Select Page

From Bill Hicks to Hannah Gadsby, Dave Chappelle to Josie Long here are 50 specials you can watch right now

Oh, how you spoil us, the internet. Watching a comedians latest show used to involve waiting for one of about eight comics to release a VHS/DVD or, gulp, leaving the house. Today, we hold the whip hand. Such is our desire to sit around watching standup in our pyjamas, streaming services cant get them out fast enough. Netflix is our most deep-pocketed and reliable dealer, pumping out no less than 45 original shows in 2019, up from one in 2012. But there are other providers, notably Amazon Prime Video, iPlayer, and smaller outfits such as NextUp and Go Faster Stripe, which do a fine job of mopping up lesser-known comics and hidden gems.

To the bean-counters at Netflix et al, the appeal of these specials is obvious: they are cheap to make compared with sitcoms and films, but they still attract a lot of eyeballs. And to the ambitious comic, it can mean the difference between national and international success. This has led to little outbreaks of creativity here and there, as comedians embrace the formats increasing dominance. Maria Bamfords decision to record her show The Special Special Special! in a living room, in front of an audience of just two (her baffled but supportive parents), was inspired and in keeping with her unorthodox act. In his BBC series Comedy Vehicle, Stewart Lee literally spoke down to the audience at home through a camera at the side of the stage. The streaming services are starting to experiment now, too, with shorter, snackable shows of just 15 to 30 minutes, as a way of showcasing rising stars. All of which means that the humble TV viewer might require some help to hack through this jungle of options. So, in that spirit, we have put together 50 of the best standup specials you can find online. PF

Ali Wong
Baby Cobra Netflix

Baby Cobra didnt just give us Ali Wong, she of the death stare and the dead-on observations; it also created a sub-genre of special: the heavily pregnant ones. You havent seen physical comedy mastered until youve seen a woman, seven-and-a-half-months pregnant, writhing about, re-enacting some moves she learned in Atlanta.
Best bit: I dont want to lean in OK? I want to lie down. EEJ

Baby, one more time… Amy Schumer. Photograph: Elizabeth Sisson/Netflix

Amy Schumer
Growing Netflix

Americas premier purveyor of pussy gags has a new shtick: shes pregnant! This provides enough amusing material to fill the hour, even if it doesnt leave space for Schumer to address her recurrent career controversies, from joke-stealing to oblivious white feminism.
Best bit: On joining a protest of Brett Kavanaughs supreme court confirmation: I want to be able to tell this kid I did everything I could And DC, I heard, has the best cocaine. EEJ

Asian Network Comedy
Edinburgh Festival BBC iPlayer

A half-hour from the 2019 fringe featuring Eshaan Akbar, Arnab Chanda, an outre Shazia Mirza set on hot jihadis, and master of deadpan Sumit Anand with a bulletin from the frontline of Indian culture and creativity.
Best bit: Mirza: A few days after Brexit a friend of mine was abused on the street in Birmingham. She was wearing Asian clothes, so it was her own fault. BL

Bec Hill
Ill Be Bec LIVR.co.uk

After the viral success of her lo-fi flipcharts, the irreverent Aussies terrific new special an ingenious time-travel tale is only available in VR. Sign up for a free headset and all you need is a decent smartphone to jack in.
Best bit: A daffy Lords Prayer remix from the future: Owl father, hoo GV

Bill Burr
Im Sorry You Feel That WayNetflix

A bullish comic taking on complaint culture and over-sensitivity could be a bad combination, but Burr is no orthodox reactionary, and his delivery is often more aggressive than his message. He also looks at his own religious background and notions of masculinity.
Best bit: His adoption oneupmanship. PF

Bill Hicks

Hickss final release before his death showcases the power of his nihilistic truth-telling. The Iraq war, smoking/drugs and gun control all get the treatment. He is remembered for his political stances, but this is a reminder that his evangelical oratory made for brilliant comedy.
Best bit: The military weapons catalogue. PF

Billy Connolly
An Audience With Amazon (1.89)

Look past the 1980s optics Connollys flouncy zebra shirt, Sir Clive Sinclair in the celeb crowd and this is a righteous celebration of the Big Yins livewire wit, from his days as a Clydeside welder to finding his first grey pube.
Best bit: An incontinence pants routine that will leave you requiring them. GV

Hes got the keys, hes got the secret… Bo Burnham. Photograph: Netflix

Bo Burnham
Make Happy Netflix

Teen musical comedy prodigy-turned-standup superstar, at 25 Burnham made Make Happy: casually brilliant, abundant in smarts, cynicism and aggressive misdirection, and fraught by his tortured self-hyperawareness. He went on to write and direct the movie Eighth Grade but his comedy is a must-see.
Best bit:
A lesser comedian would have milked that for four verses. And a better comedian wouldnt have done it at all. Im right in the sweet spot! BL

Bridget Christie
Stand Up for HerNetflix

One of the decades great standups, combining clowning and campaigning comedy to sublime effect. This brings together her biggest-hitting feminist material: on sexist advertising, old-school chauvinism and vintage vaginas.
Best bit: Her Bic for Her routine: Look, I can write down a list of things what ladies want Chocolate! Jewellery! Abortion! BL

A Rock in a hard place… Chris Rock. Photograph: Netflix

Chris Rock

Rocks first special for a decade includes some bitter ramblings of a recently divorced dad (Housewives are the most gangster motherfuckers), but also his trademark insight into American racism updated for the Trump era plus an introspective vulnerability thats all new.
Best bit: Bad apple? Thats a lovely name for murderer. EEJ

Comedians of the World Netflix

This globetrotting strand showcases 47 comics from more than a dozen territories performing polished half-hours in their native language (roughly half are in English). UK/US talent includes sly satirist Nish Kumar and saucy Nailed It! host Nicole Byer, but venturing further afield reveals the irks and quirks that animate standups from Brazil, India, the Middle East and more.
Best bit:
Iranian-German comic Enissa Amani biting the hand that feeds by slagging off sub-par Netflix subtitles. GV

Dave Chappelle
Equanimity & The Bird RevelationNetflix

Its true, late-era Chappelle is sometimes guilty of lazy provocation, but a comic of his skill always entertains. Even the way he puffs on an e-cig between punchlines is funnier than most standups on their best night.
Best bit: Its easier to ruin an orgy than you think. All you gotta do is wait for it to get kind of quiet and then go: Eww. EEJ

Doug Stanhope
No Place Like Home NextUp

One of comedys most uncomfortable watches broadcasts from his home town of Bisbee, Arizona, with off-colour, orthodoxy-baiting material on global poverty, mental health and beheading videos. Often brilliant, often hard to stomach.
Best bit:
Isis is using social media to recruit disenfranchised, angry youth. And thats what I do! Thats my demographic! BL

Eddie Murphy
RawAmazon Prime

Its still the highest-grossing standup film of all time, but Murphy has admitted parts of his 1987 special now make him cringe. The homophobic slurs have certainly dated, although Raws Cosby mockery seems prescient. And the purple leather outfit? Timeless.
Best bit: Murphys impression of his stepfather angrily misremembering Motown lyrics must be appreciated in full. EEJ

Business time… Flight of the Conchords. Photograph: Colin Hutton for HBO

Flight of the Conchords
Live in LondonNow TV

The best musical comedians in the world toured in 2018 with this blissfully entertaining show, stuffed with old favourites, beautifully wrought newbies and deadpan banter. As this Hammersmith Apollo recording proves: age does not wither them.
Best bit: You just never know how love will end / But never ever introduce her to your handsomest friend from the song Father and Son. BL

Hannah Gadsby

This is the hour that brought a small-town Tasmanian global recognition. Others deconstruct the form, do biting satire or emotional vulnerability, but few combine all three. Plus there is something here that none of those Kings of Comedy could muster: Gadsbys invaluable perspective.
Best bit: I may as well come out now I identify as tired. EEJ

Hannibal Buress
Comedy Camisado Netflix

Buress became notorious in 2014 after his Bill Cosby routine reignited legal interest in the sex pest. This 2016 special touches briefly on that fallout but mostly explores the Chicago standups appealingly languid interests.
Best bit: I dont have fuck-you money, Ive got strongly-worded-email money. GV

Hans Teeuwen
Live in London NextUp

Good luck working out whats going on when Teeuwen takes to the stage. Here as elsewhere, the in-yer-face Dutch absurdist keeps you perpetually off-balance as he tinkles the ivories, bellows a Scandinavian war song and recounts sex with a water buffalo.
Best bit: The improving on Mozart number. BL

TED time… Hasan Minhaj. Photograph: Brent N Clarke/Invision/AP

Hasan Minhaj
Patriot Act Netflix

A blend of standup and TED talk, this series seems to annoy all the right people, including the US military, Hindu nationalists in India and Duterte supporters in the Philippines. Minhajs earnest optimism might be American, but his reach is truly global.
Best bit: There are over 10,000 apps for mental health. That fact alone gives me anxiety. EEJ

Ilana Glazer
The Planet Is Burning Amazon Prime

Ignore that earnest title, the broad from Broad City isnt about to bend your ear on climate change. Instead, its the same twerk-tastic, sexually confident energy weve come to love in her TV alter ego, with added Hebrew school anecdotes.
Best bit: The Amazon is on fire and my special is on Amazon and it is fiiiiire. EEJ

James Acaster

A suite of four standup shows, bringing TV viewers up to date with his live career. Recognise, Represent and Reset are as they were originally intended: tall tales of being an undercover cop, a juror and a criminal mastermind-turned-snitch, respectively. Recap is a new show set in witness protection. The shows are puzzles, rewarding and precisely constructed, and he finds new perspectives on the most mundane subjects. Hes dry, absurd, awkward and utterly brilliant.
Best bit: His dissection of he/she/they. PF

Jayde Adams
Serious Black Jumper Amazon Prime

Jayde is on a mission to be taken more seriously, Bristolian accent and all. The solution? A Steve Jobs makeover and this set, which disco-dances on the limits of celebrity feminism, like one of her drag queen pals of old.
Best bit:
I dont even run in my own nightmares. EEJ

Jenny Slate
Stage FrightNetflix

Ten years on from her infamous SNL blunder (she dropped the F-bomb in her very first show and only lasted one season), Slate returns to standup. The show is no dark baring of the soul it focuses on her Jewish heritage and her haunted childhood home but ripples of nervous energy make her brilliantly skittish set even more magnetic.
Best bit: Her parents sleeping habits, involving nudity and a sleep apnoea machine. HG

Roots manoeuvre… Jerry Seinfeld. Photograph: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Before Seinfeld Netflix

Shot in the same Manhattan club where he got his start in the 1980s, 2017s Jerry Before Seinfeld special sees the sitcom champ looking wistfully back with some low-stakes but well-sculpted material.
Best bit: I had glasses at 10, braces at 12. I said to my parents: Lets not stop now how about a hearing aid? GV

John Mulaney
Kid Gorgeous Netflix

Like a Simpsons approximation of a standup brought to life: classical in style, family-friendly and a toothy grin. His second Netflix special is a doozy, with routines on college fees, meeting famous people, and the greatest Trump routine to date.
Best bit: Theres a horse, loose, in the hospital. PF

John-Luke Roberts
All I Wanna Do Is… Go Faster Stripe (5)

Absurdist fans gather. Roberts combines surrealism with his considerable chops for writing jokes and inhabiting characters. This show doubles as both a run-through of all the other Spice Girls, and a heartfelt appreciation of laughter in the face of confusion.
Best bit:
Crone spice. PF

Jordan Brookes
Body of WorkNextUp

The breakthrough show from the comic who won last years Edinburgh comedy award, in which the sinewy strange-behaviour merchant covers bad thought-marbles, talking body parts and his dead gran.
Best bit: Nana was one of those women whod walk into a room and youd go: Theres Nana and the ensuing routine. BL

Josie Long
Cara Josephine Sohotheatreondemand.com (4)

The usually enthusiastic comic is in a contemplative mood here: recovering from a big breakup, obsessed with outdoor swimming, and able to deliver a seemingly innocuous story about her sisters wedding with an emotional sledgehammer of a punchline. An 80-minute softening of the soul we can all benefit from.
Best bit: A surprisingly touching anecdote about her ex responding to period blood. HG

Yes, she Canuck… Katherine Ryan. Photograph: Idil Sukan

Katherine Ryan
In Trouble Netflix

Joan Rivers (RIP) has many successors but Ryan, all Botox and badass takedowns, must be her truest heir. This sees her not yet grown into her Glitter Room greatness, but nonetheless hilarious on her rural Canadian roots.
Best bit: Yeah, but you bitches arent normal, youre ordinary. Its different. EEJ

The League of Gentlemen
Live Again! BBC iPlayer

Local shop, loco people: Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith reactivated their beloved Royston Vasey grotesques for this 2018 show, with some genuine pathos amid the unsettling humour and gooey slapstick.
Best bit: Herr Lipp leads the audience in a highly inappropriate German lesson. GV

Leslie Jones
Time Machine Netflix

Heres the Saturday Night Live veteran and Chris Rocks favourite standup, in a special directed by Game of Throness Benioff and Weiss, no less. She is reflecting on the decades, but once she gets to partying, even a loose eyelash cant stop her.
Best bit: Recreating at length the fully choreographed dance routine that a 20-year-old Jones once whipped out to impress Prince. EEJ

Liam Williams
Live from the BBCBBC iPlayer

A rare opportunity to see the Pls Like man in standup mode. This set may not burn as brightly as his best work, but its account of eye tests, foot injuries and climate change still finds the downcast Yorkshireman on fine, mordant form.
Best bit: The No, those are next years daffodils come early! gag about a warming world. BL

Margaret Cho

The San-Franciscan sitcom pioneer has been effortlessly upending racist and sexist stereotypes for decades, and has picked up several starry showbiz anecdotes along the way. There is also a scream-worthy sex story here that has her loyal audience in hysterics.
Best bit: Asian women have a lot of power. Were sort of like blondes, but no one thinks were stupid. EEJ

Maria Bamford
The Special Special Special! Netflix

As if Bamfords standup wasnt twisted enough, this 2012 set is filmed in her living room, to an audience of just two people her mum and dad. Bamford pulls no punches for them, in a claustrophobically intense hour on God, mental health and existential despair.
Best bit: My mom is very religious, and she said: Whatever you think about all the time, thats what you worship. If thats the case, Id like everyone to pop open their Diet Coke cans and turn to page 37 of their People magazines. BL

Mark Thomas
Check Up: Our NHS @ 70Go Faster Stripe (5)

A documentary/comedy show in which Thomas reports back from the frontline of an increasingly privatised NHS, with stories of shadowing staff and interviews with bigwigs. The power of his oratory and his love for the subject makes it an affecting watch.
Best bit:
The 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony reveal. PF

Wolf at the door… Michelle Wolf. Photograph: PR

Michelle Wolf
Joke Show Netflix

Most female standups have feminist material, but Wolf and her distinctive voice never let up, including extended musings on menstruation, childbirth and abortion. Its all evidence for her central premise: women are grosser than men. And maybe, therefore, funnier too?
Best bit: I would wanna breastfeed, but only because I would want to use breast milk the way a clown uses a flower with water in it. EEJ

Miles Jupp
Fibber in the Heat Go Faster Stripe (5)

A true story of derring-do: a young, cricket-obsessed Jupp bluffs his way on to an England tour as a journalist, then rubs shoulders and drinks heavily with his commentator heroes. A metaphorical straight drive for four.
Best bit: Drinking with the England captains. PF

Mo Gilligan

A slick power hour from the young comic and Channel 4 chatshow host, recorded last April at a packed Hackney Empire in London. Gilligan recreates classroom trauma and nightclub mating rituals with impudence and swagger.
Best bit: A medley of rasta nursery rhymes, including Old MacDonalds ganja farm. GV

Monty Python
Live at the Hollywood BowlNetflix

Comedy was the new rocknroll as far back as 1982, when the UKs surrealist supergroup performed a greatest hits set at an iconic LA venue. A cheeky barbershop quartet, silly walks and some disconcerted Mounties all feature.
Best bit: Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more. GV

Nish Kumar
Soho Theatre Live Sohotheatreondemand.com (4)

Heres what Britains leading political comic would look like if he barely talked politics: a top-notch hour from The Mash Report man on pessimism, ego, insomnia and on how he does and doesnt choose to address race in his comedy.
Best bit: The White people? Beyond the odd bit of imperialism big fan! routine. BL

The Paddock
24 Unique Live Comedy Acts YouTube

A series of short, snappy sets, recreating the anarchic energy of a late night comedy gig. Comics include Edinburgh prize winner Jordan Brookes fantasising about what he could have said after an argument, Kemah Bob as Republican club comic parody Lil Test Ease and a monologue about Tom & Jerry from master of oddities Johnny White Really-Really.
Best bit: Lola & Jos instructional dance class about how to be single at a wedding. HG

Phil Wang
The Comedy Lineup Netflix

Rising UK standup Phil Wang last years show at the Edinburgh fringe sold out before it opened dropped this 15-minute set in 2018 as part of standup collection The Comedy Lineup. He packs a lot in, about horror movies, being mixed race, and the imminent Chinese invasion and whets the appetite for more.
Best bit: If you look at me, and squint really hard thats racist! BL