In 2017 alone, Netflix has already released more than 20 new comedy specials, with new ones on the way. So where to start? We’ve ranked all the new, 2017 specials from least good to great.
21. Katherine Ryan – “In Trouble”
This Canadian-born, U.K.-based comic has a raunchy reputation across the pond, but her satirical take on a self-absorbed Brit, including obsessive Taylor Swift fans and 25-year-olds in clubs, becomes irritating.
20. Bill Burr – “Walk Your Way Out”
Bill Burr’s tell-it-like-it-is ranting, filmed just a few months before the election, now feels passé. Burr is fed up with actresses complaining about body image standards or fat people demanding salads at McDonald’s, and it’s just yelling with nothing new to say. Comedians higher up on this list have almost identical material, but more thoughtful takes.
19. Jim Gaffigan – “Cinco”
After establishing a niche as yet another father figure, Jim Gaffigan now has as many stand-up specials as children. Ironically for a Netflix special, he jokes about how binge-watching has taken over his life, and compares starting a new show to a blind date. But you might grow tired of his clean comedy around minute 9 of his bit about the seasons.
18. Jo Koy – “Live From Seattle”
Jo Koy is simply a ball of energy. In one routine, he’s so excited to embarrass a woman in the audience when he makes a joke about how women laugh so hard they pee just a little. Those gender observations may not be groundbreaking, but he’s plenty animated enough to make it funny.
17. Trevor Noah – “Afraid of the Dark”
“The Daily Show” host’s latest stand-up special isn’t as political as you might expect. But he shares stories of how, in the wake of a Trump presidency, even white people are asking Noah about moving to South Africa. One highlight is his extended conversation between a native of India and the first British colonizer.
16. Norm MacDonald – “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery”
Norm MacDonald’s latest stand-up special starts already in progress, as though he were an old man aimlessly rambling to no one in particular. But in a good way! His cranky, meandering observations are secretly genius. Why aren’t the 14 people who have been to the moon famous, but “a girl with a big ass” is? Or why does the “I” in “I.D.” stand for “I” and the “D” for “dentification?”
15. Amy Schumer – “The Leather Special”
Internet trolls targeted “The Leather Special” to make it seem like fans didn’t like it. This special isn’t bad at all, but it also isn’t Schumer’s best work. She’s at the peak of her fame, and her comedy is largely about her star power, which isn’t always relatable. Then again, her fame led to a great routine about meeting and dating Bradley Cooper.
14. The Lucas Bros. – “On Drugs”
Pro tip courtesy of The Lucas Bros.: Don’t do ‘shrooms with a guy who looks like you. Cheech and Chong have been replaced by two twin “brothers” who do a lot of drugs. And high or not, good luck telling the two of them apart. Their material ranges from “juicy” O.J. Simpson puns to a hilarious two-way phone call between Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley about “Space Jam.”
13. Gad Elmaleh – “Gad Gone Wild”
Gad Elmaleh has been called the Jerry Seinfeld of France thanks to his clean, observational comedy. He gets big laughs in front of a Montreal crowd (with much of his material in French) poking fun at Americans for not even understanding the rules of their own language. We don’t even know where to put the emphasis in “emphasis.” Is it “EM-pha-sis,” “em-PHAS-sis” or “em-pha-SIS?”
12. Tracy Morgan – “Staying Alive”
Even God knew Tracy Morgan would be back. After getting hit by a WalMart truck and surviving a coma, Morgan saw the light but joked that God wouldn’t let him die early because he wasn’t good enough for it to be tragic. As for WalMart, Morgan says he still shopped there in his wheelchair. “After my settlement, everything went up one penny.” Morgan manages to maintain good will, commenting on how his condition affected his family, his marriage and his sexual urges.
11. Jim Norton – “Mouthful of Shame”
Jim Norton has made an art form of cringe-worthy, dirtbag humor. He delves into an awkward sexual encounter with a famous porn star and a Tinder conversation that ended badly, and even prods a woman in the audience about the sordid details of walking in on her parents having sex. His comments about transgender women may be his most boundary-pushing.
10. Jen Kirkman – “Just Keep Livin?”
The title of Jen Kirkman’s “Just Keep Livin?” comes from an unfortunate tattoo she got referencing Matthew McConaughey’s catchphrase. Kirtman is very skilled at elaborate storytelling that builds to a punchline. She’s similar to Mike Birbiglia in ways, but more comfortable with her high-strung, hypochondriac eccentricities. She weaves subtle messages into her routines, including a killer closer about street harassment.
9. Dave Chappelle – “Deep in the Heart of Texas”
This is the less great of Dave Chappelle’s two new stand-up specials, but he’s still Dave Chapelle. He casually addresses thorny moments, including getting hit with a banana peel on stage and holding the future of four white boys in his hands after they deployed the N-word. He’s been called out, though, for transgender jokes that some viewers found more insulting than funny.
8. Maria Bamford – “Old Baby”
Maria Bamford’s erratic, scatterbrained comedy has always been an acquired taste, but her latest special proves she’s a manic genius. “Old Baby” earns points for its unique structure alone, in which Bamford performs her hour to increasingly larger crowds, starting with just herself in the mirror, even intercutting to her awkwardly selling merchandise. Bamford’s million voices are all in the service of tragicomedy bits that navigate the perils of sex, therapy and show business, culminating in performing a dark role-play as her own mother.
7. Hasan Minhaj – “Homecoming King”
Fresh off killing it at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Hasan Minhaj moves away from political jabs against President Trump and devotes the bulk of his special to a highly personal autobiographical tale about his prom. Minhaj zips around his extravagant stage and the cameras make him seem like a rock star. And through a few bombshell storytelling twists, he makes his own embarrassing high school days a teachable moment about racism in America.
6. Mike Birbiglia – “Thank God For Jokes”
No one is better at constructing hilarious, personal, soul-searching monologues of insecurity and Catholic guilt than Mike Birbiglia. In “Thank God for Jokes,” he transports you back to one of his most uncomfortable moments, roasting David O. Russell in front of the Gotham Awards crowds. But he goes deeper by exploring the idea of jokes themselves.
5. Louis C.K. – “2017”
Louis C.K. is at a point in his career when he can walk on stage and immediately start talking about abortion. Between that and a routine about how Christianity has “won” among religions, it feels designed to generate enraged trigger warning think pieces, but he’s smart enough that he can deflect and show dimension and ordinary-dude perspective to any argument. Though you may just enjoy him playing a game of sexual “chicken” with Matthew McConaughey and “Magic Mike.”
4. Sarah Silverman – “A Speck of Dust”
Sarah Silverman has always been great at making light of her own hypocrisies and insecurities. But one of Silverman’s strengths above someone like Amy Schumer is her ability to get deep and real in a moment, then pull the wool out from underneath us with a brilliantly unexpected and crass gag. She leads the audience to believe she’s telling harrowing stories about rape, abortion and a near-death experience, but Silverman always finds the gross silver lining.
3. Cristela Alonzo – “Lower Classy”
Cristela Alonzo has the congeniality, physical humor and occasional foul mouth of a Melissa McCarthy. She kills it when she cry-sings Sarah Mclachlan’s sad dog song while pantomiming shaving her armpits in the shower. But her best humor draws from her Mexican-American heritage — and how it even affected her fourth-grade fantasy of meeting New Kids on the Block.
2. Neal Brennan – “3 Mics”
Most comedians excel at just one style of comedy. Neal Brennan aces three. At one microphone he delivers irreverent one-liners about how neck tattoos are the universal sign that you’re fine with the minimum wage. At a second, he waltzes through more traditional, topical stand up about Catholicism and having interracial sex until all races merge into one. (“It starts tonight, and I call Asians”). At the third mic, he’s self-reflective, talking about depression, his father’s neglect and, as a co-creator of “The Chappelle Show,” living in Dave’s shadow.
1. Dave Chappelle – “The Age of Spin”
Dave Chappelle has a hysterical habit of stumbling backwards and smacking his mic against his leg as he laughs at his own jokes. In this case, though, he’s laughing at both the hardships of the world and his own strange experiences, including four incredible encounters with O.J. Simpson. He makes some of the sharpest observations in comedy, including that Harambe got more sympathy than countless young African-American men killed by police. This special shows why he’s one of the all-time greats.