Before we get started, I just want to point out, this is NOT a list of the “best” stand-up specials on Netflix streaming. It’s a list of the highest rated, by you, the Netflix viewers. So put your pitchforks away, please.
If you’ve had your fill of action blockbusters at the movie theater this weekend and are looking for something a little lighter, Netflix streaming has an array of stand-up specials to fit nearly every taste.
And personal taste in comedy seems to be something of constant debate on the internet, with people ceaselessly arguing what is “legitimately funny” — aka “smart” — over what is simply “dumb” masquerading as funny. Generally, somebody chimes in with “Shut up, man, comedy is subjective.” It’s an easy defense to go to, and it largely holds true, too. George Carlin had a vocabulary that no other comic could touch and was like Beethoven when it came to the linguistics of a joke. A comedy legend. He’ll never make me laugh as hard as Brian Regan though.
You’ll probably notice two glaring distinctions about this list: 1) There are no female comedians on it. Again, that’s on you, the viewer. 2) There is a comedy giant who’s missing, but more on that at the end.
1. Kevin Hart, Seriously Funny — 4.2 stars out of 2,124,762 ratings.
I imagine Kevin Hart had it rough growing up in Philadelphia. If it was bad for Will Smith it had to be ten times worse for a Hart who’s only 5’2. The comic has milked that pain into four stand-up specials that have helped make him one of the highest grossing touring comics. Hart pulls out new stories about his childhood and family with each special and Seriously Funny has emerged as the fan favorite.
2. Louis C.K., Chewed Up — 4.2 stars out of 1,422,514 ratings.
I feel like it’d be a little redundant to add more praise to the Louis C.K.’s reign as current stand-up god. Lots of comics talk about their health/weight, but few have the chops to come up with a comparison as good as, “both of those guys still need a fat baby and a dead dog to make me.”
3. Bill Burr, You People Are All The Same — 4.2 stars out of 516,436 ratings.
In the opinion of this writer, there’s not a comic working today who is both as prolific and funny as Bill Burr. Every time he makes an appearance on Conan he rolls out a twisted new theory on current events. You People Are All The Same is an hour of those unapologetic warped theories.
4. John Mulaney, New In Town — 4.2 stars out of 231,433 ratings.
The old stereotype is that stand-up comics are depressed individuals from dysfunctional homes. John Mulaney doesn’t seem to fit any of that and his first stand-up special is both incredibly lighthearted and widely relatable. If you’re not already familiar with Mulaney, New In Town’s long-form stories about the awkwardness of looking like a “12 year-old boy” serve as a great introduction before the debut of his new sitcom.
5. Gabriel Iglesias, Hot And Fluffy –4.1 stars out of 2,395,757 ratings.
Gabriel Iglesias doesn’t necessarily cover any new ground about enjoying food that hadn’t already been done by the late John Pinette. He does manage to mix-in sound effects and goofy voices though, which combined with a likable stage persona has helped him garner more views than any other comedian on Netflix.
6. Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe — 4.1 stars out of 896,163 ratings.
Jim Gaffigan is amazing. Besides finding the time to write new material, tour and do film projects while raising five kids, he continues to find new angles for what seems like the same three subjects: food, being fat, kids. Watching the sample clip, you might initially think “Hey, didn’t I hear this joke in 2004?” Nope, that was manatees, the whale bit is completely new and just as good.
7. Jeff Dunham, Spark Of Insanity — 4 stars out of 1,835,693 ratings.
You might hate Jeff Dunham, but your aunt loves him and has helped make him one of the most popular comedians on Netflix. He’s one of only three comics on this list to appear on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson — the fact that he’s managed to remain popular for that long is a testament that the guy is skilled at what he does. Most people would probably agree his dead terrorist puppet is racist, but you could also probably find a politically incorrect joke that’s been told by every comedian on this list.
8. Katt Williams, The Pimp Chronicles: Pt. 1 — 4 stars out of 1,259,110 ratings.
I’m not really sure that Katt Williams is even aware he’s a comedian, I think he might have just been handed a microphone, told “go” and pushed on stage. The guy would be just as entertaining to watch if was an employee at Pizza Hut, “Pepperoni, ranch dressing and weed will f*ck you up, motherf*cker” *flips hair*.” He supposedly has a new stand-up special coming out later this year, that’s assuming he doesn’t go Katt Williams again.
9. Eddie Murphy, Raw — 4 stars out of 1,253,291 ratings.
Both Delirious and Raw, two of the greatest stand-up specials recorded in the 1980s are currently available for streaming. Raw captured Murphy at the peak of his fame, musing on the absurdities of life as a mega movie star. Filmed at Madison Square Garden, it serves as a time capsule for just how great a storyteller Eddie Murphy was before giving up stand-up comedy to focus on movies and music.
10. George Carlin, It’s Bad For Ya — 4 stars out of 720,692 ratings.
There are 14 George Carlin stand-up specials currently available for streaming. They’re all good, so take your pick. If you’re new to Carlin territory though, you might want to start with something a little sillier like Jammin’ In New York, before jumping into the darker humor that makes up It’s Bad For Ya.
11. Aziz Ansari, Buried Alive — 4 stars out of 611,523 ratings.
All three of Ansari’s stand-up specials are up on Netflix, and he put out his strongest effort, Buried Alive, just a year after Dangerously Delicious. The 50 Cent Grapefruit story from Delicious is great, but the fact that Ansari has culled a new observation on a subject as seemingly mined as “marriage” just solidifies what makes him so great.
12. Bo Burnham, what — 4 stars out of 462,183 ratings.
Burnham isn’t a traditional stand-up, after all, the guy became famous for singing goofy songs on his YouTube channel. It’s that non-traditional approach, incorporating songs, poems and dance routines that probably makes him so appealing to the younger Netflix viewers. Stand-up comedy doesn’t cater to short attention spans, and confetti explosions between hip-hop numbers is an effective way to counteract that.
So back to that comedian who is noticeably absent from our list of Netflix’s highest rated stand-ups. Richard Pryor’s Live On The Sunset Strip is available for streaming on Netflix, though with 3.9 stars out of 635,377 ratings, it only came in at the #19 spot, right after Daniel Tosh. That right there I think says it all.
Richard Pryor, largely considered the greatest stand-up comedian of all time was beaten out by a comic known for riffing on YouTube clips. You could argue that comedy has evolved past Pryor, or that the bulk of Netflix’s audience is made up of a younger generation that doesn’t know who Richard Pryor is or just can’t relate. I’m leaning toward the latter. Discuss…