I write a lot about comedians, especially on Netflix, and after watching a completely asinine number of specials this year, it only seemed fitting to compile a list of the best ones from 2018. Some of the names will be familiar, and others less so, but they all brought some joy to an otherwise hectic year. Hats off to the comedians for the laughter and the little bit of weirdness they bring to life.
Here are nine of the best comedy specials to hit Netflix in 2018.
1. John Mulaney, “Kid Gorgeous”
Date released: May 1
When Mulaney’s “Kid Gorgeous” appeared, all the Chicagoland natives I knew jumped for joy and raced to go watch it several times in one sitting — I may have joined them. Mulaney’s comedy special brings his typical charm and hilarious storytelling along with new bits, including a story about his terrifying school assemblies with Chicago child homicide detective J.J. Bittenbinder.
He’s even more baffled by the current news in this special, especially with the reemergence of Nazis: “I don’t care for these new Nazis, and you may quote me on that.” His mix between confusion and pointing out the obvious create a comical hour filled with memorable one-liners.
2. Ali Wong, “Hard Knock Wife”
Date released: May 13
Wong’s “Hard Knock Wife” is like the reprise of her other Netflix special, “Baby Cobra.” This time, Wong is back, pregnant with her second child and with some more thoughts on being the family breadwinner. She’s now here to provide the audience with all the intel on fame, married life and parenthood.
When people asked her why she’s returned to standup and producing more comedy specials so quickly, she said, “Listen, I’ve been with my baby girl since she was born, all day, every day. And I love her so much. But I’m on the verge of putting her in the garbage.” Her varied delivery makes her comedy special even brighter than the last (and it was pretty awesome).
3. Tig Notaro, “Happy to Be Here”
Date released: May 22
Notaro’s “Happy to Be Here” contains all the dry, family-related humor that anyone could want. There’s something almost mischievous about Notaro’s comedy specials — she, of course, knows the punchline, but she has a knack for making it seem like a funny prank she’s pulled on the audience. And sometimes, she does mess with the audience in good spirit.
After telling a story about being a temp, she leaves it without a punchline. Instead, Notaro does whatever she wants, just for the giggles: “It truly tickles me to tell you a long, boring story that ends with, ‘So that was a hard time.’” At this point, Notaro is just happy to be here. And, as it turns out, the audience is glad, too.
4. Hannah Gadsby, “Nanette”
Date released: June 19
Gadsby’s “Nanette” is her saying goodbye to comedy — to the self-deprecative nature of stand-up, that is. Gadsby starts the show as any other stand-up routine might begin, but then turns the second part into a hilarious, yet patently honest, commentary on stand-up itself.
Gadsby discusses how the best part of a routine or a joke is the punchline. “Like, take my coming-out story, for example. The best part of that story is the fact that Mum and I have a wonderful relationship now … Look what I did to the room. No tension. You’re just going, ‘Good on you.’” Her honesty shines through her humor, making her special very striking.
5. Iliza Shlesinger, “Elder Millennial”
Date released: July 24
Shlesinger’s hyperbolic jokes mix well into general life — from how people address their pets, their loved ones and themselves. “WHO’S THE BABY?” Shlesinger yells at her dog because, “Who do 100 percent of us take out our parental urges on? Our pets.”
I have written about “Elder Millennial” before, and one of Shlesinger’s better comedy specials, it made it to this list for its honesty and the hilarious bits about the grungy little monster everyone is deep down. And the bird calls. Don’t forget the bird calls.
6. Demetri Martin, “The Overthinker”
Date released: Aug. 10
Aided by his punny drawings and odd diagrams, Martin’s “The Overthinker” is for everyone who overthinks overthinking. His jokes are shorter in rhythm with an inherently random nature that are strung together for an hour of delightfully random thoughts.
Martin’s dry and slightly awkward delivery only increases his humor. His thoughts on donut holes really emphasize his overthinking: “Donut hole is interesting ‘cause the thing we call a donut hole [is what] we took out of the donut. And then the hole itself that was left, the absence of the hole is the donut hole.” He may have thought too much about it, but that’s why his comedy special is fun.
7. Trevor Noah, “Son of Patricia”
Date released: Nov. 20
One of the most political comedy specials of the year, “The Daily Show” host Noah’s “Son of Patricia” delves into his misunderstandings about American lingo, his love for his mother, a crazy trip with a runaway King Cobra and his thoughts on the president’s ideas for a wall.
Noah’s stories about growing up during Apartheid in South Africa are a blend of funny and tragic, but his mother shines through. As a kid, Noah recounts how he asked his mother what to do when someone was racist toward them, and her response was, “’We take that racism of theirs, and we shake it up with the love of Jesus! And then we send it back.” I was like, ‘This lady’s crazy!’” His comedy special is definitely one to watch.
8. Ellen DeGeneres, “Relatable”
Date released: Dec. 18
DeGeneres will forever be the great daytime talk show host and the voice of the beloved Dory in “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory,” but her standup routine in of the funnier comedy specials of the year doesn’t disappoint. In classic DeGeneres fashion, her hilarity comes from her contradictions and her “relatability.” The first bit delves into her scoot across the bathroom floor when the servant didn’t leave her a towel to dry off.
DeGeneres is also surprisingly serious at times, especially when discussing her sexuality and her bumpy rise to fame, which beautifully contrast to the rest of the light and funny bits. She is, of course, still Ellen DeGeneres, after all: “I don’t like to judge — except for people who say ‘libary.’ Then, I do.”
9. Vir Das, “Losing It”
Date released: Dec. 11
Das covers a lot of ground in “Losing It,” starting with losing 80 percent of his credibility by acting in a terrible Bollywood movie, him losing 80 percent of his religion and, well, him losing 80 percent his mind. He starts the show with his American accent, jokingly saying, “What could be more authentically Indian than an American accent?”
Occasionally touching, mostly funny and half a complete and utter lie, Das slides into why he’s been lying: “I lost 80 percent of my mind. It’s very freeing.” Eighty percent, in fact, is Das’s magic number for the amount lost, no matter the subject. Just remember, it’s all a beautiful lie, so enjoy the stories.