Stand-up comedy on Netflix: the best streaming specials

Finished ‘House of Cards’? Delve into Netflix’s huge live comedy library. We round up the best stand-up comedy on Netflix
By Ben Williams |

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

Demetri Martin

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

2015. 61 mins. Watch here.

Why watch? ‘I’ve got a lot of jokes, so I’m just gonna start telling them.’ Demetri Martin keeps things simple in his latest special, letting his low-key, almost mathematical one-liners speak for themselves. And it’s a treat: there’s barely a dud in his relentless stream of jokes, covering prune juice, elevator pranks and why there are holes in cream crackers. Martin loves to explore language in his offbeat one-liners, examining the strange things about our native tongue that we hardly notice. (Can you say ‘hot regards’ instead of ‘warmest’, for instance?) And, Martin fans, don’t worry, the hour rounds off with a trademark guitar-accompanied finale. How satisfying. 

Seen it already? Try low-key storyteller and ‘Orange is the New Black’ star, ‘Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’.

Todd Barry
© Mindy Tucker

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

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
© Brian Tamborello

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
© Robert John Kley

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
© James Kronzer for Netflix

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
© Andrew Baasch for Netflix

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’.

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