Top 5: Netflix Comedy Specials
I’ve always maintained that I’m not a big fan of stand-up comedy. It’s a bit awkward, isn’t it? You — the audience member — ask to be made to laugh while they — the comedian — beseech you to find them funny. It just seems like a lot of pressure, and a big ask to fulfil. But following the huge success of Nanette earlier this summer, I decided to dip a toe into the wide world of comedy (read: the comedy that is available on Netflix) and needless to say or this piece wouldn’t exist, I was proved wrong. If you feel similarly disaffected with the whole notion of the stand-up comedy show, here’s a little starter pack…
HANNAH GADSBY: NANETTE
I wasn’t going to include Nanette because, well, does it’s excellence even really need stating at this point? But to exclude Hannah Gadsby’s show from this top 5 would be to just render the whole thing total nonsense so I’ve decided to lean into it. Nanette is an extraordinary piece, although truth be told it’s more of a long speech than a comedy show. Over the course of the hour, Gadsby dismantles the notion of the comedy show itself and then chops it up into little pieces. She invites us to laugh (or so we think) at her experience of living her life as ‘gender not normal’, before removing the comforter of comedy completely to reveal a truth that she refuses to spin into a punchline. I watched it alone and was glad I did — a very necessary solitary cry was had as the credits rolled.
ALI WONG: HARD KNOCK WIFE
Post-Nanette, I lay on my bed for a while and stared at the ceiling. After I’d wiped the snot from my face, I turned back round to my screen and lo! like the algorithmic guardian-angel that Netflix is, a new show suggestion floated into view. I pressed play on Hard Knock Wife feeling vulnerable and expecting little more than to be lulled to sleep by some upbeat chatter. Not on Ali Wong’s watch! She’s eye-wateringly funny on child-birth (her first Netflix special, Baby Cobra, was filmed just before the birth of her first baby, and Hard Knock Wife just before the birth of her second), division of wealth in a marriage (she thought she was cuffing her Harvard Business School-educated husband, turns out he was cuffing her), and sex (don’t even get me STARTED on her bit about teaching her husband to give good head — I do believe I am dead now). Ali Wong is my new hero and there ain’t two ways about it.
W. KAMAU BELL: PRIVATE SCHOOL NEGRO
Yet another gem brought to me by the ‘You Might Like This’ button — next up we have a show of a very different kind. In W. Kamau Bell’s Private School Negro, the United Shades of America host uses his platform to speak truth to his lived experiences of racism in America. He pulls no punches — some of Kamau Bell’s anecdotes are blood-boiling, laugh or cry stuff — but he’s perfected the art of delivering difficult material with a smile. He creates tension, breaking it just enough to make you laugh, retaining just enough to keep you on the back foot, never totally comfortable.
JAMES ACASTER: REPERTOIRE
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s much, much easier to find great comedy specials from across the pond than it is those that hail from our weird little island, but James Acaster’s Repetoire is one I recently found myself getting behind. It’s a commingling of stand-up and one-man-sketch-show, and despite the whole thing being literally three and a half hours long I’ve gotta say Acaster kept me hooked. Built from four separate parts (‘Recognise,’ ‘Represent,’ ‘Reset,’ and ‘Recap’), there are little rewards for those who watch them all, in sequence. For fans of: lovable nerds.
ALI WONG: BABY COBRA
WHOOPS another Ali Wong special’s slipped in OH WELL! Honestly it is not often I say I wanna be someone else because helloooo I love myself I’m great, but I truly think I want to be Ali Wong. She contains multitudes: when she’s not making feminist statements about the sexist attitudes towards comedians who become mothers right after she laments the rise of the working woman because bitch, let her sleep! It’s all just horribly relatable. A true hero for the guilty feminist generation.
What are you watching on Netflix right now? Let us know in the comments below!