culture

The 25 Best Comedians On Netflix to Watch

Cause we could all use a good laugh right now.

chris rock mobile
Netflix

In the realm of so-called “prestige entertainment,” comedy all-too-often gets written-off as being “too goofy” or “not serious enough.” Just think about how many comedy actors have had to take on more dramatic roles before winning an Oscar. But as true fans of the genre know, comedy is indeed high art.

Comics—well, good ones at least—don’t merely rely on cheap laughs, but rather smart, well-crafted hits that must not only strike a social nerve but be relatable to crowds of people, whether they’re in a live audience or at home watching TV. The best comedians even manage to transcend time, thinking up classic punchlines that can be enjoyed by generations to come. As for right now, you can catch some of the greats (of both past and present) streaming on Netflix.

1. Dave Chappelle: Collection One

It only makes sense to kick off this list with the long-awaited return of the legend, Dave Chappelle, and his debut Netflix collection which premiered in 2017. While the comedy icon has quite a few specials up on the streaming service, the two shows featured in this collection, The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium (filmed in 2016) and Deep in the Heart of Texas: Dave Chappelle Live at Austin City Limits (2015) have received the most widespread acclaim, as he dives head-first into the celebrity and social issues (ahem, Bill Cosby), along with addressing some of his own fumbles, in his signature unfiltered, and, of course, raunchy style.

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2. Richard Pryor: Live In Concert

Speaking of legends, we couldn’t make it much further without highlighting the actual GOAT, and probably the most influential comedian ever, Richard Pryor. Lucky for us, Netflix has his seminal 1979 stand-up film in its streaming collection. Sure, it’s retro, but you’d be surprised how timeless Pryor’s comedy really is. His energy, his pacing, and his effortless ability to slip in and out of different characters, voices and all, makes this set a must-watch for anyone who calls themselves a comedy fan.

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3. Eddie Murphy: Delirious

OK, while we’re back in time a bit, it’s imperative to make a stop at Eddie Murphy’s 1983 show, Delirious. Long before he was starring in family-friendly movies, Murphy was an irreverent 22-year-old slinging X-rated jokes in a now-infamous red leather suit, with memorable commentary on ice cream trucks, his shoe-throwing mother, and celebrities like James Brown, Elvis and Stevie Wonder (of whom he does spot-on impressions). It’s profane, offensive, and there are moments that are certainly not politically correct (even by ‘80s standards) that he’s had to apologize for, but we have to admit, it’s a classic.

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4. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City

Full of clever observational humor, John Mulaney’s fourth stand-up tour, and third special produced for Netflix skewers everything from childhood trauma to student loans to religion to the jarring experience of aging with self-deprecating hilarity. A memorable metaphor comparing a certain President of the United States to a “horse loose in a hospital” helped earn the show the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special in 2018.

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5. Chris Rock: Tamborine

It may have premiered in 2018, but Chris Rock’s first Netflix special, and his first stand-up special in ten years, is as relevant as ever, touching upon race, police violence, and politics. But Tamborine also serves as a vehicle of personal self-reflection for the comedian, who explores his own regrets and mistakes in life with raw and enthralling honesty. It’s deep, and still really, really funny.

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6. Hannah Gadsby: Douglas

Following the success of her groundbreaking anti-comedy comedy show, Nanette, Aussie comedian Hannah Gadsby is back with Douglas, a perhaps more traditional take on the genre featuring funny observations about her newfound American fans along with some good old fashioned storytelling and straight-up jokes. Like its predecessor, though, Douglas spotlights Gadsby’s poignant voice on the experiences she’s faced as a gender non-conforming lesbian and neurodivergent person with autism, giving her humor a distinctly humanist, and deeply personal, shine.

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7. Kevin Hart: Zero F**ks Given

Leave it to Kevin Hart to not only pull off a comedy special in the COVID era, but to host it, stage and all, in his own living room. Released this November, Zero F**ks Given is the only show on this list made post-pandemic, and Hart manages to poke fun at the universal anxiety regarding, as he calls it, “The ‘Vid,” while, ironically enough, taking the minds of his masked live audience completely off it. Mixed with anecdotes about his wife, kids, and being a man over 40, Hart’s set feels refreshingly current and is just a generally good time. Prepare to be jealous of his living room, though.

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8. Leslie Jones: Time Machine

Saturday Night Live alum Leslie Jones has enough personality to pack the already-full auditorium of her January 2020 special, Time Machine, named no doubt for her fond (and truly hilarious) reflections on her youth and journey to adulthood. Jones’s shameless, sex-positive, and totally in-your-face jokes are only heightened by her adept physical comedy and perfect facial expressions. Trust, this gal has got the moves - most notably when she demonstrates the dance she did to try to seduce Prince.

Whew!

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9. Eric Andre: Legalize Everything

As you may have guessed from the title, Eric Andre’s 2020 stand-up special, filmed in New Orleans, takes us on a drug-filled romp recalling bad MDMA trips, getting high with his mother, and other illicit (occasionally naked) mishaps. The always-animated comedian can be counted on for his interactive crowd work, whether it’s jumping on a fan in the front row or FaceTiming with an audience member’s mom live on stage. All in all, Andre’s set embodies bawdy bro humor that’s nevertheless modern and socially aware.

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10. Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh

Fans of Adam Sandler’s lighthearted but totally screwball films have plenty to choose from on the streaming service, but his 2018 comedy special is definitely named accordingly, presenting his goofy humor, plucked from recent stand-up stages and replete with his famous musical stylings, in a totally fresh way. Hey, if Sandler’s singing it, we’re laughing at it - even if it is about suffocating an old lady with a pillow (don’t judge us ‘til you watch it.) 

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11. Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything

Patton Oswalt’s long-standing career as a mostly benevolent presence on the comedy scene is as well-earned as any of the greats. If you’ve forgotten why, his latest special, I Love Everything is here to remind you. He’s a master of free-associative riffs on society and pop culture and delivers with sincerity and expert wordsmithing. Trust, you’ll want to hear what he has to say about Denny’s and breakfast cereal.

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12. Master of None

Aziz Ansari’s two-season comedy-drama series was an instant hit when it premiered on Netflix back in 2015, and it’s still an all-too-relatable coming of age story (starring Ansari and loosely based on his own life) about a 30-year-old dude in New York navigating love, life, and his acting career. It touches upon subjects from modern dating to male privilege to the experience of being raised by immigrant parents, earning a cult fan base along with three Emmys and a Golden Globe.

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13. Marc Maron: End Times Fun

Filmed late in 2019 and released in March 2020, just before widespread lockdowns began, Marc Maron’s End Times Fun is strangely prophetic. With deadpan cynicism, the comedian delivers biting social commentary and grapples with the angst of existing in this constantly chaotic time. While the fallout of a pandemic doesn’t seem to be on his radar just yet, he does manage to encompass the forever-feeling of doom and the sinking idea that the end of times is near. However, his sober revelations somehow lighten the mood - maybe because he helps us realize we’re all sharing the heaviness.

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14. Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats

Television writer, actress, and comedian Chelsea Peretti has had her hand in the biz for a long time, securing her celebrity status in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and by now earning the title of her 2014 special, One of the Greats. The acclaimed set is meta and self-aware, addressing the entire modus operandi of the “stand-up special” along with some self-lampooning grandiosity. For the most part, though, Peretti is full of sharp observations on the modern world and relatable anecdotes that will have you laughing.

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15. Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado

The term “camisado” refers to a secret military attack aimed to surprise sleepy targets. It’s about stealth, much like Hannibal Buress’s method of inducing laughs. With his signature stoner-Esque bemusement and gravelly voice, he arrives at his thought-out punchlines from unexpected angles, making the moments of landing refreshing and just flat-out funny.

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16. Extras

British humor is a bit of an acquired taste, but Ricky Gervais, who can be polarizing on stage, is universally enjoyable in his genius, even when cringe-inducing, sitcom follows up the original U.K. series of The OfficeExtras, which he created and stars in, follows Gervais as an aspiring actor taking odd roles as an extra alongside different A-list celebrities who appear in each episode, including the likes of Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, and Samuel L. Jackson. It earned Gervais both a primetime Emmy award and a Golden Globe.

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17. Space Force

As for the American version of The Office, well, you can always enjoy Steve Carell in the beloved series which is currently streaming on Netflix, but if you’ve already rewatched it five times, we’d suggest checking out Carrell in the new satirical show, Space Force, in which he stars as a begrudging General tasked with establishing an out-of-this-world branch of the U.S. armed forces. As you would expect, kooky governmental antics ensue.

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18. Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia

We love him as the host of The Daily Show, but Trevor Noah doesn’t need a desk or a nightly news agenda to keep us entertained. In his 2018 stand-up special, the South African-born comic establishes himself as a skilled comedic storyteller, relaying autobiographical tales of his upbringing and subsequent experiences of life in America today. They culminate in tight punchlines that often reveal social truths, even if inadvertently. It’s a lot of smart, personal material. However, one of the stand-out moments is a more in-your-face comparison of trap music to the way a toddler speaks. You’ll think about it whenever you hear a new trap song on Spotify.

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19. Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

Fellow Daily Show alum and host of Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj may be known for his deep-dives and searing insights into the political landscape, but he’s just as good when he loosens up a bit and focuses on the personal in his first Netflix comedy special, Homecoming King. The central theme of the immigrant experience in the United States is all-too-relatable for millions of fellow millennials who’ve faced bullying, racism, and familial pressure growing up.

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20. Between Two Ferns: The Movie

The cinematic and slightly meta spin-off of Zach Galifianakis’s cult-favorite web series, Between Two Ferns, consists of all the deadpan humor and off-kilter celebrity interviews that fans of the series came to love it for. Its impressive list of Hollywood cameos includes Keanu Reeves, Paul Rudd, Bruce Willis, Chrissy Teigen, and Brie Larson. Galifianakis, however, still steals the show - uh, movie.

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21. Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter-Life Crisis

Up-and-comer Taylor Tomlinson gives her breakout performance in Quarter-Life Crisis, a must-watch and utterly too real treatise on the experience of being in your twenties and stumbling through to actual adulthood. From dating to partying to regrettable life choices, Tomlinson discusses every subject under the sun with the over-it vibe of your coolest (and funniest) friend.

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22. Bill Burr: Paper Tiger

Nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Album, Bill Burr’s 2019 stand-up special, Paper Tiger touches on touchy subjects, diving right into the Me Too Movement and Cancel Culture with dexterity, and sure, plenty of yelling. Ultimately, though, it is a thought-provoking, and hilarious, exploration of the state of society. 

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23. The Other Guys

If you like your comedy with a little action thrown in, you can’t miss Will Ferrell in the surprisingly quality cop spoof, The Other Guys. The iconic funny guy stars alongside Mark Wahlberg, playing desk-bound detectives who finally get the chance to be heroes when they stumble into a major crime case. Ferrell’s dorky, soft-mannered character and Wahlberg’s, um, very Wahlberg character have incredible chemistry befitting the best kind of buddy comedy.

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24. Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho

From The Hangover to Community to his own short-lived sitcom, real-life doctor-turned-comic Ken Jeong can bring on the laughs in any situation, but let’s just say things get especially funny when he finds himself surrounded by “Hos” (in the most G-rated of terms) in his first Netflix stand-up special, You Complete Me, Ho.

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25. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

What’s better than one comedian? Um, obviously a whole bunch of them, driving around in vintage cars and drinking coffee with none other than Jerry Seinfeld. The genius concept, which brings Seinfeld together with many of the big names we’ve referenced above, is presented in mostly bite-sized bits (most of the episodes, save for the one featuring Eddie Murphy, are under 20 minutes long) of unscripted conversation that, both literally and figuratively, always stays moving.

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