With the announcement of upcoming original stand up comedy specials from Bill Cosby, Bill Burr, Chelsea Handler, and Chelsea Peretti, Netflix is poised to take charge of the comedian’s coveted “hour.” The stand up comedy “hour” is what you strive for as a comic, your whole act top to bottom caught on film. And with Netflix taking the reigns, these specials will be now be available anytime, and hopefully find a larger audience than three open-mic comics taking bong rips at 1am on a Saturday night.
Here are just a few (there are many, many more) of the funniest hours available for streaming on Netflix right now.
P.S. I’m not going to rank them, because ranking comedy is not a thing. It’s subjective. That’s why it’s great.
George Carlin - “Complaints and Grievances”
Carlin, who is widely considered to be the greatest stand up comedian of all-time (calm down Pryor fans, we’ll get there), has over ten specials available on Netflix right now. And they are all very good. Complaints and Grievances (2001) makes my list because it was one of the very first George Carlin specials I ever saw and it contains one of my favorite lines that I still quote today if I ever come across a guy named “Tucker.“
Louis CK - “Chewed Up”
If you haven’t been following the comedy of Louis CK over the last decade, then you are missing one of the most talented (he writes, directs, edits, and stars in the FX show, Louie) comedians of all time in the prime of his career. Like Carlin, he has multiple specials on Netflix and I suggest watching them all, but Chewed Up is the hour that put him over the top.
John Mulaney - “New In Town”
Ex-SNL writer and star of the sitcom “Mulaney” which begins on October 5th on Fox, John Mulaney is fairly young in comedy years (only 32), but is already responsible for one of my favorite stand up specials. New In Town features the “tall child with feminine hips” discussing the appropriateness of Law and Order: SVU, what his thoughts on Home Alone 2: Lost In New York would have been like if he were a Def Jam comedian (it’s a grid system muthafucka!), and a wonderful story about him trying to get a Xanax prescription.
Jim Jefferies - “Bare”
Just released as a Netflix original last month, Jim Jefferies newest special is exactly what you’ve come to expect from the Aussie import. His opinions may not be popular in some circles and his topics, like auditioning disabled actors for his underrated and all-too-quickly cancelled TV show “Legit”, are definitely not for everyone.
Bo Burnham - “what.”
More of a one man show than a traditional stand-up hour, Bo Burnham has quickly shed his “YouTube sensation” label and become one of comedy’s funniest and most clever satirists. He dumbs nothing down for his audience, as he toys with comedy conventions and seamlessly transitions from high-tech & song-driven stage pieces to singular, smart and silly one-liners. At only 24 years old, it’s exciting to see someone this good this early on in their career.
Iliza Shlesinger - “War Paint”
In this special, “Last Comic Standing” winner Iliza Shlesinger delivers her wonderfully rapid-fire act in front of her hometown in Dallas, Texas. Iliza isn’t afraid to go all-out for a laugh, even bringing her canine companion Blanche out for a bit about the ASPCA, and the result is a hilarious performance that shows why she was crowned Queen of NBC’s comedy competition.
Richard Pryor - “Live On The Sunset Strip”
One of the most famous comedy specials of all-time is at your fingertips as we speak! If you haven’t seen it, go watch it right now. Seriously. Stop reading this and put it on. Hard to point to a more honest, heartbreaking, but ultimately hilarious bit of stand up than Pryor discussing the notorious free-basing incident that sent him up in flames just a few months before.
Bill Burr - “You People Are All The Same”
You may know him from his roles on Chappelle’s Show and Breaking Bad, but Bill Burr is one of the most prolific, hardworking, and sidesplitting stand ups in the country. His voice is unmistakable, almost cartoonish, as he goes from topic to topic, anger seething just below the surface before exploding out every few sentences. It’s amazing.
Bernie Mac, Cedric The Entertainer, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley - “The Original Kings Of Comedy”
Seeing Spike Lee’s concert film from the year 2000 for the first time is still one of the hardest times I’ve ever laughed in my whole life. Every one of the performers brings their “A” game, but it is the late Bernie Mac who steals the show talking about his sister’s kids that he is now raising, which became the basis for “The Bernie Mac Show.”
Doug Stanhope - “Beer Hall Putsch”
Making a reputation for himself as a no-holds-barred, hostile, dark, social commentator, Stanhope is considered by comedians to be one of the best working today. He drinks, he smokes, and he doesn’t give a shit what you have to say about his opinions. Oh, and he’s also unbelievably funny.
Eddie Murphy - “Delirious”/”Raw”
It’s hard to choose between two of the most famous comedy specials ever, but both contain some of the greatest bits of all time including Eddie’s Bill Cosby talking to Richard Pryor, the ice cream bit, and Mr. T as a gay man. There are some very outdated homophobic moments that Murphy has since apologized for, but don’t let that stop you from seeing a genuine superstar do exactly what made him one of the biggest names on the planet.
Zach Galifianakis “Live At The Purple Onion”
Before The Hangover films thrust him into the national spotlight, Zach Galifianakis was already one of the funniest and most original voices in stand up comedy. Nowhere is this evidenced more than in “Live at The Purple Onion” from 2007. His inimitable style and wit are on full display on stage, but it is the segments off stage (like introducing his “brother” Seth Galifianakis) that put this over the top.
Honorable Mention: Joan Rivers “A Piece Of Work”
While not a traditional stand-up special, it would be blasphemous to talk about the comedy available on Netflix and not bring up this incredible documentary about one of comedy’s funniest, bravest & most inspiring figures. With her recent passing, this documentary carries even more weight as it shows just how much of an impact Joan River’s had on the comedy world.
Wes is a stand up comic based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @wesvanhorn