Stuck streaming: 20 standout stand-up specials to watch right now

From big stars to lesser-knowns, streaming services (especially Netflix) are packed with specials with big laughs

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Stand-up comedy is one of our most efficient forms of entertainment. All it takes is a comedian and a microphone, and through the magic of the medium, personal stories and jokes become shared, communal experiences for the audience both in the venue and watching at home. 

Netflix has become a hub for stand-up specials from superstars and up-and-comers, and in our latest quaranstream entry, we're highlighting 20 standout stand-up specials you can currently stream at home. (Try saying that three times fast.) 

Some of these performers you know, some you may not. All are worth your time, and Netflix's comedy archives are so deep that they'll no doubt lead to other discoveries. 

Dive in and have a laugh, we could all definitely use one. Stay home, and stay streaming. 


John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons (Netflix) — Framed as a lesson for his bullied son, actor and stand-up comedian John Leguizamo recounts Latin history and Latinos' impact on America, contending, "we're so American it hurts." In this funny, smart, heartfelt special, he proves it. (2018, 92 mins) 

John Leguizamo in "Latin History for Morons."

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (Netflix) — In his Emmy-winning special, former "SNL" writer John Mulaney offers sharp observations on everything from his efforts to prove to his computer that he's not a robot to Mick Jagger's reaction to his pitch ideas at "SNL" ("not funny!" Mick scolded), but everything crests with his must-see comparison of our 45th president to a "horse in a hospital." (2018, 64 mins) 

John Mulaney in "Kid Gorgeous at Radio City."

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (Netflix) — The Australian comic's breakthrough special begins as a playful deconstruction of gender and sexuality politics ("not enough lesbian content!") and transitions into an impassioned plea for the importance of identity and human connection. By the end, tears of laughter won't be the only ones streaming down your face. (2018, 69 mins) 

Hannah Gadsby in "Nanette."

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (Netflix) — "The Daily Show" comic lends much of his time here to discussing what it means to be an immigrant and the son of immigrants in America, and his show — which originated off-Broadway and makes clever use of a screen to supplement his act — is both tender and telling, a deeply personal story made universal through humor. (2017, 72 mins) 

Hassan Minhaj in "Homecoming King."

Bo Burnham: Make Happy (Netflix) — Before he graduated to film — he directed 2018's excellent "Eighth Grade" — Bo Burnham took his stand-up career to its natural ending with this expertly timed and choreographed special, which folds in on itself as an evaluation and deconstruction of the very art of live performing and what it means to be happy. (2016, 60 mins) 

Bo Burnham in "Make Happy."

Iliza Shlesinger: Elder Millennial (Netflix) — Shlesinger, the former "Last Comic Standing" winner who you can also see in Netflix's recent "Spenser Confidential," breaks down the dating scene from her "elder millennial" perspective in her fourth Netflix special, in which she also does a pretty good impression of a peacock. (2018, 72 mins) 

Iliza Shlesinger in "Elder Millennial."

Nikki Glaser: Bangin' (Netflix) — Glaser goes wall-to-wall on the topic of sex in this decidedly raunchy set, not for the prudish or squeamish or shy. Glaser is hilariously frank, describing sexual acts not fit for print in a family newspaper; this is one to put on late at night once the kids have been tucked into bed. (2019, 63 mins) 

Nikki Glaser in "Bangin'."

Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts & Prayers (Netflix) — If you're not offended by something in this special, you either have very thick skin or you're not paying attention. Jeselnik is a comic terrorist, savagely attacking societal norms and "acceptable" limits of humor, with joke bombs that never detonate quite where you'd expect. (2015, 59 mins) 

Anthony Jeselnik in "Thoughts and Prayers."

Katt Williams: Great America (Netflix) — Performers love giving props to the city in which they're performing, but Katt Williams turns the local shout out into an art form with his extended riff on Jacksonville in the opening of his madcap special. (The rest is pretty great, too.) (2018, 60 mins) 

Katt Williams in "Great America."

Amy Schumer: Growing (Netflix) — A pregnant Schumer takes to the stage in this revealing hour that uses her pregnancy as a jumping off point to talk about her life, her insecurities and recent events, such as her Washington, D.C. arrest for protesting Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. Be sure to stick around to the end for the outtakes. (2019, 60 mins) 

Amy Schumer in "Growing."

Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats (Netflix) — Have you ever wanted to text your dog? Probably not, but after watching the "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" star's terrific special — which has experimental flares in which the voices inside her head manifest themselves as audience members to test her self-confidence — you won't be able to stop thinking about it. (2014, 74 mins) 

Chelsea Peretti in "One of the Greats."

Richard Pryor Live in Concert (Netflix) — Stand-up comedy has come a long way since the '70s, as evidenced by the looseness of this performance, taped on a small stage in Long Beach, Calif. that looks like a high school performance auditorium. Pryor, an original king of comedy, comes out guns blazing, and it's a testament to his strength as a performer that the material still resonates today. A classic. (1979, 78 mins) 

Richard Pryor in "Richard Pryor Live in Concert."

Norm Macdonald: Hitler's Dog, Gossip & Trickery (Netflix) — Norm Macdonald's comedy is an acquired taste; specifically, it's for those who like their jokes as dry as the desert. Here, the one time "SNL" star's delivery is full of old-timey cadences, which only make his targets — the way we eat pork chops at home vs. at a restaurant, the relative notoriety of astronauts vs. the Kardashians — that much funnier. (2017, 61 mins)  

Norm Macdonald in "Norm Macdonald: Hitler's Dog, Gossip & Trickery."

George Carlin: Complaints & Grievances (Amazon Prime) — There's a treasure trove of Carlin specials on Prime; this one — Carlin's 12th HBO stand-up hour — from 2001 was taped two months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Carlin addresses the elephant in the room early, riffing on the idea of "letting the terrorists win," and shows how much his voice is missed in our current national crisis. (2001, 55 mins) 

George Carlin in "Complaints and Grievances."

Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty (Netflix) — The actress ("Office Christmas Party," "The Mindy Project") and comic discusses his resemblance to the kid from "The Sandlot" but moves on to weightier topics, including her coming out and the importance of representation, in this playful, confessional hour. (2020, 61 mins) 

Fortune Feimster in "Sweet and Salty."

Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker (HBO) — Rock's follow-up to his 1996 breakthrough "Bring the Pain" finds the comedian in full-swagger mode, dressed in a shiny leather suit (hey, it was the Bad Boy era) and prowling back and forth on stage like a tiger let out of his cage. He addresses school shootings here, a topic which was new back then but is sadly still relevant today. (1999, 65 mins) 

Chris Rock in "Bigger and Blacker."

Kevin Hart: What Now? (Netflix) — Talk about stadium status. "What Now?" captures Hart at the pinnacle of his stand-up career, performing at an NFL stadium in his hometown of Philadelphia in front of 53,000 fans. Comedy doesn't get much bigger than this. (2016, 96 mins) 

Kevin Hart in "Kevin Hart: What Now?"

Jerry Seinfeld: I'm Telling You For the Last Time (Netflix) — Seinfeld's 1998 comedy special is his equivalent of a Greatest Hits album; he goes through his classic bits one last time before hanging them up for good. (The moratorium on that retirement is apparently up; some of those routines still come back around in his current shows, but that's OK, they're hits.) (1998, 75 mins)  

Jerry Seinfeld in "I'm Telling You for the Last Time."

Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh (Netflix) — Sandler gets to be a rock star in this special, which was a reminder — after years of subpar movies — of how funny the Sandman could be. In "Phone Wallet Keys," Sandler recounts the essential items every guy checks for as he's leaving the house; in his tribute to Chris Farley, he celebrates the legacy of his late friend and captures his essence the way only he can. (2018, 73 mins) 

Adam Sandler in "100% Fresh."

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short (Amazon Prime) — Like Leguizamo's special, Quinn offers a lesson in anthropology in his one-man show, but he takes on the breadth of human history and filters it through a sharp, wry, decidedly New York comedic lens. (2011, 83 mins) 

Colin Quinn in "Long Story Short."

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