If you really want to laugh in your living room, give stand-up comedy on Netflix a whirl. After all, DVDs are, like, so 2011, right? Who wants a DVD box clogging up valuable shelf space, where you could display your collection of Marvel action figures or Fabergé eggs?
Comedians love the internet. They’re recording comedy podcasts, becoming Twitter kings (like Rob Delaney) and showing off their stand-up comedy on Netflix. There are heaps of excellent (mostly American) stand-up comedy specials on the streaming service, and quite a few shockers, too. So, where to start? Here are our picks of the best comedians on Netflix.
The best stand-up comedy on Netflix
Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour
2014. 69 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? All the joy of spontaneous audience interaction without the fear of being picked on! Low-key comic Todd Barry (who pops up in Louis CK’s sitcom ‘Louie’) went on the road with no material whatsoever, and this is the result. A microphone is passed around the crowd (clips are spliced together from seven US shows), and Barry is razor-sharp in his responses. The 51-year-old comic coaxes fascinating stories from some punters, others live up to the stereotypes of their towns (especially in Portland), and a few just need to say something stupid for Barry to spin spontaneous, laidback laughs. It’s a treat.
Seen it already? Try Barry’s mate in ‘Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater’.
Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special
2012. 49 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? ‘I see there’s a loving couple in the audience tonight,’ says Maria Bamford as she looks at the man and woman in the front row of this recording. But she knows the couple personally. They’re her mum and dad. And they’re the only two people in the audience. Yep, this is no shiny-floored theatre taping: Bamford’s special is an intimate, intense offering filmed in the comic’s own front room. It’s a strange experiment as much as a stand-up show, with Bamford stopping for pee breaks and to welcome the pizza delivery man in between her talking openly about her own anxiety and performing material about her parents as if they're not there. It’s dark at times, but mostly lighthearted and very silly.
Seen it already? Try the equally skittish (but far more angry) ‘Eddie Pepitone: In Ruins’.
Eugene Mirman: Vegan On His Way To The Complain Store
2015. 64 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? Mirman’s a stalwart of the New York alt-comedy scene, and he’s in full-on complain mode here. But instead of getting furious about feeling victimised, he fights back with silliness. Like when he was fined for ‘being parked in the wrong direction’, so took out a full page ad in the town’s magazine to express his anger. Or, when he was sick of the annoying emails inviting him to join LinkedIn, so gave in and signed up: he’s now the ‘Senior VP of Pee-Pee at Verizon’.
Seen it already? Try our own smart stand-up Stewart Lee in his ‘Comedy Vehicle’.
Bo Burnham: What
2013. 60 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? Missed Burnham’s UK tour in 2013? You can watch the mind-blowing show, ‘What’, here on Netflix. Burnham’s ridiculously smart, intricately woven ideas focus largely on comedy itself, playing with what’s expected of the form and subverting stand-up clichés. He constantly keeps you guessing, and there’s even a neat joke about video editors just for the audience at home.
Seen it already? Give beatboxing, loop-pedalling absurdist ‘Reggie Watts: Why $#!+ So Crazy?’
Bill Burr: I’m Sorry You Feel That Way
2014. 80 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? Boston’s Bill Burr (who you might recognise as Kuby in ‘Breaking Bad’) has been dubbed ‘the new Louis CK’ and ‘one of the best stand-ups in America’. He lives up to the hype, too. No one does an angry rant quite like this vein-popping 47-year-old. This slick special combines a touch of class (it’s filmed in black and white, with the pipes of the Atlanta venue’s organ as the backdrop) with Burr’s vitriolic rage and unfiltered, uninformed opinions, and it’s a wonderful juxtaposition. If there’s a message, it’s ‘go fuck yourself’.
Seen it already? Then watch Burr’s other special, ‘You People Are All the Same’.
Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive
2013. 79 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? It’s Netflix’s latest and biggest stand-up release, and ‘Buried Alive’ is Ansari’s best show yet. It mainly covers familiar comedic territory – turning 30 and feeling under pressure to settle down – but Aziz totally owns it and finds some of the freshest, funniest angles we’ve heard on the subject.
Seen it already? Try any of Ansari’s other specials, including his mammoth show ‘Live at Madison Square Garden’.
Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
2013. 75 mins. Watch here.
Why watch? While most stand-up specials are in-ya-face – ‘Cleveland, how y’all doing? Make some noise!’ – affairs, Birbiglia’s is more laidback. A charming, confessional storytelling show, taped at an intimate Seattle theatre. One for a Sunday afternoon.
Seen it already? Try Birbiglia’s other special, a collection of awkward stories called ‘What I Should Have Said Was Nothing: Tales from My Secret Public Journal’.