Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Jen Kirkman (AP/Charles Sykes/Richard Shotwell/Netflix)

Get ready for Amy Schumer on HBO with these 7 great streaming stand-up specials

From Jen Kirkman to Chelsea Peretti, these are some of the best comedy specials in recent years


Anna Silman
August 15, 2015 7:59PM (UTC)

While we're all excited for Amy Schumer's upcoming HBO stand-up special, you don't have to wait until October to see great stand-up comedy from the comfort of your laptop. As we approach summer's end, here are seven great recent stand-up specials to tide you over through these last lazy summer days.

1. Jen Kirkman, "I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine),” Netflix

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In her first Netflix stand-up special, Jen Kirkman — who you might know from her lively online presence or her frequent appearances on "Drunk History" and "Chelsea Lately” — gives a refreshingly intimate, conversational and honest look at life as a woman at 40, from her divorce to her graying pubes to how society views childless women. "I know I could hit my head on the bathtub and no one will know and I'll die," she riffs at one point. "I'll bleed out and three days later a cat will eat my face — I don't have a cat, but when a single woman dies alone, a cat appears."

2. Louis C.K.,Louis C.K. Live at Madison Square Garden,” www.louisck.net

C.K.’s new special, available on his website for the price of your choosing, comes from his recent string of sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. While some of the jokes are slightly less ambitious and high-concept than his previous specials, C.K. displays his usual inventiveness -- not to mention plenty of sound effects -- while weaving through his pet topics like fatherhood, the gender divide and his encroaching mortality.

3. Trevor Noah, “Trevor Noah: African American,” Netflix

As we prepare for Noah to take the reins of the “Daily Show,” his 2013 stand-up special gives a good sense of the sort of tone and content we can expect from our new host. In “African American,” Noah talks extensively about his experiences growing up mixed-race in Apartheid South Africa, as well as his culture shock as an outsider coming to terms with the complex lived experience of race in America.

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4. Aziz Ansari, "Aziz Ansari Live at Madison Square Garden," Netflix

Ansari’s comedy has evolved a lot in recent years, and his sold-out 2015 set at Madison Square Garden represents his most mature work yet, as a vulnerable Ansari speaks candidly about romance, dating and his upbringing in an immigrant family. Through well-paced storytelling and extensive imagined conversations, Ansari skillfully mines humor from the everyday triumphs and tragedies of modern romance.

5. Wyatt Cenac, "Brooklyn," Netflix

Filmed in the cozy space at Brooklyn’s Union Hall — a far cry from the echoing halls of MSG — Cenac’s intimate 2014 special uses Brooklyn as a springboard for all sorts of topics, from gentrification to racial differences, as well as a moving and personal segment on the death of his father, a New York cab driver who was shot while at work. While discussions of the differences between Crown Heights and Fort Greene or a riff about Prospect Heights’ beloved Empire Mayonnaise shop will hit especially close to home with residents of Kings County, the "Daily Show" alum's incisive, probing observations easily transcend the borough they emerged from.

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6. Chelsea Peretti, "One of the Greats," Netflix

Peretti probably had the buzziest stand-up special of last year, but if you missed it, it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon. While comedy fans have long known her from her brilliant Twitter account, her role on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and her writing on “Parks and Recreation” and “The Kroll Show,” her special “One of the Greats” established Peretti as one of the most exciting innovators in the medium of stand-up today. The whole set is a meta riff on stand-up conventions, and her quirky, offbeat style mixes grandiose proclamations (“I guess you could say I’m a direct vessel of God”) and goofy voices with more grounded — but never predictable — riffs on sexism, technology and being a woman in the comedy world.

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7. Hannibal Buress, "Live From Chicago," Amazon Instant Video

While Buress may still be best-known in some circles for the Cosby joke heard 'round the world, his 2014 special demonstrates that Buress is much more than a Cosby scandal footnote. This 2014 set from his hometown of Chicago displays his gifts as a storyteller and a keen-eyed cultural critic who projects a natural ease and charisma onstage.

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Anna Silman

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