Over the last several years, Netflix has expanded its coverage of several niche areas, including anime, K-drama, and standup comedy.
Netflix paid Ellen DeGeneres around $20 million for a standup special, Jerry Seinfeld around $100 million for the rights to Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee plus two standup specials, and Dave Chappelle about $60 million for three standup specials, among others.
But some of the best standup comedy specials on Netflix remain hidden gems, and you may have missed the best of the best.
Note: Most of these standup comedians have multiple specials on Netflix, so I'm limiting myself to one per comedian. If one doesn't float your boat, their other ones might!
11. Repertoire (James Acaster)
James Acaster is a comedian who's best known for his appearances at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, at which he's been nominated for Best Show numerous times. He's also appeared on British panel shows like Would I Lie to You? and 8 Out of 10 Cats.
In 2018, James Acaster released four hour-long standup comedy specials on Netflix, which were all bundled together under the title of Repertoire. In them, he touches on a range of topics: childhood dreams, jury duty, fortune cookies, witness protection, and more.
As far as undiscovered hidden gems are concerned in the standup comedy world, James Acaster might just be top of the bunch.
10. My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (Mike Birbiglia)
Mike Birbiglia got his start in improvisational comedy, killed it with a few standup comedy specials, and has since appeared as an actor in films (like Trainwreck) and TV shows (like Orange Is the New Black).
Of his many talents, standup comedy remains his forte. He tends to share anecdotes from his life—his insanely colorful and unusual life—delivered in his characteristically down-to-Earth, self-aware, and self-deprecating manner.
He has four specials on Netflix as of this writing. While My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is my top favorite, What I Should Have Said Was Nothing is a close second with some seriously hilarious stories.
9. Baby Cobra (Ali Wong)
Ali Wong is not your stereotypical Asian woman. She isn't elegant, quaint, demure, or traditional; rather, she's outspoken, in-your-face, and aggressive—but never in a mean way, and often making jokes out of her personal experiences and thoughts.
Baby Cobra is a brave standup comedy special in that Ali Wong performed while pregnant in her third trimester. She incorporates that into the performance in hilarious ways, but also touches on other bits, including life as an Asian-American and her life aspirations.
8. Beyond the Pale (Jim Gaffigan)
Jim Gaffigan is one of the best clean comedians of our age, rarely using profanity or vulgar topics in his routines. Instead, his observational style wanders to mundane topics—like laziness, doctor visits, and the experience of eating Hot Pockets—that we can all relate to.
He's put out several comedy specials over the years, which have ebbed and flowed in quality, but his best one remains his first one: Beyond the Pale, which released in 2006 on Comedy Central. Fortunately, we can still watch it now thanks to Netflix!
7. On the Rocks (Brian Regan)
Brian Regan is often cited by standup comedians as their favorite standup comedian, and he's been praised by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Norm Macdonald, Bill Burr, and Chris Rock.
He's truly the best of the best as far as clean comics go, rarely using crude language and never relying on vulgar shock value. He's a master of sarcasm and physical comedy, which brings out the best of his observational humor.
To this day, Brian Regan's best standup comedy special remains I Walked On the Moon, which released in 2004. Sadly, that one isn't available on Netflix, but you can still get a good taste of Regan's style and material in On the Rocks.
6. Make Happy (Bo Burnham)
There isn't a single comedian out there like Bo Burnham, and that makes his style polarizing. You either love him or you hate him. But either way, you can't deny that he's incredibly creative and talented.
Bo Burnham rose to fame with his 2013 standup comedy special what., which gave us an insane blend of nearly every kind of comedy out there, including observational, props, songs, physical performances, one-liners, but most notably his subversion of comedy itself.
While that special isn't available on Netflix, you can watch Make Happy, which is a lot of the same kinds of unexpected comedy. There's also the award-winning Inside special, which he self-recorded alone in his family's guest house during COVID-19.
5. I'm Sorry You Feel That Way (Bill Burr)
By this point, is there anyone who doesn't know about the legendary Bill Burr? Not only is he a celebrated standup comedian, but he's also been running one of the most popular podcasts in the world called Monday Morning Podcast since 2007.
His rant-style standup specials are infamous for "telling it like it is" about various subjects, with Burr willing to say out loud all the things we might be thinking but are too afraid to actually say.
But the great thing about Bill Burr is how his statements are rarely malicious and are often self-deprecating, making it clear that he isn't judging from atop a high horse. That's how he remains beloved despite the incendiary things he's always saying.
4. Sticks and Stones (Dave Chappelle)
Dave Chappelle is a tragic character. He's put out some of the best standup comedy specials of all time—particularly his early material—and he gave us the legendary Chappelle's Show during the 2000s. Lately, however, he seems to think too highly of himself.
Some have criticized the man for rehashing the same material over and over again in recent years, and others roll their eyes at his cries about being "canceled" by social media activists. And maybe it's true that his Netflix specials are far from his best material.
But when it comes to Dave Chappelle, even his weak routines are better than the best that other comedians can do. Sticks & Stones is his best Netflix special, which includes the incredibly funny Jussie Smollett bit.
3. Homecoming King (Hasan Minhaj)
You probably know about Hasan Minhaj as the host of Netflix's Patriot Act, and you've probably seen him as a recurring correspondent on The Daily Show between 2014 and 2018. Did you know he had a Netflix standup comedy special in 2017?
Homecoming King involves a great deal of material about Minhaj's experiences growing up as an Indian-American in a Muslim immigrant family. He presents the routine in a way that's relatable, expecting you to be outside that experience but drawing you in all the same.
Homecoming King is eloquent and beautifully performed, and many consider it to be the best Netflix standup comedy special of all time. If you haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself.
2. New in Town (John Mulaney)
While John Mulaney has lost some fans in recent years due to some real-life scandals that appear incongruent with the persona he presents on stage, that doesn't detract from the quality of his material.
Between his background as a writer for Saturday Night Live, his youthful appearance, his eloquent delivery, and his sharp observations and anecdotes, John Mulaney gave us one of the funniest standup comedy specials with New in Town.
New in Town originally aired on Comedy Central but is available on Netflix. You can also check out The Comeback Kid and Kid Gorgeous, although they never quite reach the same heights.
1. Why Would You Do That? (Sebastian Maniscalco)
Sebastian Maniscalco is the one comedian who deserves to be a household name yet hasn't reached such stardom yet.
His standup style blends sharply sarcastic observations with wildly exaggerated physical movements, plus a perfectly balanced delivery that's infused with faux outrage.
The end result is a uniquely hilarious experience that's consistently funny from special to special. He has three of them on Netflix as of this writing: What's Wrong With People?, Stay Hungry, and the always-funny Why Would You Do That?