2016 was a banner year for stand-up comedy. Thanks to the global audience (and seemingly endless streams of cash) afforded them by Netflix, comics taped and released new specials in record numbers before the clocks struck midnight on January 1st, 2017. When they strike midnight again this year, however, the situation will be much different in terms of quantity and quality.
By the time 2017’s midpoint in July had rolled around, the combined might of Netflix, Comedy Central, and HBO had already released over 50 specials. Six months later, this number has practically doubled with Showtime, Epix, and many other players joining the three aforementioned outlets and their massive output. Quantity isn’t quality, of course, though the significantly higher numbers do offer fans and critics alike a much larger catalog to choose from. It also, as the New York Times surmises, suggests the coming of a comedy industry bust.
Until then, audiences across multiple cable and streaming platforms currently have access to new stand-up of all shapes and sizes. Whether you prefer straightforward punchlines, engrossing personal stories, or wild experimental jaunts, 2017’s comedy output features all of it. To help you sift through it all, here are Uproxx‘s 10 best stand-up comedy specials of 2017.
10. Mike Birbiglia, Thank God For Jokes
This feels like somewhat of a cheat as Mike Birbiglia’s current tour, “The New One,” will undoubtedly become one of 2018’s best stand-up specials. (I happened to catch one of its sold out Boston performances. It was spectacular.) Yet this shouldn’t detract from this year’s Thank God For Jokes, the latest entry in the My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend comedian and monologist’s evolution. Birbiglia’s body of work is as amazing as his ability to craft an intriguing story. While previous concert films (and albums like Sleepwalk With Me) focus on personal stories, however, Thank God For Jokes turns that lens on comedy itself.
9. Sarah Silverman, A Speck of Dust
Sarah Silverman established herself as one of the most biting practitioners of black comedy with Jesus Is Magic, We Are Miracles, and The Sarah Silverman Program. This year, however, the comic turned all of this on its head with A Speck of Dust on Netflix. The special still delves into the kinds of raunchy stories and punchlines Silverman’s fans are accustomed to, but Silverman also throws in a large dash of humanity that, especially in 2017, is wonderfully refreshing. “To be able to change, and be changed, is so important,” she told Uproxx in May. Never fear, for she retains her penchant for shock and awe.