Netflix has an eclectic selection of comedy specials. The streaming service, which has recently faced severe backlash following two comedy specials by Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, has been dealing with criticism after the two veteran comics were called out for transphobic jokes. While the co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended the comics and called them “brave”, the rest of the world was left to pick sides.
Stand-up specials are of utmost importance to keep us going. From making dark jokes to self-deprecating ones, comedians, with their hilarious, hard-hitting and relatable punchlines, make lives easier for us. A lot of stand-up comics also use their on-stage time to talk about social issues and present social commentaries, touching upon issues including racism, gender and more.
Such is their nature, the routines often include revolutionary and ground-breaking ideas and shatter all inhibitions with their dark, zany jokes.
With the world moving forward towards inclusivity and increased representation and diversity, the comedy sphere has been constantly evolving as well. While the straight, white, homophobic comics still lurk around in the corners, a large section of queer comics has stepped up to narrate their experiences and voice their opinions albeit within the framework of comedy.
Here are the five best queer comedians whose specials are now streaming on Netflix.
The 5 best queer stand-up comedy specials on Netflix:
Emmy and Grammy-nominated comedian Tig Notaro is an influential name in the comedy sphere. Brutal and dark, her deadpan style of delivery makes her not as lively but more amusing than most other comedians. Notaro often infuses self-deprecating humour within realistic and personal stories that are sometimes weirdly uplifting. From addressing her breast cancer to talking about cats, marriage, parenthood and fame, she is raw and funny.
Notaro, a cancer survivor, never shies away from making dark jokes that heavily rely on the personal. Talking about her personal brand of comedy, Notaro said, “I’m always going to do whatever I think is funniest. If something’s dark, I’ll do it. If it’s a sock puppet, if it’s a stool, I’ll do it. There’s no preconceived idea of who I think I might be now.” Her specials Happy to Be Here, Live, Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted and Drawn are some of her best works.
Often regarded as one of the funniest people in the United States within the realm of comedy, Wanda Sykes first gained widespread appreciation for her work on The Chris Rock Show which also won her an Emmy. the first-ever queer Black woman to perform at the White House Correspondent’s Association dinner, Sykes is well known for her work on shows like Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Sykes’ jokes contain a fair amount of social commentary, self-deprecation and reality. Now married to a white French woman, Sykes often jokes about the racial dynamics within her family and how she is still a minority in her house. From race and politics to gender and sexuality, Sykes’ witty delivery style helps imbue her personal jokes. Her Netflix special Not Normal is a brilliant insight into the comedian’s humorous and observant mind.
Hannah Gadsby has disrupted and redefined comedy with her brilliant quips and scathing commentary in her shows, Douglas and Nanette, of which the latter has won and Emmy and been the most polarising. A pioneer in the queer comedy circuit, the comedian takes her own sweet time deconstructing the meaning of comedy while refusing to resort to self-deprecation since she is “already in the margins”.
Besides commenting on politics of gender, power, sexuality and representation, Gadsby’s constant battle with identity finds a way in her jokes that matter-of-factly discusses various situations. From talking about how she hates queer comics being forced to laugh at themselves to calling out fans for imposing a trans-identity on her, Gadsby seamlessly weaves in her rage against those trying to dissect her identity within countless laughs that draw a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.
Flame Monroe has been a part of the comedy circuit for years. having performed mainly in Chicago, she soon moved to California and was chosen as one of the six stand-up comics on Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix program, They Ready. Explosive, entertaining and raucous, Monroe rocks her stilettoes while performing her routine in drag makeup, with her special receiving an Emmy nomination.
With quips about her past, identity politics, national politics and family, Monroe does not like being identified as a “transgender comedian” as she opines that it takes away the spotlight from her talent. Talking about how she is a “comedian that happens to be transgender,” she said, “My transgender identity is my afterthought because when you introduce me as a ‘transgender comedian’, or a ‘drag queen comedian,’ most people don’t hear the ‘comedian’ part. All they hear is ‘transgender’ or ‘drag queen.'”
British comedian Simon Amstell is known for his Nickelodeon days from where he was fired for “making pop stars uncomfortable”. As seen in Pop World and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Amstell loves cracking hilarious jokes that border on the uncomfortable, addressing issues like intimacy, veganism and eating meat and his parent’s divorce. Amstell’s stand-up special Set Free deals with the comedian’s battle with coming to terms with his sexuality at the age of 21.
Amstell, who visited an Ayahuasca retreat in Peru to deal with depression and his embarrassment as a young gay man, loves addressing the male ego body and gender insecurities and sexual identity crises. His comedy special is probably a therapeutic and cathartic moment for him as Amstell himself confessed, I think everything I have ever done has been an attempt to reach a hand out to my teenage self and tell him he is OK.”