Netflix released too many stand-up comedy specials this year.
Tons of hour-long comedy specials dropped on Netflix throughout 2018, and even a handful of half-hour sets with Netflix’s The Standups, showcasing dozens and dozens (and dozens) of comedians. While there were a bunch that were mediocre and some that were bad, luckily, some of them were great. Amazing, even.
To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, we compiled a list of the 10 best comedy specials to hit Netflix in 2018, including the triumphant returns of a couple of classic comics who haven’t released specials in years, and some truly transcendent material from some lesser-known names.
10. Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
After her hilarious special in 2016 won over just about everybody, Ali Wong returned in 2018 with Hard Knock Wife, just as pregnant as she was before, but this time she has the experience of one birth behind her to add a little extra anger behind her comedy. Babies are hard on the human body, as Wong describes in vivid, unflinchingly funny detail, but that doesn’t slow her down from talking about some very adult topics.
9. Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher: The Honeymoon Stand Up Special
Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher, two great comedians, got married about a year and a half before they filmed this stand-up special, where the two do individual sets and then hang out on stage together to do some crowd work with other couples in the audience. It’s a refreshing concept and the two work wonderfully with each other as they joke about their relationship and forthcoming baby.
8. Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives
Hari Kondabolu makes his Netflix debut with Warn Your Relatives which, while deeply entwined in our current times, has jokes and points that are incredibly resonant. Kondabolu jokes about racism, comments about Indian stereotypes (including revealing the secret stereotype that they all love mangos), and makes poignant observations while delivering laughs the whole time.
7. Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh
Adam Sandler did a stand-up special and it’s great. Filmed in various venues of varying sizes, 100% Fresh is both hilarious and surprising. The special is filled with a bunch of new comedic songs from Sandler, who made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live with his classic tunes like “The Hanukkah Song” and “Lunch Lady Land.” There is no real structure to 100% Fresh, with no segues to speak of, but Sandler surprises with his chops that remind the world of a time when he made really, really good movies.
6. Aparna Nancherla (The Standups)
In a tight 30-minute set, Aparna Nancherla covers a lot of ground in classic deadpan style, but then she shifts about halfway through and brings out a television to show off a powerpoint presentation. It’s a great way to tell jokes as she comments on slides that mostly cover smartphone-related grievances and musings about technology. This special is episode 6 of the second season of The Standups.
5. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City Music Hall
The kid is back with another slam dunk of a comedy special, telling story after story at the illustrious Radio City Music Hall. John Mulaney spends the special recounting hilarious tales about Chicago police detective J.J. Bittenbinder, talking about his jealousy of Timothee Chalamet, and expounding on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His delivery is dramatic and his timing perfect.
4. Todd Glass: Act Happy
With a live band on stage and unmatched energy, Todd Glass delivers his best standup special yet. For the most part it’s classic Glass, commenting with gusto on the minutia of life with the occasional input from the band to punctuate jokes or add a little flair to a story. It works very well, especially with Glass’s quick, dynamic, stream-of-conscious style of comedy.
3. Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here
In an intimate room in Houston, Tig Notaro blends some of the deepest vulnerability you’ll see in comedy with some of the most casual jokes and delivery that it’s almost discomforting. But at the same time, Notaro masterfully brings you into her life, her feelings, and her thoughts, so it feels like an oddly welcoming hour of material that ends with a joke that goes on for 15 minutes of hilarious suspense.
2. Chris Rock: Tamborine
In his first stand-up special in 10 years, Chris Rock delivered one of his strongest performances to date, cracking jokes about raising his kids in a world rife with racism, politics, religion, and his own life with no reservations. So much of Rock’s content in Tamborine is raw and difficult, but he navigates everything with so much ease and so many deft punchlines that it never loses its steam or its hilarity.
1. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Certainly not your typical comedy special, Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette transcends comedy. For much of the hour, Gadsby’s two main focuses are her own identity and comedy itself, and while there are plenty of expert jokes throughout, that’s not what makes Nanette so great. Nanette is propelled by passion, expertise, and fascinating deconstructions of society and comedy. It’s a case against classic comedy stylings, showing the sort of growth that comedy needs to go through to be truly accessible to everyone as a medium as well as impactful to the people who need it.