pete Holmes: Faces And Sounds – I love his style and his facial expressions especially his instant ability to be stupid and relish it.
Paula Poundstone: Cats, Cops and Stuff
Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust on Netflix
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous on Netflix