Arguably, comedy is one of the most difficult genres to excel in, irrespective of the medium. While it is fairly easy to evoke sorrow or melancholy reactions, it is equally difficult to make one genuinely laugh. This is why I have immense respect for stand-up comedians who use one-liners or stories, observational or investigative routines to resonate with the audience and induce laughter in their hour-long stand-up specials.
After 2020 (and 2021) were ravaged by the coronavirus pandemics, comedians found plenty of content to mock. From lockdowns and isolation to toilet paper crises and Zoom meetings, comedians found the pandemic to be a goldmine of content where the anxiety and paranoia of humanity, when faced with such an unprecedented crisis, could be viewed through a satirical and sarcastic lens.
While many of them disguised their poignant comments within the garb of humour, others blatantly made fun of their individual pathetic responses that made them unique, bizarre, relatable and amusing.
Netflix has a wide variety of comedy specials. 2021 saw a mixed reaction from viewers towards Netflix comedy specials. Bo Burnham’s Inside was received with applause and acclaim whereas Dave Chappelle’s insensitive remarks and anti-trans comments in The Closer landed him and the streamer in some hot waters with the trans community and their allies. All in all, 2021 has been a mixed bag for Netflix in terms of comedy specials.
Here are the 5 best comedy specials released on Netflix in 2021 that you must watch right now for a series of good laughs:
5 best comedy specials released on Netflix in 2021
5. Phil Wang – Philly Philly Wang Wang
With the taping being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, British-Malaysian comic Phil Wang finally released his hour-long comedy special that, no surprises, contained a lot of east Asian gags about the pandemic. From talking about ageing, male contraceptives and pretentious allyship, Wang also touched upon more poignant issues of being a good person that he admittedly is not.
Wang also talks about accents and the British perception of the middle east while talking about the threats and anxieties of masculinity and political correctness. Keeping in mind his heritage and descent, he explores race, politics and romance fairly well. Sarcastic and self-deprecating, Wang’s unique voice in comedy deserves our love and attention.
4. Nate Bargatze – The Greatest Average American
The Tennessee king of self-deprecating humour is back with his second hour-long stand up special with wonderful jokes and clean, timely humour that is a characteristic of Bargatze. While he touches upon poignant topics such as the mortality of his parents, he also deals with more humorous and light-hearted references to the new normal during the pandemic, including Zoom meetings, lockdowns and the effect of isolation on marriages and families.
Bargatze balances his heavyweight references well with common humour and recognises the need for meaningless laughs in such unprecedented times. He happily obliges and presents the audience with a variety of jokes that will keep them hooked. We only wish the set laughter track would take a break once in a while and let the comedians breathe!
3. Brian Regan: On the Rocks
If you are a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, then you must be familiar with Regan’s comedy. Brian Regan has become a household name with his family-friendly observational comedy where he has his own unique way of investigating individual topics. Regan jokes about his white hair, OCD and inability to connect with millennial teenagers who continue to baffle him. Witty and charming, he does not forget to make references to raisins and ungrateful horses, bringing a perfect balance only a comic of his stature can.
Refreshing, Regan’s comedy is like old wine in a new bottle where his observation skills are top-notch and his delivery timing immaculate. The laughter that emanates from the masked audience is enough proof of his genius that helps transform the most mundane events into something painstakingly funny. We hope Netflix got Regan some mayonnaise for his wonderful special!
2. Nicole Byer – BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo)
The only other comedian who made a reference to Harry Potter, besides Dave Chappelle, and did not get cancelled is Nicole Byer. With her outrageous and flamboyant jokes and scathing confidence, Byer rocked the stage in her brand new comedy special. Her charms and witty remarks coupled with her raunchy references and infectious energy is brash and brazen and demand your immediate attention.
With her wonderful imitating skills, Byer mainly focused on racial discrimination, Karens, the effect of the pandemic on absent fathers and prices and more in her special. From bringing a compelling parallel between Harry Potter and the KKK to talking about how all white people on her contact list except her exes hit her up for a “conversation” during the BLM, Byer’s unapologetic and unabashed comedy reflects her bold and audacious personality and witty humour.
1. Bo Burnham – Inside
If you were wondering where the Jeff Bezos song, which has become a sensation on TikTok, came from, you must watch Bo Burnham’s latest musical comedy special Inside. Shot during the pandemic which was a shocking year for us all, Burnham is seen documenting his time from within the four walls of his home. He talks about declining mental health, his relationship with the Internet as well as other social issues and climate change.
Burnham’s unsettlingly relatable and bizarre yet hilarious special is an absolute masterpiece. It is a brilliant exploration of how isolation affected one and all over the course of the pandemic. The overall claustrophobic tension hints at the bleakness of the future and Burnham refuses to indicate the same without adding a dash of humour and authentic feelings that immediately makes the special resonate with us.
Burnham is a major part of many of our childhoods and continues to produce brilliant satirical content that lives in our heads rent-free.