10 Great Modern Standup Specials You Should Know About

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A few days ago, I stumbled across this compilation from the boys over at Uproxx about the highest rated standup specials available on Netflix streaming. It’s a well constructed piece, in which the author makes a number of insightful comments about the evolution of comedy consumption preferences; particularly at the end, when he discusses how Bo Burnham’s latest special is ranked 9 spots higher than Richard Pryor’s Live On The Sunset Strip, considered by many the best standup special of all time.

I’m a huge fan of Bo, but Uproxx’s Joel Stice does bring up an interesting point. In the words of Stice, “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.”

That probably-too-long intro was basically there to say that 70s, 80s, and 90s comedy is probably a lot different than the comedy the Netflix generation grew up with. And that last sentence is only there to make this article, which is really nothing more than 10 awesome (and relatively recent) standup specials, more legitimate sounding:

*Note: The full versions of most of these are available on YouTube. But if you really dig them you should be a good human and listen to them on Spotify, or even purchase the albums. Crazy, I know, but in the words of one of the comics featured below “Lars was right.”

1. Dave Chapelle – Killing Them Softly (2000)

Probably Chapelle’s most famous special, this was a nice homecoming of sorts; it was filmed in Washington DC, and profiles Chapelle doing what he does best; making insightful commentary on race in modern America, which really hits home in White House’s backyard.

2. Anthony Jeselnik – Shakespeare (2010)

Jeselnik, a master craftsmen, is arguably the best joke writer in comedy today. With a focus on misdirection, Jeselnik’s trademark is creating bait and switch-style jokes that usually have a dark twist. Above are a few jokes that appeared on his first album, widely considered one of the best in recent memory.

3. Mitch Hedberg – Mitch All Together (2003)

If this doesn’t hit you, head on over to this exhaustive list of great Mitch Hedberg one liners. Gone too soon, but not before the best above ground pool joke in the storied history of above ground pool jokes.

The set above contains number of jokes that also appear in his 2003 special Mitch All Together.

4. Amy Schumer – Cutting (2011)

Without a doubt, Amy Schumer is one of the funniest people working in comedy today. She’s a pretty big name now, but she’s only gonna get bigger — with the upcoming release of her Judd Apatow directed comedy called “Trainwreck,” (which she is writing and starring in), Schumer is set to become even more of a household name.

Above is one of her more famous bits from her 2011 special “Cutting.”

5. Aziz Ansari –  Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening (2010)

Aziz has really #blownup since Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening, which, among other things, includes the phenomenon that is Randy with 8 a’s. I recall buying this album on iTunes, burning it to a disc, and listening to in my car for an entire summer — not quite an outmoded statement, but definitely getting there.

Above, he incorporates on of the bits in his special into a conversation with Conan.

6. Zach Galifianakis – Live At The Purple Onion (2005)

Zach Galifanakis is one of my favorite comics to watch, simply because there’s such a narrow difference between him bombing and killing — it’s almost as if he’s doing both simultaneously. Few people have the ability to induce the sort of laughter Zach specializes in, best on display during his 2006 special Live From The Purple Onion. 

7. Doug Stanhope – No Refunds (2007)

This very solid article encapsulates Stanhope better than any describe I provide possibly could, but the point is that Stanhope, who resides in the tiny border town of Bisbee, Arizona rather than NYC or LA, does not apologize for who he is or what he thinks. He’s got one of the most devoted fanbases in the country, and it’s not hard to see why.

8. Bill Burr – You People Are All The Same (2012)

Currently, Bill Burr is the Hansel of standup comedy.  Because the narrative is convenient, notable media outlets have even called Burr — a redheaded dude from Boston — “the next Louis CK.

Note: All of Louie’s specials should probably be on here, but they’re not. Consider this list the NBA in the 90s without Jordan.

In classic Burr fashion, he had this to say about what he sees as a ridiculous label:

9. Patrice O’Neal – Elephant In The Room (2011)

Patrice tragically passed away in 2011, following complications from a stroke. O’Neal was all about pursuing “The Truth” above anything else, which made him one part modern-day philosopher, other part hilarious dude.

10. Jim Jeffries – Alcoholocaust (2010)

Jim Jeffries, an Australian comic, is perhaps best known for his brazen, sometimes uncomfortable honesty. His FXX show Legit was recently cancelled, but as a human who watched it and therefore has an opinion on it, Legit was one of the more unique (and surprisingly, touching) shows out there. By going places most comics wouldn’t necessarily go, his punchlines — and social arguments — hit that much harder.

Of course, there a number of really great specials that aren’t on this list. Feel free to add yours in the ‘mments. Thanks for reading, and happy opinions. TC mark

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